Nocturnal House: Prince Lestat

1 December 2014

Go put on your finest velvet frock coats, antique lace scarves and cuffs, and pour yourself a cup of tea or a glass of your favorite libation, Snarklings. Because it’s time for another visit to the Nocturnal House, and OH! What a visit it will be. Because the Lady of the Manners has finally paused in her gleeful dancing around with her beloved cliches and actually gotten around to writing the review:

Prince Lestat, by Anne Rice.

:: The Lady of the Manners hugs her signed first edition once more, sets it on a table, fluffs out her lace cuffs, and then sets aside the third-person frivolity for the rest of the post ::

Let’s make something perfectly clear from the start, Snarklings: I am an unrepentant and unashamed fan of Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles. The first three books (Interview With the Vampire, The Vampire Lestat, and The Queen of the Damned, in case you’ve been hiding in a crypt since 1976) are something I turn to when I am in need of comfort rereading, and I’ve read every book in the entire Vampire Chronicles family. There are some I don’t plan on rereading again any time in the next few decades (The Body Thief, Memnoch the Devil), and there are some that I consider to be hilariously out-of-character fan-fic (Blood Canticle), but yes. I have read every damn one of them. Which means that when the news broke that Anne Rice was releasing a new Vampire Chronicles book, all about my beloved Brat Prince and with a title of Prince Lestat, my incoherent fangirl geebling was at full volume.

My wary trepidation was not at full volume, but it was there, providing a minor key counterpoint to my exclamations of glee. Because my giddy affection for the Vampire Chronicles doesn’t make me blind to the flaws in the books and, in recent years, Ms. Rice’s work was wildly inconsistent in quality. So while I was excited, I was also aware that I needed to brace myself for disappointment. Or, as I kept saying, “I have a low bar for this. Be better than Blood Canticle, that’s all I ask. PLEASE BE BETTER THAN BLOOD CANTICLE.”

It was, thank goodness. It was delightful, and a quality Anne Rice purple prose vampire experience. There’s red velvet everywhere, and flashing preternatural eyes, antique lace, swooning blood lust, and best of all, Lestat returning to his charming, snarky form. I liveblogged my reading over on Tumblr, with the tag THREAT LEVEL: LESTAT, if you want a taste of my hand-clappy glee over the whole thing.

Be warned: from this point forward, there will be spoilers. SO MANY SPOILERS.

Prince Lestat is quality vampire crackfic. There is no other way to adequately describe it. This is not a book you go into with expectations of subtlety, and if you do, you’d better set aside those expectations within the first chapter, wherein Lestat has been sulking, avoiding all the other vampires for years, and has long mental conversations with a probably-crazy telepathic voice. Oh, and goes to Bon Jovi concerts. Also in the first chapter, he meets a pair of vampire scientists who want Lestat to come back to their lab, let them give him a drug that will “allow him to feel biological erotic desire again”, and then let them take a sperm sample. Which Lestat goes along with, because … it’s Lestat. Why not?

(This is what I mean by quality vampire crackfic.)

The book has a whole cast of vampires and vampire elders (some of whom we’ve never met before), mobs of fledglings with smartphones who act like paparazzi if they spot one of the Elders, ghosts who’ve learned to become corporeal, a disembodied voice determined to convince those Elders to wipe out all the fledglings, and Lestat’s mortal son, raised by vampires, who Lestat doesn’t know exists. (Remember the sperm sample?) Plus the mysterious organization of scholars, the Talamasca (“We watch. And we are always there”), vampires we previously thought were dead, and Rose, a mortal girl who was rescued from an earthquake and adopted by her “Uncle Lestan”. (Rose doesn’t get to see her Uncle Lestan as often as she’d like, but he does write her wonderful letters with black ink on pink paper. Yes, I am choosing to interpret that as a subtle shout-out to me. Of course I am.)

The amount of new and previously-just barely-mentioned characters that show up in Prince Lestat is a bit dizzying, but this time they don’t ALL have lengthy monologues about their history and philosophy. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy Anne Rice’s meandering character development, but it can get a bit wearing at times. (I’m looking at you, Lasher, Taltos, and Blackwood Farm.) Much to my amazement, the character I expected to have at least two chapters worth of monologues did not hold forth for pages and pages. However, I’m sure the next books — oh yes, the ending of Prince Lestat all but hands over a gilt-edged invitation to more books — will give Amel his chance to Explain All. Which I’m not entirely sure I will care about, but there are also hints of more stories about the corporeal ghosts and the Talamasca, which are things I very much want more of. Plus, of course, more adventures of the Brat Prince of vampires.

Prince Lestat also has delightful gems of snark. Anne Rice has always been good at sharp-edged bitchery gleaming out through the antique lace:

But who am I to police these preternatural nincompoops?

And if you do not know what honor is, then look it up in your online dictionaries and memorize the definition.

But this time around, there’s also a thread of self-aware gentle mockery. For example, perhaps one of my favorite lines in the entire book:

I was down in New Orleans last year and there were so many fake Lestats swaggering around in pirate shirts and cheap boots, you wouldn’t believe it.

The ending to Prince Lestat is right there in the title. For a few chapters I thought there would be a different conclusion (involving Lestat’s mortal son, Victor), but no. Lestat really does become the Prince of Vampirekind, and starts declaring various other vampires to be his Court Composer, the Minister of Vampire Internet Communications, and so on. Along with tasking Marius to create the appropriate ceremony for turning new vampires, with the needed levels of pomp and circumstance. Over on Tumblr I said that Prince Lestat was somehow the cross-over I never knew I wanted between the Vampire Chronicles and Vampire: the Masquerade, and even after a reread, I still hold to that as a semi-accurate description of the book. (Of course, V:tM was … strongly influenced by Anne Rice’s work, but it’s entertaining to see it flow in the other direction, too.)

Do you need to be well-familiar with all of the Vampire Chronicles canon to enjoy Prince Lestat? Actually, no. You’ll need to have read the first three, but having a thorough knowledge of the rest of the tomes isn’t necessary. When events from later books, such as The Body Thief, Memnoch the Devil, or The Vampire Armand, are referenced, there’s enough context given that a casual vampire reader will be able to easily keep up without being bludgeoned with chunks of exposition.

Did the book really need a prefacing glossary titled “Blood Argot”, or an appendix of “Informal Guide to the Vampire Chronicles”? Probably not, but they’re nice extras that add to the details of this long-running vampire soap opera. In the end, I was delighted with Prince Lestat. Is it full of the traditional Anne Rice bombast and cliches? Yes, of course. But that’s part of the charm of the Vampire Chronicles, that they’re part of the modern era of gothic literature canon, full of flickering candlelight, heightened emotions, and creatures that live for centuries, thus having enough time to turn out as badly as their friends and enemies predicted.

In short, I absolutely loved Prince Lestat. I’ve already read it twice since it downloaded to my Kindle and I know I’ll gleefully turn to it when I am stressed, tired, or just in need of self-indulgence.

Okay, other Anne Rice fans, I know you’re out there? Favorite books? Characters? Particularly overwrought moments of literary bombast? Tell everyone all about it in the comments!

Gothic Museum Exhibits! MMA and the British Library

11 November 2014

Oh, how the Lady of the Manners wishes she could get to NYC sometime between now and February 1, 2015! The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s exhibit Death Becomes Her: A Century of Mourning Attire looks to be utterly amazing, and the Lady of the Manners would love to spend a few hours examining the details of the gorgeous, funereal artifacts and fashion.

The exhibition explores the aesthetic development and cultural implications of mourning fashions of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Approximately 30 ensembles, many of which are being exhibited for the first time, reveal the impact of high-fashion standards on the sartorial dictates of bereavement rituals as they evolved over a century.

Alas, a trip to NYC is not in the cards for the Lady of the Manners right now. And even if it was, the nice staff at MMA would probably not be thrilled about the Lady of the Manners getting as close as she possibly could to the gowns and accessories, and continually reaching out toward them. But oh! The fabrics! The veils!

However, for all of us who aren’t able to go see the exhibit in person, there are goodies to console ourselves with! Because the Metropolitan Museum of Art Store has a special selection of jewelry, books, and accessories to go along with the Death Becomes Her collection. Look! Look at the jet-bejeweled pretties!

Memento Cross Pendant, $165 US.

Memento Cameo Pin, $95 US.

Those are going to be mentioned in the Lady of the Manners’ annual holiday letter to Sandy Claws, oh yes.

Of course, the Lady of the Manners is also full of picturesque woe and despair that there isn’t a trip to London in her future. Partially because, yes, London is one of the Lady of the Manners’ favorite cities, but also because the British Library has the Terror and Wonder: the Gothic Imagination exhibit running through January 2015.

From Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick and Alexander McQueen, via posters, books, films – and even a vampire-slaying kit – experience the dark shadow the Gothic imagination has cast across film, art, music, fashion, architecture and our daily lives.
Beginning with Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto, Gothic literature challenged the moral certainties of the 18th century. By exploring the dark romance of the medieval past with its castles and abbeys, its wild landscapes and fascination with the supernatural, Gothic writers placed imagination firmly at the heart of their work – and our culture.

Pages from Bram Stoker’s manuscript for the original stage play adaptation of Dracula! Horace Walpole’s personal copy of The Castle of Otranto! Left to her own devices, the Lady of the Manners would camp out in the exhibit for a few days, occasionally squeaking with glee.

The array of merchandise the British Library store is offering for this exhibit is delightful, and the idea of being able to purchase black lipstick or absinthe makes her clap her hands in joy. Alas, instead of wandering the library, the Lady of the Manners will just have to console herself with the book about the exhibit.

Have any of you lucky Snarklings visited either exhibit? Or have plans to? Please, leave a comment and Tell All!

Of Musical Conjurings: An Interview with Meredith Yayanos

13 October 2014

The Lady of the Manners has a special treat for you Snarklings! In December 2012, a gorgeously unsettling musical work was released: A Blessed Unrest, by The Parlour Trick. A collaboration between Meredith Yayanos and Dan Cantrell, is an album perfect for spirits looking for a house to haunt, or to soothe a madwoman in an attic. It quickly became one of the Lady of the Manners’ favorite musical works, and is a perfect soundtrack for writing.


A Blessed Unrest cover photo by Ellen Rogers

And now, presented to you after assorted adventures and hijinks with email and schedules: the Gothic Charm School interview with Meredith Yayanos!

What was the catalyst to create Parlour Trick and A Blessed Unrest?

I came up with the name and concept of The Parlour Trick in 2005. I’d known since my teens that I wanted to make some sort of classically-tinged dark ambient record with elaborate packaging and backstory… but I never carved out the time to work towards that goal. I managed to record a handful of demos and scribble down scraps of notation here and there, that was it. Throughout my twenties and early thirties, I worked primarily as a hired player in NYC, doing studio sessions and gigging with a bunch of previously established bands. Later, when I moved back to California, I kept that up, but scaled it back somewhat to focus on co-running Coilhouse Magazine & Blog. That entire time I was doing my best to stifle any and all nagging urges to Do My Own Thing™. I lacked the confidence. Honestly, I still do. It’s always been easy for me to let my own concepts stay shelved and contribute to other people’s visions. But at some point in the late 00s, while visiting with Dan Cantrell in Oakland, I somehow worked up the courage to pitch my spooky music to him and asked him to become part of The Parlour Trick. Dan played me this Satie-inspired piano piece he’d composed. It made all the tiny hairs on my arms and neck stand up. I came up with the violin part on the spot, as well as the song’s title: “Half Sick of Shadows”, and shyly showed shared some of my own sketches. Dan was encouraging and supportive, so after I moved to New Zealand, he and I kept brainstorming via Skype and email. Then I’d come back to town every ten months or so to record a few songs. That’s how A Blessed Unrest got made, sporadically, over the course of many years, while both he and I had a whole lot of other stuff going on.

The Parlour Trick: “Half Sick of Shadows” (Starring Rachel Brice) from Theremina on Vimeo.

How did your interests in Spiritualism, 19th century mourning rituals, and the “monstrous feminine” coalesce into needing a musical expression?

Victoriana is fascinating to me — their fear of sex, their preoccupation with death and mourning. Especially all of the munted, manipulative rituals and superstitions surrounding post-civil war Spiritualism! Something very poignant about the level of effort that went into creating these elaborate theatrical gaffs that let people speak to their dead loved ones. Disturbing and sad, too. I’m a sucker for Victorian and Edwardian aesthetics as well, and I’ve been collecting 19th Century ephemera since I was a kid, winding things up and watching them twitch, messing around with outmoded technologies, screaming down the throats of old phonograph horns.

The Mill At Calder’s End – Official Teaser HD from Kevin McTurk on Vimeo.

(Teaser trailer for Kevin McTurk’s puppet film The Mill At Calder’s End, featuring a track by The Parlour Trick called “The Yellow Wallpaper”. Yayanos contributed violin and vocal work to the score.)

I have a lifelong attraction to narratives that are feminine and unapologetically confrontational. A Blessed Unrest definitely plays off that madwoman trope. Concepts of the monstrous feminine tend to dovetail nicely with that. The 1800s spawned an especially poetic strain of Monstrous Femininity. Multiple generations of madwomen locked up in the attics.

For most of recorded history, women have been called mentally ill, or straight-up demonized, merely for rejecting societal norms. Female rage, female dissent, female sexuality… those are all cultural monstermakers. Let’s be honest. Most women still aren’t given enough room to voice educated, dissenting opinions –let alone express our full emotional, intellectual, or sexual range– without encountering a lot of oppressive pushback.

A Blessed Unrest turned into an unexpectedly emotional exorcism for me! It’s basically a haunted house record with a very distraught ghost rattling around inside of it. The same ghost that’s been rattling around inside of me for a long, long time. Hopefully that comes across, somewhat in spite of it being almost entirely non-verbal? I dunno.


Photo of Meredith Yayanos & Dan Cantrell by Audrey Penven

How did you and Dan Cantrell meet?

Heeee. Dan and I met in a park at a padded weaponry game when were fifteen years old, and we’ve been music collaborators for nearly as long. I’ve honestly lost track of how many wonderful projects of his I’ve sat in on over the past decades. He’s a prolific and incredibly versatile artist. I highly recommend his recent solo album, Orphaned Anthems. Gorgeously cinematic, and very quintessentially Dan.

A Blessed Unrest, for me, occupies the same sort of idea space as the “musical seances” that musicians Jill Tracy and Paul Mercer create. Have you heard of those? Would that sort of performance be enticing to you? Who would you want to perform with if you were able to participate in such a thing?

Oh, yes! And yes, absolutely. Wow, what an honor to be compared to those two. Jill’s a dear friend and we’ve performed together quite a bit. I did one of her seance nights at the Edwardian Ball earlier this year. Last June, the two of us teamed up with legendary thereminist Armen Ra to host an evening of unearthly music at DNA Lounge. It was delightful. I first saw/heard Paul Mercer back in 1995 at the Pyramid club in NYC, performing with the Changelings, and that was hugely inspired. More recently, I picked up his solo violin/viola record, Ghosts. It’s beautiful.
As far as folks I’d want to perform with if I were able to go the full-on seance route . . . I think it could be amazing to do something multi-disciplinary. Some kind of salon / bazaar event involving music, dance, visual art, fashion, a photo booth, tarot card-readings, magic tricks, tea service, and some readings of Victorian feminist lit. Off the top of my head, the folks I’d love to work on something like that with include: Shamika Baker, Victoria Victrola, Wren Britton, Paul Komoda, Selene Ahnese, Mildred Von, Angelo Moore, Ellen Rogers, Nadya Lev, Snake Church, Bloodmilk, Star St. Germain, Kambriel, Travis Louie, Laurie Penny, Angeliska Polacheck, Eden Gallanter, and the Vau de Vire Society. Hell, if all of those folks got together without me and did something, that’d be swell, too. I don’t care, I just want to hang out and eat buttered scones!

From my corner of the internet, it seems that there’s been a growing resurgence of interest in Spiritualism, hauntings, mourning rituals, and more classically “dark” or “morbid” ideas. Have you noticed the same sorts of themes and links? What do you think is driving this upswing?

I have! I think it’s fabulous. Pastel goth! Witch house! These kids today. Buttsrsly, I’m in love with so much of the music emerging from current post-gothic, post-cyberpunk, fairy tale sensibilities: Austra, Chelsea Wolfe, Burial, Light Asylum, Zola Jesus, iamamiwhoami, GR†LLGR†LL, Harouki Zombi, Demdike Stare. So much exciting, creepy creativity happening. No idea what’s driving that upswing. Maybe it’s that we have free, unlimited access to a lot of high res scans of archaic imagery and literature that weren’t as easy to track down, before? (I had to dig deep for my Manly P. Hall and Dover books.)

Or maybe we’re trying to create a more tangible sense of authenticity in the Internet age by rubbing a bit o’ graveyard dirt into the atemporality? I have no idea. I’m still getting used to the sight of posh fifteen year olds wearing Goetic Seal of Solomon tank tops with their galactic Blackmilk leggings and Jeffrey Campbell plats to Starbucks. It’s delightfully weird to me, how all of these signifiers of archaic ritual from a wide variety traditions are being remixed and injected into art and discourse in the digital age. A revival of ghosts in pixelated aether.

Were there any interesting or unsettling moments while recording the material for A Blessed Unrest?

Dan and I managed to spook the hell out of ourselves without any help from the spirit world! For instance, we were using wax cylinder technology to build layers of ambiance out of the voices of long-dead musicians. That could get very unsettling. You know how super old recordings often sound frantic, kind of shouty? It’s because they were all yelling into the recording horn to make sure it registered in the wax, and rushing to make sure they’d fit their entire song onto a two-minute cylinder. Turns out that when you sample and layer urgent century-old voices, it gets creepy. And also we recorded ourselves onto this ancient Edison machine. And, of course, I screamed during one take. Hearing that scream played back for the first time was uncanny. It only takes a few minutes for the wax to harden, but the resulting sound feels a hundred years old— it’s as though the notes have had to sluice their way through an ocean of years. By the time the music finally reaches the listener, it’s awash with hisses, pops, clicks and whispers. It’s a machine that turns a warm, breathing human voice into a ghost in less than ten minutes.


Photo by Audrey Penven

The Parlour Trick site says that a music video for The Lady of the House of Love is in preproduction. (Whooo, Angela Carter reference! That’s one of my favorite stories by her.) Are there any details you can reveal about the idea for the video?

One of my faves as well! “She herself is a haunted house.” That entire Burning Your Boats collection is incredible. I can tell you there’ll be some swooping aerial drone footage of the eldritch houseboat community I crash-landed in upon my return to the States after living abroad for several years. And some scenes in the Marin Headlands, where I’ve been spending a lot of time this past year. It’s all coming together extreeeeeemely slowly, while I continue to recalibrate. I have no idea when it will be finished, but I do intend to finish it.

Other friends of mine who are musicians, writers, and artists are all coping with the juggling act required to support themselves and keep moving: how do you balance the demands of “real life” with your creative drive and impulses?

Haha! “IS THIS REAL LIFE?” Oh, god, I don’t know. I’m still flailing. Please let me know if you find someone who’s got it all figured out? Real life, for me, hasn’t been terribly real-feeling for a while now. From the time I launched the Kickstarter for The Parlour Trick album up through now, I’ve been in a weirdly protracted transitional space. These days I’m hauling ass trying to make a stable life for myself in San Francisco, building my savings back up, doing a combination of film scoring, session work, band management, sporadic pet/house sitting gigs, and (don’t laugh!) a bit of ghostwriting to pay the bills. All of which is great, but of course I’m also itching to make more deeply personal creative stuff. If only that would pay the bills! If only I wasn’t still plagued with shyness and doubts about my own work. I will say this: I would be so lost without the love and support of true friends and loyal family. Those bonds mean everything. Everyone’s different, but I’d say that if you’re not a complete hermit, make sure to stay connected to your kin. Prioritize people who treat you with respect and who nurture and replenish you, and be sure to do the same for them as much as possible. Amazing art… scratch that, amazing life happens when you prioritize relationships like those, and do not take them for granted.

Will there be more music from Parlour Trick?

Mmmmaaaybe? I hope so. The response to this material has been more positive and more far-flung than I’d expected, especially given that it was this self-produced, self-managed Kickstarter project with zero official PR. (Mad love to all of my friends and colleagues who gave the record an enormous boost! I blame them entirely.) There are some unreleased tracks that didn’t make it onto A Blessed Unrest: these long, murky, atmospheric pieces that didn’t really work, thematically, with the haunted house concept. Hopefully that stuff will eventually see the light of day. But it’s been several years now since we finished recording A Blessed Unrest. Dan has long since moved on to other projects. The Parlour Trick schema and moniker belong to me, so any new material recorded under that name will be with other collaborators, and therefore quite different from A Blessed Unrest.

What’s your favorite little indulgence to lift your spirits?

A spicy dirty chai and a snickerdoodle and cloud busting on the roof with good tunes in my headphones.


Portrait by Bethalynne Bajema

Thank you, Meredith, for taking the time to do this interview! I hope that someday we’ll be in the same place long enough to sit down, share a pot of tea, and do some plotting!

Purchase The Parlour Trick’s A Blessed Unrest on Bandcamp!

Of Goth Fashion: DIY vs. Off-the-Rack

17 September 2014

Hello Snarklings! The Lady of the Manners has decided to rise from her end-of-summer torpor and resume answering questions. (August is not a good month for the Lady of the Manners, what with the brilliant sunshine, the warm weather, and so on.)

What summoned the Lady of the Manners from her darkened lair in the Gothic Charm School library? A question about the fashion dilemma of DIY vs. buying pre-made goods:

Dear Lady of the Manners,

I had a bit of a question regarding fashion. I tend to buy nicer things from online stores and such, as I enjoy having my nonstandard wardrobe, and I tend to modify garments into something more consistently suitable to my tastes, but I have found that I sometimes garner flak for buying stuff from said online stores. I went through many of the relevant fashion articles you have here, and it looks like we should all ditch the “Gothier than thou” attitude some of us have, but when my retailer choices are pointed out, this sort of thing tends too get on my nerves, as well as provoke the Punk side of me into self-guilt over actually BUYING my gear as opposed to merely making it all.

I did actually have a friend say “oh, you bought from X? That’s a bit of lost respect” when she found out I had ordered from a particular large Industrial-based website. I personally feel that knowledge of the culture is more important than whether you buy clothes from Hot Topic or The Metro (yep, I’m from the Greater Seattle Area!), as long as you are as excited as I am when Joy Division or Siouxie Sioux starts playing, but the nagging thought still, well, nags, that I’ll be sneered at in Elitist snobbery. Do you have any advice on that subject?

Sincerely,

Faust

P.S Seeing as i am following the Charm School on Tumblr and have seen all the rather nice images of the Lady there, would she have any problem with a bit of idle chit-chat should she be recognized around town (depending of course, on her plans that day; I’d rather not hold her up from an important appointment or event, of course, that would just be rude!)?

Another Seattle gothy type, hurrah! The Lady of the Manners is going to answer your queries in reverse order, as the reply to your postscript is very simple: If you see the Lady of the Manners gallivanting around town, of course you should come up and say hello! The Lady of the Manners promises to let you (or any other Snarklng who comes up to say hi) know if she’s out running errands, is heading to an appointment, or has other time constraints that would keep her from being able to chat. Dropping the third-person mannerism for a moment: I love it when readers of Gothic Charm School say hi! It makes me incredibly happy, and I love meeting you Snarklings! Just, y’know, ask before attempting hugs, please!

Now, as to Faust’s question about buying pre-made goth/punk/alternative goods vs. the do-it-yourself route: Firstly, your “friend” who said “oh, you bought from X? That’s a bit of lost respect” was being rude. Staggeringly so, actually, and the Lady of the Manners hopes that you gave them a chilly stare in response to that comment.

Way back at the start of the goth subculture, there weren’t a lot of off-the-rack alternative fashion options. Spooksters who wanted a fabulous wardrobe of darkness had to search for things that were vaguely close to what they wanted, and then spend long hours painstakingly altering their finds: painting designs, adding trim, buttons, or buckles, slashing, shredding, and stitching things together, and even then, after all that work? Often, the results weren’t quite what one hoped for.

But as the years crept on, some very clever and creative people started making a living by selling gothy goods to other people in our shadowy subculture. People who didn’t have the time, skills, or money to DIY the gear of their dreams were able to outfit themselves, and other goths/punks/rivetheads were able to pay their bills by making beautiful things. In other words, a wonderful spooky circle of commerce! As even more years blew past like fallen leaves, selling alternative fashion became (slightly) big business, which meant there were more options out there, a wider range of prices, and even more opportunities for goths in small towns to get their hands on a few pieces of spooky clothing without going into debt or risking mail-order from far-away countries.

There is NOTHING WRONG with buying ready-made items. Try to be an informed consumer, in terms of being aware of prices, construction quality, and the working conditions of the folks who made the garment, of course! But don’t let any misplaced notions of “scene cred” stop you. Not everyone wants to spend hours working on making their gear. Not everyone has the ability to! And some folks, sometimes including the Lady of the Manners, could DIY something, but decide it would be simpler to purchase a ready-made item.

Also, sometimes buying a ready-made item from a “big name” alternative manufacturer is a convenient starting point for a DIY project. The Lady of the Manners gleefully purchases garments from places like Retroscope Fashions and ChicStar, then spends a few evenings modifying that “basic” item into something custom-styled. Plus there is a lot of alternative fashion cred in taking a basic garment you found from a big-box store and transforming it into something special.

It is well-known that the Lady of the Manners is a fervent fan of the fashion side of goth: having a closet (well, multiple closets) crammed full of sweeping velvet skirts, lace-trimmed frock coats, and flocks of bat-themed jewelry makes her giddy. But fashion isn’t the only part of the subculture, and people who get elitist about it make the Lady of the Manners very cranky. For you’re completely right, Faust: knowing about the music, the literature, and the movies that are part of our morbidly romantic scene is just as important. Anyone who tries to be snippy about someone else’s choice in wardrobe, or who insinuates that you aren’t a Real Goth if you didn’t hand-weave your tattered fishnets from spiderwebs dyed with candle smoke and tears is trying to set themselves up as a Gother-Than-Thou gatekeeper of the scene. And do you know what we do to those types of people, Snarklings? We ignore them. We also perhaps pity them just a bit, because if they think they need to police the scene then they must be insecure, but mostly, we ignore them.

With that, the Lady of the Manners is going to go back to sorting through her button box so she can find the perfect set to replace the boring plain black buttons on the latest black velvet blazer she found at the thrift store. But! In case some of you are in the mood for window shopping, or have the budget to indulge in gothy goodies: here! Have a list of links!

Nocturnal House: Still Life, by Michael Montoure

19 July 2014

It’s a warm summer night, the clear light of a full moon shining through an open window. The whisper of a breeze brings the scents of moss and night-blooming flowers, which mingle pleasantly with the perfumes of candles and old books. At the edge of your vision you spy a flutter of movement — a bat? Or the ghostly gesture of something reaching past you to select a book from the shelves? Welcome back to the Nocturnal House.

Still Life by Michael Montoure was one of my favorite new books of 2013. It’s a story of vampiric transformation, where the hazy romantic trappings that cushion many vampire tales are peeled away, exposing the bare viscera and bones of loneliness, need, and the bloodsucking truths (both metaphorical and shockingly physical) of relationships that have turned toxic.

From the back cover:

When the beautiful stranger who’d promised to make her a vampire turned out to be all too human, burned-out rock star Nikki Velvet was left weak, helpless, and addicted to his blood.

Now, trapped in her new life with him — and with Paul, the vampire she’s replaced as Sylvan’s favorite — Nikki struggles to find a way out before time runs out for all of them …

STILL LIFE is a story of loss, isolation, the things we mistake for love, and the way back out of the dark.

Nikki Velvet doesn’t want to become a vampire because of romantic notions of enlightenment, eternal youth, or love beyond death. She’s seen the wreckage of death’s triumph over love in the wake of the suicide of Gabe, her best friend and musical partner, and she wants to walk away from it all. She wants a promise that death won’t come for her, and she believes that Sylvan can fulfill that promise.

He nodded slowly. “I can arrange that.”

I sank back against the seat, letting go of tension I didn’t know I was holding onto, and I just nodded.

“But first,” he said, “show me you’re really willing. Show me a small gesture of faith.”

I turned to look at him. He reached inside his jacket and pulled out a small, elaborately engraved metal case. Too small for cigarettes. Business cards? He opened it, held it out to me.
A single razor blade immaculate on a bed of rose petals.
“Bleed for me,” he said softly.

The dusty old saying about appearances being deceiving once again proves to have a steady beat of truth.

My head was throbbing and I could hear my heart beating.

That wasn’t the only heartbeat I heard. I sat up abruptly, off-balance, shoving him away.

“What?” he said, looking unconcerned. “What’s wrong?”

“You’re warm,” I said, trying to stand up.

The faintest frown creased his forehead. “Yes. You said you were cold.”

“No. No. You’re warm.” I managed to get to my feet. “I can hear your heartbeat.”

He raised an eyebrow at that. “ . . . And?”

I pointed a wavering finger at him. “You’re not a vampire.”

“Oh.” He smiled, finished his wine. “I never said I was.”

But Sylvan isn’t the only one who isn’t what he seems …

“Paul,” Sylvan said behind me, his voice sounding tired and resigned, “stop her, please.”

There was a sound from above me —

As the small man swung himself over the balcony railing —

Dropped to the ground in front of me, as gentle as a cat, as silent as a spider.

Nikki returns from death three days later, struggling to make her weak, awkward body clamber out of the bathtub she was left in, and coming to the empty realization that she doesn’t know anything about her new condition. Paul, the quiet, seemingly shrunken man who transformed her, won’t or can’t give her any answers. Sylvan also isn’t interested in giving her answers, but the first sharing of blood dulls the pressing ache of Nikki’s questions.

His blood flowed into my wounds and was pulled inside.

I could feel his hand moving. Feel it from the inside, the way he felt it. His other hand reached around behind my head and I could feel it moving, he ran his fingers through my hair and I could feel my hair, soft and silky, through his fingers.

Electric, the two of us, a circuit closed.

I shuddered, and he shuddered in time with me.

There’s a line you never get to cross, as long as you live. The edge of your body. You’re trapped inside your skin, and no matter how many times you reach out to touch a friend or a lover, no matter how close you hold someone or how fiercely you make love, when it begins, when it ends, and all the moments in between, you are still yourself, alone. I know you knew this. It was in all the love songs you wrote. I think it was the hidden impulse we both had, down inside, that made us take razors to our skin, that desire to open up and let the world in, to let ourselves out, to take that sharp thin line of flesh and erase it.

Here I was, outside at last.

As the nights roll by, Sylvan still doesn’t give her any answers, but the heady rush of his blood is almost enough to silence her unease; when it isn’t, the nagging whisper of uncertainty keeps her in the house. Life with Sylvan is a slow haze, with Paul hovering near the edges. Sylvan takes Nikki out, shows her off to people “in the know” about this shadowy side of the world, but doesn’t show any real concern for her or Paul. Paul, who once was Sylvan’s favorite; Paul, who gives Nikki her first lessons in what the consequences of Sylvan’s neglect can be.

Still Life is a razor-sharp look at what numbness and entropy can do to someone. Becoming a vampire doesn’t fix any of Nikki’s problems or make the heartache of Gabe’s suicide any easier to bear. It just buries those concerns under a suffocating blanket of other needs: the need for blood, the need to navigate Sylvan’s constantly shifting affection and humor so she can be given blood, and the weight of all her unanswered questions, pulling her down into the inky depths.

While Still Life does look into the abyss of depression and the pendulum swings of an uncertain emotional attachment, it’s not a depressing read. For one thing, Michael Montoure’s ability to turn a phrase is amazing:

I was smiling, actually smiling for the first time in days. I felt like I was coming apart and that was all right, I wanted to stand in the middle of it all and spread my arms cruciform wide and be carried away piece by piece, a communion on everyone’s lips.

Also, Still Life feels familiar — it’s full of themes and characters that are woven into the shared subconscious of goths (or anyone else who has ever felt unsure or alone, seeking something or someone to provide that electric jolt of connection), but none of it is a cliche. It’s a novel of emotional truths, dark and bright, dressed up in fangs and post-modern ironic velvet. We’ve all met people like Nikki, Sylvan, Paul, and the others — now we’re able to view them in a fractured mirror and decide how much truth and power we want to imbue those reflections with. Ultimately, Still Life is a book about choices: the fear and indecision that are entwined with choices, how you can become stuck at crossroads of your own making, and how, at the core of it all, making a choice is always better than sinking into passive resignation.

Lines of light, delicate traceries in the ground, connecting different graves like circuits. Sometimes strong and pulsing lines between adjacent graves, and I’d look at the gravestones and see that they’d belonged to husband and wife. But lines spread out everywhere, a network all connected, family, friends, and I knew what it was and if I just put out my hand I could feel a tingle as it passed through me. Love was real and it left traces, left its scars carved in the world, even after death.

And I’d laugh and dance among the lines, arms raised up to heaven, and I didn’t care if anyone saw me or not.

I started to see them a little clearer, after that. See faces and shapes.

Don’t misunderstand me. I hadn’t forgotten about trying to reach you. You were the reason I was still here. But I wasn’t coming here just to visit you, any more. I was coming to visit everyone.

Still Life is a darkly-shining example of what I truly believe is at the heart of being a goth: sometimes the world is an unsettling and uncertain place, but there’s beauty and joy to be found, too. You just have to hang on and keep looking, even if it means visiting beloved ghosts in a graveyard.

Beware the Burning Orb! Or, Summer Goth

3 July 2014

Snarklings, it’s July in the Lady of the Manners’ part of the world. In other words, summer, the dreaded season of burning sunlight and high temperatures. Woe! Woe are the goths!

Oh, all right, the Lady of the Manners may be indulging in the tiniest bit of melodramatics about summer. There are many goths who adore this season, and look forward to warmer weather and longer days. The Lady of the Manners doesn’t happen to be one of those types of goths, and judging by questions showing up in the Gothic Charm School mailbox, many of you share her opinions. Which means it’s time for a summer survival guide!

Favoring inky hues and layers of fabric, whether in antique or punk styles, is not entirely practical during warm weather. Yes, layers of lace and fishnet can be substituted for velvet and leather, but you still should be aware of what the fiber content of those layers might be. Synthetic fibers, such as polyester and nylon, are not great choices for summer because no matter how lightweight they may be, they don’t breathe. Sheer or lightweight fabric doesn’t make a bit of difference if it still traps heat and sweat against you! Look for lightweight clothing made with a high percentage of natural fibers, such as cotton, silk, or rayon. If you refuse to give up your fishnets, then remember that you can dampen them with water and take advantage of evaporation to help you stay a little cooler.

Don’t feel you have to stick with goth’s traditional midnight “none more black” palette! White, gray, ivory — all lovely hues that work well with gothic styles, and will absorb less heat from the sun. According to “conventional wisdom”, that is, but there are articles saying otherwise.

One of the Lady of the Manners’ favorite places to find lightweight clothing in black or white is Dharma Trading Co., where not only can you get a variety of garments in different natural fibers, but you can find the dyes and other supplies to customize them.

Hats! While the illustration shows a top hat, the Lady of the Manners is here to warn you: most top hats are made of felted wool, which means they will keep your head toasty warm. Not what you want in summer! As the Lady of the Manners is rather fond of top hats, she scoured the internet until she found a summer-weight straw version (be warned, slow-loading site!), then spent a few evenings painstakingly coloring the hat with black archival art markers and then covering it with black lace. (Do not feel you need to duplicate that sort of effort, as the Lady of the Manners freely admits the project was a bit impractical and obsessive, even for her. And look! Now there’s a black raffia top hat out there. Where was this two years ago, drat it?)

But a lightweight hat is incredibly helpful to shade your eyes and keep your head from scorching, and there are all sorts of options. The nu-goth side of fashion is full of wide-brimmed black hats, which can be found in just about any store that carries sun hats. You can leave such a hat plain, or adorn it with feathers, veils, ribbons and bows, clouds of black tulle, black fabric roses, bird skulls and bones, bits and pieces of jewelry from thrift stores — really, anything that strikes your fancy and can be affixed to the hat by sewing or glue.

Parasols! Take shade with you whenever you’re out! Now to be perfectly honest, any umbrella will also work as a parasol in a pinch. Yes, it’s very fun to have an extra-fancy gothy-goth parasol, but there are times when function is more important than form, and warding off the burning orb is one of those times. Which leads the Lady of the Manners to a pet peeve: yes, lace parasols look very pretty in photo shoots, but are nigh-useless for shielding your delicate moonflower self from the sun. Opt for something with a solid covering, Snarklings!

The Lady of the Manners is very fond of the “Signature Pagoda” umbrella from Bella Umbrella, because it has a lovely shape and interchangable handles! Designs by Victoria offers parasols thoroughly decorated with lace and ruffles, while Clockwork Couture has a selection of paper parasols printed with designs such as skulls or tentacles.

Sunblock! No, not because you have to be pale to be a goth (the Lady of the Manners has an entire post refuting that narrow and silly notion!), but because sun damage and skin cancer are very real concerns! Look for something that offers broad-spectrum coverage, be it a “chemical” or “mineral” -based block, and take a look at the reviews and comments on the Environmental Working Group Guide to Sunscreens. Personally, the Lady of the Manners has discovered that many of the “chemical” block sunscreens make her skin unhappy, so she tends to powder her exposed skin down with Jane Iredale powder sunscreen, and make sure she has a large sun hat and parasol with her if she needs to be outside during the day.

Other useful tips!

- Stay hydrated. Yes, that’s obvious, but it’s easy to forget to drink water when you’re busy and/or distracted by other things. But also make sure you’re getting enough electrolytes and salt at the same time, please!

- Carry a fan with you, so you can generate your own cool breeze whenever you need. Metal handle fans that unfold into a circle are sturdy and can be easily tucked into a bag or pocket.

- Handkerchiefs. Yes, fabric ones, preferably made from cotton. You can use it to discreetly blot perspiration, or you can dampen it with water to use as a cool compress on your wrists or the back of your neck in truly sweltering situations.

- Ice packs and bodice chillers. If you must wear elaborate goth finery in high temperatures, tucking a pliable ice pack into your corset or waistcoat might make the crucial difference to avoid heatstroke. Don’t laugh, that’s how the Lady of the Manners has survived some summertime goth events outdoors.

- Blotting papers. Yes, for all genders, because sometimes just blotting the perspiration from your face will make you feel less sticky.

With that, Snarklings, the Lady of the Manners is going to stare forlornly at the weather forecast, then go set a carafe of herbal iced tea to steeping. Do you have your own tricks for dealing with the summer heat? Share them in the comments! (Which are, of course, moderated.)

Five Years!

23 June 2014

Five years, Snarklings! Five years!

::a brief pause while the Lady of the Manners dances around the room with pink and black balloons, then lights the candles on the tray of cupcakes::

What on earth is the Lady of the Manners talking about? Just the small fact that this is the FIFTH ANNIVERSARY of the release of the Gothic Charm School book!

::The Lady of the Manners runs outside to release the balloons into the starry night sky, then comes back in to blow out the candles before she accidentally sets the library on fire::

Permit the Lady of the Manners to drop the third-person frivolity for a few minutes: Thank you, from the depths of my heart. Gothic Charm School: An Essential Guide for Goths and Those Who Love Them wouldn’t have been possible without you lovely creatures, the readers. Thank you for reading this site, thank you for sending in questions, and thank you SO MUCH for purchasing the book. The book is still in print, and still being sold! It’s even been translated into Russian!

Behold, the Russian edition! With different cover art, but the interior illustrations are still by Pete Venters, yay!

What’s that, you say? You don’t have your own copy of the Gothic Charm School book? Here:

  • Ask your local bookstore to order it!
  • At Amazon!
  • At Barnes & Noble – online, and in stores!
  • At Kobo!
  • At Powells!
  • Check your local library! If they don’t have it, ask a librarian if they can order it.

(If you were wondering, the English language ebook version also contains the wonderful illustrations from the printed paper version.)

So yes, thank you. Thank you to those of you who’ve written, to those of you I’ve been lucky enough to meet, thank you to all of you. I’m incredibly lucky to have accomplished this, and I know it.

Review: Only Lovers Left Alive, from Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab

9 June 2014

Just in case you’ve somehow missed the Lady of the Manners burbling everywhere about it: the Jim Jarmusch movie, Only Lovers Left Alive, is possibly the best vampire movie she’s ever seen. Tilda Swinton! Tom Hiddleston! AS VAMPIRES. It’s a gorgeous, lush opium dream of a movie about immortal love, and you should see it if you’re able to.

The mad geniuses over at Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab have created an official line of perfumes for the movie, and they very kindly sent them to the Lady of the Manners! So for the next little while, it’s review time! Starting out with our pair of immortal lovers, with a “bonus track” review of the Lady of the Manners’ favorite scent from the entire collection.

(Text in italics are the official descriptions from the BPAL site.)

EVE 
 
Eve is eternal: in three-thousand years, she has likely traveled the length and breadth of the world, immersed in innumerable cultures throughout the ages, observing the ebb and flow of humanity and the imperishability of nature itself. Despite her age, she is the character that seems most rooted, always experiencing each moment with open eyes, always fully present. Her scent is one that travels through the eons: the Irish moss, yarrow, and hawthorn of the Iron Age Britons, ancient Rome’s omphacium and honey, myrrh and calamus from Egypt, the frankincense and damask roses of the Florentine Renaissance, white sandalwood from the Far East, Moroccan saffron and rose water, and a swirl of incense from the souks.

It opens with a cloud of roses gilded with honey and saffron, warm and inviting. As time goes on, it deepens into a lingering breath of incense and the barest touch of bitter greenery, but always anchored by the sweet dust that belongs to stacks of old, much-loved books.
 

ADAM 
 
Adam, our suicidally romantic scoundrel. His scent is a palette of somber colors, melancholy memories, and lupine, savage beauty: black leather, pale sandalwood, ambergris accord, and the memory of a long-lost Victorian fougère.
His internal life seems to be reflected in his lair, so his perfume also possesses the scent of the wood of his guitars, the rosin from his violin bow, the musty wool of neglected Oriental carpets, the plastic, metal, and magnetic tape of his reel-to-reel, the dust that permeates everything.
 

Leather and dust, and the smell of empty rooms full of memory. As time passes, there’s a hint of salt, as if from unshed tears. The growing warmth of the wood of musical instruments almost mask it, but it circles back to the scent memory of a leather jacket worn on a cold night.

BLOOD POPSICLE
 
The scent of frozen Type O negative.

“The good stuff”. Honey and amber and salt, wrapped in blood-red velvet. The perfume version of a shiver of delight. Send bottles of this to the Lady of the Manners in tribute, for it is possibly the best thing she’s ever smelled.

IAN: Y’know, for a zombie, you’re alright.

A flicker of hero worship, tempered by naivety and an innately kind nature: shaggy leather, sweet rum absolute, and patchouli.

Warm leather and rum wrap you in an enthusiastic embrace, while the bassline of the patchouli  reverberates with your heartbeat. There’s no tobacco listed in the notes, but there’s something about this scent that evokes it. This is the Platonic ideal of every boy I ever dated in college, and of late-night clubs –not the reality. Wear this if you want to indulge in the dream of finding a clear-eyed romantic who will speak to you in a whisper you can hear despite the loud guitars surrounding you.


AVA:It’s always a bit weird with family.

A scant two-hundred years old, there doesn’t seem to be anything that roots Ava to her past. Her scent is utterly contemporary, and, like her personality, it is impulsive, capricious, and dangerous. Voluptuous and brittle, lovely and toxic:  sheer vanilla musk with tuberose, red mandarin, and the sweet poison of white almond.

Feral baby powder. This is the scent of sweet hedonism partying to ignore the inevitable come-down and consequences. The sharp red mandarin catches your attention, then vanilla musk and tuberose beckon to you with a sly, sweet smile. The white almond lingers the longest, but flickers in and out of your perception.


KIT:

Immersed in his (eternal) life’s work, holding on to his memories, suffused with a love of life and literature, Kit’s scent is soft and dry as bone: Mysore sandalwood, a tattered and patched 16th century waistcoat, inkstained, still scented with the marjoram and benzoin dry perfumes of his youth.

Take your oldest, most beloved garment and breath it in; now take that scent and age it for centuries. It opens with the dust-dry air of the sandalwood, but the smell of ink grounds it, while the marjoram keeps the dust of ages from becoming overwhelming. Time passes and will always do so; enjoy your memories but mingle the dust of experience with fresh leaves.

JUNE 23, 1868: True love renewed by night in an English garden: moonflower, Nottingham catchfly, Casablanca lily, evening primrose, night-blooming cereus, Queen of the Night, muted by the sepia tones of tonka, tobacco absolute, bourbon vanilla, and costs. 

Heady, swooningly romanic, with a touch of youthful love. The floral notes smell as if they are silvered by moonlight reflecting on dew, while the tonic, tobacco absolute, and bourbon vanilla creep out over time, preserving the floral bouquet through the years.

FUNNEL OF LOVE: 17-year aged black patchouli, champaca flower, cardamom bud, green coriander, Haitian vetiver, red vegetal musk, black pepper, night-blooming jasmine, and leather.
 
This smells like a wall of fuzztone guitars sound. Sharp, dizzying, and almost dissonant at first, but the notes of pepper and jasmine bloom out to echo over the baseline of leather and patchouli. The cardamom bud and green coriander give sharp bursts of static, and the red vegetal musk oscillates through it all.

WOODEN BULLET:  
A .38 caliber bullet fashioned from cocobolo wood and brass. 

Bitter dark wood, with a metallic overlay. You would think that a scent with wood notes would eventually turn warm, but this doesn’t. The wood becomes deeper and darker, but never warm. The brass adds a glimmer of light to the scent, but stays cold and metallic. It’s lovely, but in some way remote.
 

STREETS OF DETROIT: Black musk accord, Ethiopian myrrh, and motor oil.

Urban blight made romantic. The myrrh and motor oil blend to create a screen of things that feel necessary, while the black musk binds them together. The combination of the three make me think of weeds sprouting as rain puddles on oil-soaked concrete.

SPOOKY ACTION AT A DISTANCE: “When you separate an entwined particle and you move both parts away from the other, even at opposite ends of the universe, if you alter or affect one, the other will be identically altered or affected. Spooky.”
 
Instantaneous correlated action between entangled partners: rose-infused sandalwood with violet leaf, frankincense, geranium rose, and a spark of elemi. 

There’s no separate recognition of any of these notes, they’re so entwined. Open a small treasure chest of sandalwood and be enveloped in a twining delicate floral cloud. As time passes, the scents are still entangled, but are more diffuse and stretched.

http://blackphoenixalchemylab.com/shop/only-lovers-left-alive/spooky-action-distance/

SHELLEY, BYRON, AND KEATS: SHELLEY, BYRON, AND KEATS
 
Uncompromising idealism, haunted romanticism, fatal ennui, and a heady amount of scandal and vice: red roses and pale carnation with a draught of laudanum, smears of opium tar, a hint of absinthe, and mercury ointment.

 
My thoughts upon smelling this: “Well now I want to go have a midnight picnic in the garden. How difficult would it be to set up all the velvet throws and pillows, candelabras for enough light to read a book of antique ghost stories, and a tray with the absinthe, glasses, and the absinthe fountain? Far too ambitious a plan; I should just stay draped on the couch. Why oh why don’t I have a butler?”

Shelly, Byron, and Keats is one of my favorites from the Only Lovers Left Alive collection. I embrace my cliches so hard they squeak in mock-protest.

CAFÉ MILLE ET UNE NUITS: Shisha and thick coffee brewed with cardamom pods, cinnamon, clove, black pepper, and nutmeg. 
 
This smells like the best, most decadent tiramisu ever dreamed of. Dark, honey-thick coffee, with bright bursts of pepper and the almost floral taste of cardamom. Scrumptious, and fills me with an overwhelming craving for a cup of good coffee. (More than usual, I mean.) This scent makes me vexed that there has been no coffee scent ever made that works with my body chemistry.

THIS IS YOUR WILDERNESS: Honeyed patchouli with cypress, black pine, and tobacco absolute.

The sharp, prickly bite of pine needles and green leaves rustling in the darkness, rooted in soil so dark it’s sweet and sticky. The tobacco absolute drifts through it all. This is a scent for all the dryads who flaunted centuries of tradition and struck out for the big city. Defiant trees inexorably dismantling the strip malls around them.

THERE’S WATER HERE
 
This place will rise again. The wisdom of eternity imparting a glimmer of hope through the grace of eternal renewal: the wild glory of nature bursting through cement, metal, and urban despair, purified by the waters of Lake St. Clair.

Lots of different types of water: still ponds, lakes, rain dripping down from abandoned buildings and collecting in puddles that reflect streetlights in an oily sheen. As time rushes on, it becomes impossible to pick out which type of water it smells like; just water-drenched greenery and concrete.
 
 

OUR HEARTS CONDEMN US: Keralan teakwood, Bulgarian rose otto, Himalayan cedar, and oudh.

This is a small wooden treasure chest, covered in dark-stained carvings of twining leaves. When you lift the lid, inside are the powdery fragments of dried petals from every rose you ever have and ever will receive.


THE HOURGLASS:
 
“I feel like all the sands are at the bottom of the hourglass.”
“Turn it over, then.”

 
The white roses and orange blossoms of hope penetrating despair’s black fog of opoponax, black myrrh, bruised violet, clove, funereal lily, and grief-struck carrot seed. 

“Despair’s black fog” is right – the opening of this scent is dark, and evokes the almost giddy-yet-poisonous feeling of giving in to despair and hopelessness. The the roses and orange blossom break through, sweetening the lows. This scent, in a way, smells like hope. It doesn’t ignore or cover up the sadness at its heart, but it doesn’t stay there.

(I wish I could send a bottle of this back to myself in 2011, because it might have made that horrible year a little more bearable.)


IN TEMPLUM DEI:
Oman frankincense, cistus labdanum, white sandalwood, and liquidambar.

This is sugared incense. Anoint the hollow of your throat with this, and breathe deep of the sandalwood and frankincense, while the sweetness of the mixture swirls around you like a drop of gold ink in water.

HAL:
 
Saffron-infused bourbon vanilla, blackened honey, Kashmir wood, Atlas cedar, ambrette seed, hay, and Egyptian jasmine absolute.

This opens with sweet fruits, sticky with dark honey. The Kashmir wood and Atlas cedar help tame the sweetness, while the saffron-infused bourbon vanilla adds a sharp, glimmering edge to the scent. It evokes my childhood imaginings of what the Turkish Delight the White Witch tempted Edmund smelled like.

THE EDGE OF DOOM:
 
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,

But bears it out even to the edge of doom.

If this be error and upon me proved,

I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

 
The night flight from Tangier: drops of spilled blood color the antiseptic, bland, plastic paleness of the fuselage, with violet leaf for longing, rosemary for reminiscences, and black opoponax for apprehension.

This is a strangely compelling scent. It does have notes of blood and plastic, somehow. But those notes become a background for the creeping green notes of the violet leaf and rosemary. Something man-made, abandoned for years in an overgrown field. To me, this is the scent of being unable to concentrate because of sleep-deprivation. It’s not unpleasant, but it certainly feels like going round and round in lonely circles inside my own head.

DIAMOND STAR:
 
Ambergris accord, guiac wood, white benzoin, immortelle, and Somalian myrrh.

This is a scent is something that glitters. It’s not sharp or cold, but it is remote and twinkling. Distant warmth and light, as sweet and delicate as holiday lights seen through a frosty window.

THE DIAMOND’S GONG:
 A celestial hymn, singing to Earth from fifty light years away: ten billion-trillion-trillion-carats of glittering white musk, with cognac, tagetes, white champaca, Gum Arabic, and davana. 

This smells like how I’ve always hoped champagne would taste. Sweet and glittering, with effervescent bubbles tickling your nose. This and Diamond Star are mirror images of each other, which is appropriate. Both are filled with light, but while Diamond Star is warm and hazy, The Diamond’s Gong has a shivery and metallic resonance to it.
 

The Only Lovers Left Alive collection from Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab. Only 350 bottles of each scent are available.

Bats Day 2014!

30 May 2014

Thanks to the incredible kindness and generosity of some friends, the Lady of the Manners was able to attend one of her all-time favorite annual events, Bats Day at the Fun Park. An event that combines two of the things that are incredibly dear to the Lady of the Manners: goths and Disneyland!

Yes, really. The Lady of the Manners is a huge, HUGE fan of Disney theme parks, and visiting one of her favorite places in the company of crowds of other spooky-minded folks is one of the best things ever.

Bats Day started back in 1999, when the promoters for the goth/industrial/deathrock clubs Absynthe and Release the Bats combined forces to organize a meet-up for local goths who wanted to go to Disneyland, with a turn-out of around 80 people; the meet-up the following year had over 200 people, and the numbers have just keep growing. The event now includes a separate fancy dinner and a dance night of spooky music, and the “Black Market” vendor fair is full of gorgeous items to tempt you into opening your pocketbook before you find yourself in the merchandising mazes of the park itself.

To be very clear: Bats Day is in NO WAY an official event associated with the Walt Disney Company. But park management is aware of the annual gathering of the black-clad masses: all the Nightmare Before Christmas and Haunted Mansion merchandise are fully stocked, purple and black cupcakes and bat-shaped cookies featuring Mickey Mouse’s familiar face appear in the bakeries, and cast members at the park wish people a Happy Bats Day.



Bats Day is, well, magical. If you’re someone who doesn’t like Disney and/or is not thrilled at the notion of facing the swarms of humanity at a theme park, then going to Bats Day is not for you. But for many goths, a group outing to Disneyland is a dream come true — and not just for the perkygoths! Bats Day is one of those rare multi-generational goth events, where entire families of spooky folks can spend time together. There’s the traditional Bats Day group photo in front of the Castle:

A photo meet for the babybats:

And the joy of meeting up with other goths whom you hardly ever get to see!


JameyB from Spooky Inc., with the Lady of the Manners.


Batty from Azrael’s Accomplice Couture, Queenie from Pocket Full of Posiez, and the Lady of the Manners.

In the Lady of the Manners’ opinion, one of the ideas at the heart of goth is to have a sense of wonder, of longing to be transported (if just for a little while) to a fantastical world where experiences are heightened. And while some people are strongly dedicated to the nihilistic, I wear black to match my tortured soul, the world is ashes side of the goth subculture, there are a lot of goths who appreciate the more whimsical side of dark wonder, too. Plus, Disney villains! Maleficent! The Evil Queen from Snow White! Many, many goths started their lifelong appreciation of a darker aesthetic after their first viewing of a cartoon with a charismatic villain. Not to mention that the contrast between one of the world’s most popular sunny vacation spots and hordes of black-clad goths roaming around is a visual treat.

Speaking of the sunny SoCal weather and the layers of black clothing many goths prefer: the Lady of the Manners suspects that one of the top questions Bats Day attendees are asked is “Aren’t you too warm, dressed like that?” But most of the gothy types that the Lady of the Manners saw were all wearing lightweight fabrics and carrying parasols to bring a shady spot wherever they went. The Lady of the Manners herself spent the weekend living in lightweight lace dresses over black sundresses in natural fibers, an enormous sun hat, and copious amounts of powder sunblock. (With the occasional stop to soak a handkerchief in cold water and tuck it into her bodice.)

The Lady of the Manners loves, LOVES Bats Day, and is grateful beyond words to her friends who made the trip possible for her. It was a magical time, and she very much hopes she can manage the time and finances to return for future gatherings. After all, she made the trip to her spiritual home only fifteen times (during this visit, anyway), and that obviously isn’t enough, because the management still hasn’t offered her the rental agreement paperwork!

Hurry back …

Polyvore Thing! “A little tea party”

22 May 2014

The Lady of the Manners has returned from Bats Day, and is in the middle of writing an enormous post about it. In the meantime: oooh, look! The wonderful Thea Maia has created a gothy tea party Polyvore set!

a little tea party

a little tea party by theamaia featuring alice in wonderland figurines