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kaylapocalypse: Im like wheezing oh my god. This rather off center description of Lord Byron and his (temporary) physician is absolutely fantastically hilarious. Im so pleased. Definitely a worthwhile read.
How To Be A Monster: Life Lessons From Lord Byron
Carrie Frye March 15, 2013
In 1816, a young doctor named John Polidori was offered the position as traveling physician to George Gordon, Lord Byron.
Polidori was saturnine, caustic, ambitious, well-educated and handsome. He had graduated from medical school at 19 (as unusual then as now) and this offer came not a year later. Over the objections of his family, he accepted. Polidori had literary ambitions; here was an amazingly famous poet asking him to join him on a tour of the Continent.
It must have felt like fate was tugging him along. In confirmation of how well things were going, a publisher offered him 500 pounds to keep a diary of his travels with the poet (500 pounds… in 1816).
It was spring. Byron was leaving England forever, a cloud of infamy hanging over him. (He is one of the few people you can write something like that about and have it be true; that is part of why he’s so satisfying.)
He had a carriage made, modeled after Napoleon’s, this a measure of his own sense of emperor-like preeminence in the world. Byron was, even by the standards of the time, a chronic overpacker: china, books, clothing, bedding, pistols, a dog, the dog’s special mat, more books, a servant or two, and Polidori, buzzing like some excited insect, were all packed away. (One account has a peacock and a monkey making the trip too.)
The carriage was so overloaded it kept breaking down. The doctor kept breaking down too, with spells of dizziness and fainting, and the patient had to look after him. They progressed this way through Belgium and then up the Rhine. When they reached their hotel in Geneva, Byron listed his age in the hotel registry as “100.”
If you have any interest in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein or vampires or Romantic poets or, who knows, Swiss tourism, you’ve most likely read Polidori’s name.
He’s a curio, Polly Dolly, most notable not for what he wrote but for being nearby when other people wrote things. It’s a strange afterlife; to think you’ve landed a leading role, and then there you are, on stage, sure, and with big names too, but fixed to a mark far upstage and over to the left, near the wings, in the half-dark where the spotlight doesn’t quite reach. “Poor Polidori.” That’s how Mary Shelley referred to him, writing years later. And he was. Here is how he creeps into letters, like this one written by Byron: “Dr. Polidori is not here, but at Diodati, left behind in hospital with a sprained ankle, which he acquired in tumbling from a wall—he can’t jump.”
It was John Polidori’s misfortune to be comic without having a sense of humor, to wish to be a great writer but to be a terrible one, to be unusually bright but surrounded for one summer by people who were titanically brighter, and to have just enough of an awareness of all of this to make him perpetually uneasy. Also, he couldn’t jump. Poor Polidori.
One short story he wrote, though, remains important, a vampire story that was read across Europe when it came out and led the way to Dracula. But even that story was not all Polidori’s own. In a nice bit of literary vampiricism, he fed off a sketch by Byron to write it and the story was first published under Byron’s name (hence all the attention it got), so he’s instructive, too, as a reminder of all that writers and vampires have in common…
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“It was like wandering blind into a storm. I moved to Los Angeles, where I really just sort of rested for a few months, read things, and went to parties and libraries and tried to put my head together again. When I ran out of money, I moved to my Mom’s in Maine, Charles D’Ambrosio-style, writing in her basement every morning starting at 5 a.m., taking a break for Buffy the Vampire Slayer reruns at 11 a.m. and making an early lunch before working more. It was like the weirdest saddest colony stay, about three months.”
My mom’s hosting her bookclub in Auburn, Indiana, today for the first time. Here are her cups set out last night in preparation – a lot of these belonged to my great-grandmother who lived on a farm not far away. The club is called the Ladies’ Literary Club of Auburn & was founded in 1882 (!!!).
(She’s so nervous! She has a giant heart-shaped box of chocolates set up where the women can see it when they come in too. Hee!)Add a Comment
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(image credit to Dan Hoare on twitter)
I ONLY JUST LEARNED ABOUT THE EXISTENCE OF THIS MUSHROOM????? WHICH ERUPTS FROM AN EGG BEFORE UNCURLING HELLISH ARMS, EXPOSING ITS STICKY MASS OF SPORES TO BE SPREAD BY FLIES ATTRACTED BY THE SCENT OF ROTTING FLESH???
Admittedly, I am easily won over by all organisms that attract flies with the scent of rotting flesh. But the octopus stinkhorn (Clathrus archeri) also has tentacles, a freaky egg stage, and blackish goop, so it’s my favorite now.
We’ve been doing a significant amount of reorganization over at the Vault and in the process I stumbled across a folder for which I’ve been searching for years. In it I found the results of a dot matrix printed Duran Duran survey I wrote for a Duranie party hosted sometime during 1985 by my friend Allyson (her survey is the second pictured above - she loves John - and helpfully gave me suggestions for revamping the survey which I must have done at some point). The girls who filled out these surveys were between 13-15 years old, which is fairly obvious when you read them. I cannot believe I said I didn’t like Power Station! (Mine is the first one pictured - I love Simon! I think I was just pissed at John and Andy for temporarily leaving Duran Duran). And that my friend Angela (she’s the one who likes Andy) doesn’t like Arcadia but loves Power Station (probably for the same reasons as me). The nicknames that we chose! That was TOTALLY a thing - choosing special Duranie names to call ourselves and finding Duranie penpals so we could write to other nuts like ourselves from around the world.
The last two scans are the list of Allyson’s Duran vinyl collection as of September 4th, 1985. Impressive! I was hardcore jealous of her albums, especially the 12″ singles.
A few years ago, I co-wrote an article for The Awl with my friends Sarah and Allyson about the Duran Duran party that Allyson hosted in 1984. The article mentioned surveys we’d filled out the night of the party as well as an epic mix that Sarah and ALlyson created one feverish weekend, and other important artifacts considered long-lost. I’M SO GLAD THESE IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS HAVE BEEN UNEARTHED!!!
My survey is the third one down. It says that John is my favorite member, which is strange because it was almost always Nick Nick Nick Nick Nick. The heart is fickle!Add a Comment
Our puppy Carmella—now eight months and actually not so much a puppy anymore as a tween dog—had two “spells” in the past few weeks. After the first one, the vets thought she’d ingested something poisonous—she’s a puppy forest-filth hoover. After the second one, they agreed that something neurological was happening. (Her stuff last summer was probably unrelated, but if you’ve been following her various health things, yes, she has been racking up a lot of emergency vet visits! And yes, I’ve been eating a lot of Tums!)
She saw her regular vet this morning and he’s treating/ screening from two angles, tick-related diseases and epilepsy, the latter common in border collies. Her “spells” aren’t quite like classic seizures, which is why it looked like she’d gotten into something toxic at first. She gets dopey and unresponsive, unsteady on her feet, and has tremors—then gradually returns to normal. 24 hours later: full rascal again. So if these are seizures, they’re partial.
I’m glad to have a plan and feel hopeful and glad. Carmella’s the sweetest rascal devil-dog you could ever hope to meet. There is a guy from Boston we see on our walks who stops to say, “Hi pup,” and “How are you, pup, you’re getting bigger,” and it’s always like having JFK comment on your dog, and I’d like a lot more of that in the future.Add a Comment
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Kate Winslet tearfully remembering Alan Rickman at London Critics Awards (x)
That’s fucking amazing I love it
“Blackness is a technology in and of itself. The way we survive and thrive has always been contingent on building technologies against the system that sets us up to fail.”
- Kimberly Drew, Founder of @blackcontemporaryart in The Lenny Interview: Kimberly Drew, aka @MuseumMammy with Doreen St. Felix (via wavesoftware)
“In general I’d rather talk about other people. Gossip, or as we gossips like to say, character analysis.” me too girl (via nahtoallthat)
me too girl
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Don’t surrender your loneliness
Let it cut more deep.
Let it ferment and season you
As few human
Or even divine ingredients can
Something missing in my heart tonight
Has made my eyes so soft,
My need of God
“I’m praying no one comes into my office and sees this index card, even though if you squint maybe it sounds like Jenny Holzer instead of a Tumblr teen. I feel a lot like a Tumblr teen lately, what with all the incense and the journaling and the, oh god, the affirmations.”
- Terrible Self-Help Book Actually Working on Me – The Cut (via rachelfershleiser)
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“But as for me, if all the features that I had assimilated from him had once seemed to me lovable, how, now that they no longer seemed lovable, was I going to tear them out of me? How could I scrape them definitively off of my body, my mind, without finding that I had in the process scraped away myself?”
–Elena Ferrante, The Days of Abandonment
[After an interregnum of two years and a half, George Sand comes across her mislaid notebook and recalls that she once intended to keep a continuous journal. The solitude which conduces to introspective writing had been broken by her stay in Majorca with Chopin. She has but lately returned to Nohant. During her absence the notebook had evidently been carried to the attic. She resumes the journal in a cheerful mood.]
–Do tell me, why haven’t you gone on with your journal? (Probably it is Monsieur Three Stars or Madame So-and-So or Mesdemoiselles X.Y.Z. who ask me this question).
–What? You have carelessly mislaid a book as rare, precious and original as that?
–Even so. And my book is as well bound as it is carefully edited. In fact, the contents are as valuable as the cover.
–Don’t joke about anything as important as your notebook. I’m sure it is a work of art.
–Ah, you say that to the author!
–Indeed I wish I had found it myself. I would never have given it back to you.
–What the devil would you have done with it?
–I would have cut out all the autographs to paste in my album.
–I don’t understand what you mean.
–Doesn’t your book contain scraps of handwriting by the various authors, artists, politicians and prominent assassins?
–Yes, I have some rather literary letters, but why do you want them?
–To show that I own them.
–Oh, I understand!
–Besides, why should you wish to keep them for yourself?
–Well, the handwriting helps me to judge people’s characters.
–Can you really read character from handwriting?
–Yes, I make a success of it when I know beforehand what the handwriting should prove.
–What would you say of your own?
–My own? I would describe it as tired writing.
–And you conclude?
–That it is the writing of a tired person.
–Is that all?
–Isn’t that enough?
–But of what is the person tired?
–Can’t you imagine that one may be tired of many things? Tired of getting up every morning, tired of going to bed every night, tired of being hot all summer and cold all winter, tired of hearing innumerable questions asked and never one that is worth answering–”
- The above annotation and translation of this edition of Sand’s journals are the work of Marie Jenney Howe, the women’s suffrage activist and author of the biography George Sand, The Search for Love. I love Sand’s journals more than I love any of her other writing possibly. They were just one of the resources I used in researching my upcoming novel, The Queen of the Night. (via alexanderchee) Add a Comment
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Johnny Cash feeding Mildred the bear at Grandfather Mountain, NC
Here’s a zoom. Still blobs.
And one more.
There they go in the sky.Add a Comment
“Look at that giant grey balloon lying on its side on the snow and ice—that was once someone’s big beautiful doomed irresistible idea. Why did he go? Because it was his idea, and he had to see how well it could do.”
— From “Doomed,” an essay I wrote about my book and the Arctic for The Awl’s year-end series.
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Seventeen-year-old Bianca Passarge of Hamburg dresses up as a cat and dances on wine bottles in June 1958. Her performance was based on a dream. She practiced for eight hours a day to do this. (x)
8 hours a day and 57 years later minds: still blown
Me inside starting revisions.
Somehow neither of them ended up biting the other.Add a Comment
Was thinking of this photo this morning. I still love it. Add a Comment
Orphaned baby bat. (Via.)
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‘‘You know, when I started to experience the difference — or even have my race be highlighted — it was mostly when I would do business deals.’’ Business deals. Meaning that everyone’s cool with a young black woman singing, dancing, partying and looking hot, but that when it comes time to negotiate, to broker a deal, she is suddenly made aware of her blackness. ‘‘And, you know, that never ends, by the way. It’s still a thing”
“The less we understand of what our fathers and forefathers sought, the less we understand ourselves.”
- Carl Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections (via thebegats)
I was going to skip Halloween this year but realized today that I could get a cheesehead hat (modeled here), strap some snakes to it and go as (wait for it) GORGON-ZOLA.Add a Comment
To the puppy’s great chagrin, today Lowell removed the bear poop that was in the corner of the yard for the past five days and to which, whenever she’s been taken out, she’s led us with great delight.
It’s hard to know her exact feelings right now but I think they’re similar to what a remote villager might feel if an amazing meteorite had landed at the edge of the village, they’d admired and revered it for a season, and then one day it was gone.Add a Comment
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