Tag Archives: death

Quote of the Day: Danielle Wood


“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 

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.”


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

The Love Spell by Phyllis Curott

I put a spell on you… And now you’re mine… 

Now that Halloween’s coming, I guess it’s appropriate to do a review on the erotic memoir of a Wiccan High Priestess. The Love Spell by Phyllis Curott chronicles her journey through life (and the 80’s, ugh…) trying to find what we all want, true love. The only differences between her adventure and ours, however, is that hers is peppered with spells, potions, and magic and ours is peppered with Haagen Dazs, sloppy kisses, and awkward text messages.

Curott starts her story by discussing her loneliness. She is sick of dating dead end men, having one night stands, and generally being unappreciated by the opposite sex. She starts becoming star struck by images of James Dean, long since dead but still arousing to her. Somehow, she sees him as “a working class man with the heart of a poet.” She is entranced by the way he wore his heart on his sleeve, and always expressed how he was feeling in any given moment, without reservations about what others would think. She is drawn to him, yet heartbroken, because he is not of this realm anymore.

Curott ends up joining a coven and earning a true group of friends, most notably a mentor named Nonna. Nonna is the warm maternal figure that should be a part of every woman’s life. She is there to guide Phyllis through her search for love, and there to pick her up when things don’t go exactly as planned. Especially when Phyllis decides to take matters into her own hands and casts a love spell, asking the universe to send her the man of her dreams.

Enter: Derek, a tall good-looking man who is compatible with Phyllis not only physically, but also on a mental and spiritual level as well, which–I can imagine–may be a hard thing to find when practicing a religion outside of societal norms. She can’t believe it– her spell worked! Curott feels an immediate spark between herself and Derek, and it doesn’t take long to find out that he feels the same way.

But will things work out for the new couple? Will Phyllis get the happy ending she’s always dreamed of– with a soul mate by her side and a baby on her hip? Or can nothing–not even magic–hold two lovers together if they just weren’t meant to be?

And what’s the deal with James Dean?

I have to say, this book surprised me. I put off reading it for quite a while because I was worried it was going to be some gushy BS romance novel–which I hate! All that quivering thigh, bodice-ripping just irritates me. But The Love Spell was quite different. I really enjoyed watching Phyllis’ inner turmoil, as well as seeing what a great female support system she had. The whole book made me feel proud to be a woman, which is an uncommon feeling to get from reading a story. I really liked the mythological aspects that were thrown in there, like Dionysus (her proclaimed “daemon,” or spiritual lover) and especially the famous tale of Isis and Osiris. I’ve always found those who chose the pagan path of worship to be interesting, and Curott offered a behind-the-scenes look into some of the ceremonies the covens have and what really happens during magic-making events.

I was a little put off by the first few chapters of the book. It was hard for me to get into because of the long solid blocks without any dialogue. I understand that a memoir revolves around someone’s inner struggle, but for a while there wasn’t a lot of action. Also, the whole “hearing the voice of James Dean” thing while standing at his grave was a bit hard for me to swallow. Maybe I’ve just been deadened by society to that sort of thing, but it seemed a little (highly)…unlikely… When read as a regular fictional novel it’s great, but when you remember that it’s supposedly a true story, it’s a bit hard to buy.

Plus the whole unprotected-sex-with-strangers-because-it’s-the -80’s thing just made me cringe…

But for sure, read this book. For anyone interested in learning more about the occult, wanting to practice making your own love spells/potions, or just in need of a little femininity boosting– this memoir’s for you. And as Alice Hoffman said in Practical Magic,

“There’s a little witch in every woman.”

4 of 5 stars


All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

Dubbed “the greatest war novel of all time” by critics, All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque is historical fiction set from the German perspective during World War I. Remarque himself was a veteran of WWI and thus had an interesting and informed point of view while writing this novel. All Quiet on the Western FrontNot only were the battle scenes appropriately anxiety-ridden and gruesome, the other events (such as coming home on leave and an extended hospital stay) were appropriately detailed. First published as a novel in 1929, within 18 months it had sold 2.5 million copies in 25 languages worldwide.

The narrator is 19 year old Paul Bäumer, who joined the army after the vehement insistance of his high school teacher. The story tells not of the harrowing adventures of himself and his companions, but more of the extreme physical discomfort of the soliders throughout the war. It was intriguing to notice that the fear of imminent death often took a backseat to the creature comforts so sorely missed by the men (food, sleep, sex, hygiene, etc…) and that the hardship of missing one’s civilian life and family had faded in the young soliders’ minds.

Since I normally don’t read this genre of fiction, it was a new experience for me to feel the nervous tension of the soliders awaiting an impending bombardment. To feel the gnawing hunger of the young men sent to defend a football field-sized piece of land for days on end with barely any provisions. Not to mention the numbness to comrade’s pain, death, and suffering in order to simply carry on. Coming to terms with the fact that one’s job is to take as many lives as possible would be a very hard thing indeed, especially for a 19 year old. After his first kill in close combat, Paul laments:

“Forgive me, comrade. We always see it too late. Why do they never tell us that you are poor devils like us, that your mothers are just as anxious as ours, and that we have the same fear of death, and the same dying and the same agony– Forgive me, comrade; how could you be my enemy? If we threw away these rifles and this uniform you could be my brother just like Kat and Albert. Take twenty years of my life, comrade, and stand up– take more, for I do not know what I can even attempt to do with it now.”

Pretty powerful. This is definitely the right book for war/history fanatics, as well as those looking to gain perspective into what life for a solider was like in such a horrific environment. Although the story didn’t end in the way that I had hoped, it definitely impacted me intensely. It was very easy for me to draw parallels to today’s war– because although the technologies and the participants may be different– the underlying emotions and inhumanities experienced during such traumatic events are the same.

4 out of 5 stars.