Tag Archives: death

Quote of the Day: Danielle Wood

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“Faye’s giggle is one of the things Tamsin likes most about her. It is a delighted, girlish giggle, and far from being at odds with her old woman’s face, it gives purpose to every crease. When Faye giggles, Tamsin does too. She has never known anyone to approach death so cheerfully, as if it were just a thing she had never got around to doing before.”

-Danielle Wood, from Rosie Little’s Cautionary Tales for Girls 

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The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe by J. Randy Taraborelli

One of pop cultures greatest icons, even more than fifty years after her death, Marilyn Monroe remains relevant in today’s media. Almost anywhere you look you’ll see t-shirts, posters, artwork, and quotes made famous by the devastatingly beautiful lady in white. The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe is a biography that pulls from many never before utilized sources including letters to and from her mother and half-sister, the Kennedys, and the lone friends and aquaintences still living.

Each of the many chapters details a small segment of her life, dividing things like her tumultous childhood and later, her dramatic romances, into tiny managable bites.

I’d always known that the starlet was troubled from start to finish, but I never realized the magnitude of what she went through. Not only were drugs SO free-flowing back then, but her childhood would’ve been enough to screw anyone up for life. It seems as though because of her upbringing and later stardom, the people she turned to for help or love ended up being the ones that betrayed her the most.

Not that she was just some sort of helpless victim, mind you. She could be calculating and sometimes ruthless, with the bounds of another’s marriage not meaning much to her. Suffice it to say, she pissed off plenty of wives back in the day.

But despite all that, you can’t help but feel sorry for her because in the end she was just looking for the same thing the rest of us are–love and peace. Unfortunately, almost all of her relationships were misguided and because of health concerns she was never able to have children. Add in the hereditary mental illness and you’ve got a recipe for distaster.

A glamourous disaster, but a disaster nonetheless.

TSLOMM was an interesting read, but like many biographies, it had tendency to get stale around the edges. Monroe’s life, while scandelous at the time, is actually pretty PG-13 compared to the antics of today’s celebrities. I learned a lot, for sure, but I felt it was missing that Oh no, she didn’t! factor I was expecting.

But, really… Poor Norma Jean…

3 blonde curls of 5

(You can watch her infamous serenade to JFK on his birthday here…)


Quote of the Day: Hunter S. Thompson

“Faster, faster, until the thrill of speed overcomes the fear of death.”

-Hunter S. Thompson


A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

“I’m doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice–not because of his voice, or because he was the smallest person I ever knew, or even because he was the instrument of my mother’s death, but because he is the reason I believe in God; I am a Christian because of Owen Meany.”

WHAT IF YOUR VOICE WAS A NASAL HIGH-PITCHED SCREAM FOR YOUR ENTIRE LIFE? WHAT IF ALL OF YOUR DIALOGUE WAS IN ALL CAPS THROUGHOUT YOUR STORY TO ILLUSTRATE THIS CONDITION. WHAT IF YOU WERE JUST A PIPSQUEAK THAT, DESPITE (OR MAYBE BECAUSE OF) THIS VOICE, BELIEVED THAT YOU WERE AN INSTRUMENT OF GOD?

Enter, Owen Meany.  

John Wheelwright is the illegitimate child of the youngest, most beautiful daughter in the prestigious Wheelwright family. When one day his best friend Owen Meany, hits a rogue baseball that strikes and kills John’s mother–it seems as though his father’s identity will remain a mystery forever. And from that moment forward, Own Meany concludes that he is an instrument of God. When he has a dream that involves him in the Vietnam War, he believes his destiny (and death) are foretold, and no one can change his mind. A Prayer for Owen Meany details the coming-of-age story of these two inseparable best friends over the course of a decade and the choices they make that will change their lives irrevocably.

I was inspired to read this book because of Insatiable Booksluts–a blog with a great name and an even greater cast of writers and reviewers. I must say, I have mixed feelings about APFOM. I thought Owen was a very interesting character, and it is unusual for the protagonist not to be the narrator. His physical description was great, and I have a very clear picture of him in my mind. Somehow I never felt the awe that he impressed in the other characters, especially John and his family. He positively moved them with his integrity, yet also inspired fear of the unknown. I felt as though the story didn’t move quickly enough–and while Irving displays a great use of foreshadowing and symbolism–the overall effect fell a little flat for me.

Typically, my preference for stories are those detailing events that happen over the course of days or weeks (when it starts to move into years and decades, it feels like it takes years and decades to read…) Some of the smaller, more amusing childhood circumstances between John and Owen could have been included, but a lot of the story could’ve been cut out with no detriment to the overall idea.

The best part of the book was the ending, and I’m not even saying that to be bitchy. In the end, you came to a sudden understanding as to why Owen was the way he was and Irving did a great job tying all the loose ends together. There’s a definite Ohhhhhhh moment. However, I was disappointed not only by who John’s father turned out to be, but also by how meek and passive John was the whole time. I get that he wasn’t the main focus of the story, but he was a very strange man. A virgin for his whole life! For no real reason. And the bit about his cousin Hester “the Molester” becoming a rock and roll star seemingly out of nowhere made me scoff.

I wouldn’t read this story again. (“Billy Don’t Be a Hero” by Bo Donaldson kept playing in my mind for 550 pages…)

2 armadillos out of 5


Damned by Chuck Palahniuk

Life is short. Death is forever.

Do you ever wonder what would happen if you died and went to Hell? Most people believe that when they die, they are going to a “better place”– Heaven. Strumming harps, sitting on clouds, playing Scrabble. Whatever.  But what if there were all these unwritten rules that we weren’t aware of–that, when broken–sent us automatically to Hell? Did you know that in a person’s lifetime they are only allowed to say fuck 700 times before being damned? (Does that one count??) Or that statistically there are WAY more blondes in Hell than brunettes? (FUCK! …Sorry…!) Or that Hell’s currency is candy? (Milky Ways and Almond Joys, none of that candy corn crap).

Well, I didn’t either. But according to Chuck Palahniuk, I’m Damned.  

Palahniuk’s latest tale follows Madison Spencer, our13 year old protagonist who dies after a fatal marijuana overdose and is sent straight to Hell. (Wow, we’re really screwed, huh?) There she meets a Breakfast Club-style cast of punk, nerd, jock, and resident hottie–all whom have been sent to Hell for seemingly innocuous reasons. But, then again who’s word can you trust in Hell? Once you’re in there, all bets are off, because what punishment is worse than being damned? Other than the pit of swarming insects, the threat of being eaten “alive” by a perpetually hungry demon, sand dunes made of cast off toenail clippings, the bog of partial birth abortions, and the sea of spent semen. For real.

I guess you can say Palaniuk hasn’t lost his touch for disturbing imagery. Although, he did make Hell pretty awful and pretty smelly, you have to admit the guest list is pretty stellar. Marilyn Monroe, Jimi Hendrix, pretty much every politician…ever, and all redheads. (Told you they didn’t have souls). Hahaha. Too many cool people to name, really. Other than that whole being-torn-limb-from-limb-only-to-regenerate-and-have-it-happen-again thing… Sounds like a pretty fun party.

I enjoyed this book, although is was not my favorite by Palahniuk. Yes, it had the nasty imagery, and yes there were some pretty fucked up (oops) things going on around Maddie, but it lacked the grit and broken glass that was Fight Club. And the sweat and bodily fluids that was Snuff, for that matter. I did like the twist at the ending, but I felt that the teenagers had so much free reign that Hell kind of lost its luster. I also wasn’t sure if Maddie’s ascension to power in the end was totally believable, because I felt as though there was a split-second change in her personality rather than steady personal growth. If I didn’t know any better, I’d almost think this was Palahniuk’s attempt at YA Fiction, because in comparison to his other works, Damned is pretty tame.

No nightmares to be found here, kiddies.

If you need me, I’ll be at the salon getting my hair changed back to brunette…

4 Hitler mustaches out of 5


Quote of the Day: Thomas Hardy

“She philosophically noted dates as they came past in the revolution of the year;… her own birthday; and every other day individualized by incidents in which she had taken some share. She suddenly thought one afternoon, when looking in the glass at her fairness, that there was yet another date, of greater importance to her than those; that of her own death, when all these charms would have disappeared; a day which lay sly and unseen among all the other days of the year, giving no sign or sound when she annually passed over it; but not the less surely there. When was it?”

-Thomas Hardy, from Tess of the d’Urbervilles


Stiff: The Curious Life of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

Stiff… Ahhh…. The book by Mary Roach that I picked up like 5 years ago and never finished, yet here I am today. See? Better late than never, right?

Appropriately, I started this corpse compendium right around Halloween, and let’s just say I wasn’t disappointed. Roach (disgustingly appropriate, right?) discusses all the fascinating things that happen to us after we die, whether that’s simply rotting away after a nice funeral, or something a little more extreme, like being a research crash test dummy. For real. (By the way, don’t ever get embalmed… Blegh.)

She discusses science and death in a fun, light-hearted way that is refreshing to read yet factual at the same time. Somehow the woman had the stomach to visit several facilities that deal with death and dying, and never lose her lunch (or even her appetite!) She chronicles her adventures at research centers, funeral homes, crematoriums, hospitals, and at the front door of the doctor responsible for the first successful head transplant. Soooo gruesome, yet so interesting. Her experience enabled her to come in contact with many interesting people–alive and dead–and make many witty remarks along the way.

If you’re like me, I wouldn’t suggest reading this before chowing down on some ribs or anything, but Roach gives the facts without making readers too queasy. (Nothing’s really going to completely sugar-coat descriptions of surgical procedures in the 1700s, or cadavers’ heads used to practice plastic surgery, but you’re the one who wanted to read it in the first place, weirdo!) I’m sick and twisted, yet also somewhat of a baby. I don’t watch scary movies so I have to get my fix for the horrendous somewhere. And here it is.

Now don’t get me wrong, Stiff isn’t some gratuitous blood-bath talking about all the evils perpetrated against humanity, it simply lets you know what is done with corpses now and what was done with them throughout history. And let’s just say we are WAY more adept at dealing with them now…

If you are a science junkie (like me) or just have a morbid curiosity (also like me), Mary Roach’s Stiff is just the ticket. However, if you have an extreme aversion to gruesome death, are interested in flying in an airplane again, or don’t believe in human dissection, I would leave this one on the shelves.

But then again, a book with a toe tag on the cover really should’ve tipped you off, right?

4.5 of 5 stars