Arbitrary recommendations from yours truly.
Before we move on to parts 3 and 4 of “Why a House Becomes Haunted” I thought I’d take a little break share some of my latest recommendations.
Jawbone, Mónica Ojeda
I picked this book up not knowing anything about it other than it had garnered a lot of attention, and was surprised the whole way through, so I won’t spoil anything for you. All you need to know is that this is one of the most accurate portrayals of the mind of a teenage girl that I’ve read. And I don’t mean it’s about hormones, crushes, or tropes from coming of age stories. It’s about blood, violence, and dark magic.
The Passenger, Cormac McCarthy
Cormac is back! If I was his publicist that would be my campaign. Then Mr. McCarthy would fire me immediately. Like pretty much all McCarthy novels, this book contains depressing subject matter (grief, suicide) but it’s not like The Road or or anything. It’s also not violent—it’s more stream of conscious and dreamier than other McCarthy novels I’ve read. There was an extended passage about quantum physics that I completely tuned out of, but if you like that sort of thing this is the book for you.
LeVar Burton Looks to the Next Generation
After reading the two aforementioned books I healed myself with this wonderful interview with one of my childhood heroes, LeVar Burton. Obviously, Reading Rainbow was a show I watched a lot growing up.
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I’ve been a fan of David Shrigley’s art since I found a book of his at the Tate Modern years ago. His work is crudely subversive and incredibly funny. For this short film, he partnered with Chris Shephard and used the vocal talents of comedian Kevin Eldon to make something fun, dark, and as a bad caricature of a British person would say, “quite rude.”
Ryuichi Sakamoto, Ongaku Zukan
We recently lost Ryuichi Sakamoto, a hugely influential musician and composer with a massive and diverse body of work. If you’re not familiar with him, he’s as big of a deal as David Bowie—and they were actually in a film together! Sakamoto is most famous for his band Yellow Magic Orchestra and his cinematic soundtracks, but I’m recommending one of this more obscure albums, Ongaku Zukan (aka Music). It’s a wonderful, refreshing bunch of 80s synth that’s sure to brighten your day. My toddler loves dancing to it, so you know it’s good.
Evil Witches: Journal your pain away
In this post, fellow Substack writer Claire Zulkey succinctly breaks down a lot of the problems I have with the wellness industry, particularly how it talks to people in vulnerable places. Here, Zulkey points out the empty suggestions for “mindfulness” and journaling, which are not bad, but they tend to be broadly recommended as a kind of emotional Band-Aid. Evil Witches is a newsletter about motherhood, pregnancy, menopause, etc., but I think what she’s saying here is all applicable to recovery regardless of whether you have kids or a uterus.
I am not here to dump on meditation or journaling in general because they do help—sometimes, for some things, for some people. After I gave birth to my first son, despite not having had a real night’s rest for like four nights, I couldn’t fall asleep until I wrote down every single detail of what just occurred to me. And we all can benefit from quiet offline time, from deep breathing. Meditation is great if you like it and you have time for it.
But what I am here to dump on is when some sort of health source or expert wants to give or sell you advice re: women’s health, but there isn’t much to give, so they tack on bullshit fill-in suggestions that vague DIY semi-woo “self-care” can help your specific situation.
To be sure, at worst, self-reflection and quiet time never hurt anybody, so on its surface, these types of suggestions aren’t harmful. Minor bullshittery at worst. But come across enough instances of mindless, repetitive wellness-related platitudes about journaling, mindfulness, presentness and meditation to help every problem, it starts to take on certain undertones. Undertones like “We don’t have real advice but here’s a little bone for you, lady,” Or “We know what we’re saying is not actual advice but who really cares anyway?” “Or “You’re probably not smart enough to realize this is bullshit.” Or even “You figure it out.” Why are you bothering a doctor if you haven’t found time to fit in a consistent meditation practice? If you just journal regularly enough and then pore through your journals, you’ll find the thing that will fix your pain or solve your problem.
I kept a gurnal through my process of getting sober, and it was helpful to have a place to put my thoughts, memories, and revelations—but it was never a substitute for a support system. And when I felt like my brain was on fire, I did not appreciate the suggestions to “meditate” or “pray,” and neither of those things ended up being helpful to me anyway.
So if you are having addiction/mental health issues and feel dismissed by the mindlessness of the mainstream culture of mindfulness, know that you are not alone! The goal is to find what works for you and makes you feel better, and if it’s not meditating, that’s totally ok. For me it ended up being horror movies, which is the whole reason I write this dang newsletter in the first place.
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