Monday, October 15, 2012

Mid-October Thoughts

So I've been reading a lot of books lately.

(I highly recommend the translation by John E. Woods.)

Last week I devoured Buddenbrooks: The Decline of a Family by Thomas Mann. So freakin' good. It's The Magnificent Ambersons meets The Moon and Sixpence  -- generations of a prosperous bourgeois family who become weaker and weaker until (gasp!) one of them wants to pursue (oh, the horror!) a life dedicated to art.

The novel is loaded with details about trendy 19th century German homes. Like this one:

"...a stuffed brown bear, standing on its hind legs, its jaws gaping wide…stands in the vestibule downstairs, a bowl for calling cards between its paws."
 ~Thomas Mann, Buddenbrooks

So when I stumbled on this photograph the other day, it made quite an impression. 

The photo led me to the book it's featured in: The Breathless Zoo: Taxidermy and the Cultures of Longing by Rachel Poliquin. Check out the cover -- isn't it heartbreakingly poetic?
(Available here.)

know. But you have to agree it's difficult to tear your eyes away from it.

(Walter Potter, The Rabbits' Village School. Photo by Mark Hill.)

This next piece makes my brain cells short-circuit.
It's disturbingly beautiful.
And beautifully disturbing.
And--zzzzzzzzzzzzt. (Back in a moment.)
("Idiots, Ophelia", 2005. Taxidermy lion, ceramics and glass. Photo by Karin Nussbaumer.)

This one's called "Nice."
(From "Life Can Be So Nice" by Iris Schieferstein, 2001. Photo by Stephan Rabold.)

This picture of the Bird Department at the Smithsonian made me start thinking about why we collect things. According to Rachel Poliquin, the desire to collect is stronger than ever in today's digital world.  
(From "The Breathless Zoo." Photo by Chip Clark.)

Objects have talismanic power. Owning something and being able to touch it actually sends a whizz! of oxytocin to our brains.
(Photo from Max Rollit's 1 Fournier Street. Here.)

I definitely like to collect ideas. But a person's memory bank is only so big. And when your brain gets really crowded (or...ahem... isn't as absorbent as it used to be), I think you need to start saving your ideas outside your body. 

(Writer Clive Murphy's flat in London is packed with ideas. Via Spitalfields Life.)

Isn't that the point of a mood board? I would never be able to keep track of all the stuff I love unless I wrote it down or pinned it up.
(Photo by Ivan Terestchenko.)

I put this picture up in my office because I get a rush of blood to the head just looking at it. Dickens was a rock star. When he did his reading tour in America in 1868, people camped out for tickets, swarmed his hotels and grabbed fistfuls of fur from his coat. It was craaaazytime and the stress ended up killing him two years later.
(From here.)

I was going to put this pretty girl up as well because I thought she looked particularly kind and gentle. 

Not so much.
(Read all about it. Here.)

To recap. In this post, we've covered a family's slow disintegration into decadence, the lingering fascination with dead animals, Dicken's demise and beautiful female poisoners.


Damn you, Halloween spirit. You got me again.


P.S. Oh! Someone from the East Coast emailed me yesterday that the November issue of Martha Stewart (with MY NEW ARTICLE IN IT) is out. It's not at my grocery store yet, but maybe it's at yours. Let me know what you think!


MrsLittleJeans said...

Ha ha...delightful collection of thoughts...for some reason I related to them readily! : )

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Ah, the bird department.
What a place to work.

My book is out, Lisa!
Come see!!

Emily said...

All of the little stuffed animals reminds me of a show my son sometimes watches on Science Discovery called "Oddities". Talk about collecting the obscure! Tell us more about the Dickens ticket stub. How did you obtain such a treasure?

Lisa Borgnes Giramonti said...

Kindred souls!

Pamela Terry and Edward:
OMG. Congratulations! I'm heading right over! xx

It's just a print of a photo I found online. But they do come up for auction occasionally. Google "Charles Dickens ticket stub." xx

Veronica Roth said...

I love it! Keeping Herman, a stuffed pheasant, on display all year but the two crows only come out at Halloween. Should rethink that then and bring out my inner Poe. :)

Ryann Plack said...

Oh oh oh, how I love this post. Thank you. So good. X

Leslie Harris said...

Lisa, thanks for the heads up about your article. Do you know I was never able to find a July edition of Martha Stewart in the bookstore or grocery stores? They seemed to have everyone but that edition when I went looking for it. Strange, huh? Do you ever plan on ever sharing that article here? I SO wanted to read it.
Leslie (aka Gwen Moss blog)

Reggie Darling said...

I am wild for that photograph of the Smithsonian's bird collection. Incredible. Can't decide whether I love the birds more, or the old bird standing among them. Delightful. I simply can't stop collecting, or amassing, or accumulating. Having a good auction house nearby in the country that has wonderful sales of all sorts of stuff doesn't help, either! I suppose I'll find myself the subject of a hoarder's reality episode. Well, of very pretty things, that is... Looking forward to reading your piece in MSL! Reggie

Lynne Rutter | the Ornamentalist said...

RAH what a great post! As a companion to a parrot, I do find stuffed birds to be very sad. But as a collector frustrated by my limited space, I am thrilled by all the little drawers and bulletin boards and piles and the collection techniques of others.
And the change o season, such a good time to start a new book.

Anonymous said...

Have you read "Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children"? Its a YA book, but I think you'd like it....

dervla kelly said...

oooh i love this, pinning to my wish list immediately. I LOVE that cover too.

Sandy said...

OK, maybe it's just me but I thought that was a freaky post. Scary suff.

Thanks for the "heads up" about the November Martha Sewart. Gelson's here I come.


pve design said...

oh the mid-october tricks-n-treats.
wonderfully creepy in an endearing sort of way.
not macabre at all.

missi said...

Great post and the books you mentioned look so good. My great-great grandfather was the only taxidermist in Baltimore in the early 1900's (according to an article we have), so I find that field interesting. He owned a pet store selling mostly birds and fish. He was a hunter as well. My own son used to be a bug/moth/butterfly collector and we have 2 boards in his room with bugs/moths/butterflies displayed and labeled. Kind of gross and kind of cool.

I read you article in Martha just now. I couldn't agree more.

Melissa Kojima said...

Lisa, I love the trail of thoughts in this post. They are so fun. You link them together is such a wonderful way that the segues are perfect. I love the taxidermy art. Congrats on the article. I'll have to keep an eye out for Martha Stewart magazine.

Barbara Lee said...

I think The Breathless Zoo is worth buying for the cover alone! It's exactly the way I want to live. Loved the post and will be looking for Martha Stewart next time I'm in the grocery.

Carrie said...

The woman in the picture of the National Bird Collection at the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Instution, is Roxie Laybourne. She was gone before I started working there, as a librarian in the Paleobiology Department, and I always wished I could have known her. She pioneered the study of airplanes and bird strikes, was one of the greatest feather identification experts to ever live, lived alone on a big farm in Virginia and rode a motorcycle to work for most of her life. From what I know of her, you and your readers would have loved her. That collection is one of my favorites in the museum, though I must admit to being partial to the big woolly mammoth skull that stares at me from across the library all day...

Rebecca and Lori said...

Wow! I loved your meandering post here; so many topics covered, but done pretty seamlessly! The book by Mann is now on my to read list, and I loved that it inspired you to research the fascination we have with taxidermy. It is pretty awesome that you found a stuffed bear with a bowl... in a foyer!

Olga said...

Waitaminnit, do you mean our minds stop being sponge-like? Or lose their ability to retain as much the older we get? Nah, I don't believe it.

Now where did I put my tea...?

Olga said...

Oh, and PS--I'll look out for the new Martha Stewart. I've been dying to buy a magazine lately and knowing your work is pubbed there will give me a reason to pick it up. Love the blog!

Koplax said...

Excellent read, I just passed this onto a colleague who was doing a little research on that. And he actually bought me lunch because I found it for him smile So let me rephrase that: Thanks for lunch!

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