Solita Solano and Djuna Barnes in Paris, 1922
No one can spend money in a CVS like I can. I catch up on my, ahem, "reading," a la Glamour, Vogue, Vanity Fair, Architectural Digest. And there's no end to what shiny new cosmetic case will catch my eye. I even bought fake eyelashes the other day, but they make me look ridiculous. Still, they're fun and CVS-cheap (vs. Sephora's not-cheap). And Halloween's just around the corner, so who cares? Anyway, all this is just to acknowledge that I am a witting victim of the big bad corporate beauty machine and love it.
Look at Djuna Barnes up there with Solita Solano. Just look at her. Here. Look at her again:
She lived in Greenwich Village in the 1910s, was a reporter for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, went to Paris in the '20s with a letter of introduction from James Joyce (after she admitted to zoning out while conducting an interview with him for Vanity Fair), and on and on. Glamour, drama, style.
And then there's Kate Durbin and Tim Jones-Yelvington (a.k.a. "The Lady Gaga of the Chicago Lit-scene"). What do these two writers have in common? They give good . . . literary reading. Or. They put on a show. I've never seen Kate read, but I've seen/heard Tim. I've seen/heard him read wearing Christmas light wings, football pads and jersey, with green hair, with orange hair, with what-must-take-hours-to-glue sequins on his lovely face. See?
Kate Durbin says it best in her Splinter Generation interview: "You know, everyone complains that no one goes to readings, but perhaps if there was something more interesting to look at."
Tim Jones-Yelvington takes this further in his Orange Alert interview: "When I first started gluing sequins to my face, I just wanted to be a rock star. I like Kate Durbin's quote, 'A reading is a performance whether we like it or not. We're standing up there and performing so why not see it as a performance in the the way a rock star does. They always wear the costumes.' Going forward, I am trying to think about how I can push the relationship between my writing and costumes to the next level so that both remain vital, which might include some further exploration of the relationship between the texts and attire. I loathe the idea of what I wear literally or directly representing anything from my text, but I feel like there might be other, more oblique ways to connect the two. In general, I want to find ways to make readings more entertaining, more performative, perhaps even more cross-disciplinary, but without sacrificing their distinctiveness as readings — I don't want my readings to become performance art (nothing against performance art), which is why I've committed to never memorizing anything, I always want to hold in my hand a physical reminder that what I'm delivering is derived from text."
And Kate Durbin wraps this up neatly for me in her Bookslut interview: "Also, it is crucial to note that the costume show — that is, life itself — is unavoidable."
Which is the point, right? What this post is reaching toward in the end? That it's all costume; it's all performance. If I learned nothing else in grad school, I learned this: Don't fool yourself by thinking it's not.
This past summer, feeling the need for voltage, a kick-start, I cropped my hair and boxed up all my padded bras and girly clothes. I bought a bunch of V-necks (Target) and non-curve hugging, straight-legged jeans (American Eagle gets these right, I think). I bought Chuck Taylors. Did it up all Shane McCutcheon-style (but admittedly without the sexy). It was/still is fun. I wish I had about two more inches of hair right now but it'll grow. Other than that, my life got easier. Roll-out-of-bed hair, no toenails or fingernails to paint, and my daily uniform was/is one of three pairs of the same cut of jeans and the option of either a white, gray, or black basic tank or tee. And life got simpler. And I became pretty damn unnoticeable on the street, which, in South Philly, was a welcome relief.
I'll close with a final image for all of us to gawk at: this amazing dress from Alexander McQueen's Spring 2011 Collection. How badly do I want this dress? Sooooo.