Mostly Dead Things
Written by Kristen Arnett
Review by Jarad Johnson
I saw this book some time ago and was intrigued by the title. Reading the back of the cover, I was even more interested. A book about a taxidermist whose daughter finds him dead in his shop? Sounds right up my alley. I was interested, but I also had no real idea what to expect. In cases like these, I often look to the covers of the book to give me some insight into what’s going on inside. The cover of the copy that I was bright green with a flamingo on it, so there were no clues there. Nothing to do but delve into the pages.
You may wonder why Jarad and I continually prattle on about gardening. If you do, it probably means you’re not a gardener yourself. Most of the gardeners we know kinda can’t help but wax on about varieties, heirloom seeds, the best fertilizers, and whether or not you can squeeze a drift rose into a spot with only four hours of sun. We are also writers and readers…this combination means garden posts for you! At least we don’t collect vacuum cleaners or take pictures of roundabouts.
But today we are no longer satisfied with simple loquacity, we have crossed the border into proselyting. Here’s Jarad on the benefits of gardening.
At this point in time, I believe I’ve prattled on about plants to the point where my friends and family are in danger of becoming homicidal. (Guys, if you do decide to kill me, at least bury me under the vegetables). Aside from actually being annoyed to death by an overly enthusiastic plant fiend, there are benefits to being a gardener. Here are some that I have discovered.
The Fall temperatures may not be here yet, but we're hoping that we can convince ourselves that they are with books! If you are also suffering under the heat and wishing for fall, these might help you!
When it starts getting cool, I love to sit outside and read. Of course, in Atlanta, cool is relative. By cool, I mean an occasional breeze and not quite feeling like my skin is boiling off. Because it doesn't get really Autumn crisp until late November around here, I like to read anything that makes me feel cool. So I read books set in colder climates. I love the Mary Russell books - the ones set in England - in the fall. They make me feel like I'm sitting next to a hot fire with a cup of tea, even though I'm sitting on a lawn chair in shorts, pretending the slight puff of occasional air is a fall breeze. Any books set in cooler climates will do. I would love to be more specific. Normally, I peruse my bookshelves to jog my memory. But this year, alas, my books are still packed waiting on my library shelves to go in. I will hopefully have them back in my possession by the fall. Sigh
Written by Jessie Burton
Review by Jarad Johnson
Some people want to visit Paris. Others London or Spain. I myself would like to go to Amsterdam. So, when I saw that this book was based in Amsterdam, I immediately picked it up; however, this book is set in seventeenth century, not exactly the Amsterdam I’m familiar with…or would like to become acquainted with. Instead of the liberal, accepting city that exists today, the Amsterdam of this book is governed by an oppressive, puritanical religious code. It is a city where neighbors keep a watchful eye on each other, and where homosexuals are drowned at the pier. As we know, even in the most pious societies, there are those who break the rules. This is a book about rebels, my favorite kinds of people. It’s a book full of secrets, lies and betrayal.
From Here To Eternity
Written by Caitlin Doughty
Review by Roy Peak
Everybody dies. That's a fact of life. But it's how we deal with that inevitability that separates us. In From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death, author and YouTube Channel celebrity Caitlin Doughty travels the world over researching differing societal death rituals. Doughty is a mortician based in California who makes her mission to give people access to different and more affordable options considering their own, or a relative's, death. Her YouTube show, Ask A Mortician, doles out the hard-edged questions that people want to know but are too afraid to ask: What happens to gold teeth during cremation? What's the worst way to die? What happens to breast implants after you die? Doughty handles all of these and more with great enthusiasm. She's bubbly, honest, a bit goth, a bit kooky, and her shows are always highly informative as well as entertaining.
Books hold onto the memories and experiences you had while reading them.
I don’t know about you, but when I look at my shelves, I not only see books, I also see memories. I can pick up a book and oftentimes I remember where I was when I was reading it, or I have a particular memory associated with it. Take The Secret Garden. I was on my aunt’s couch, in the middle of summer, hoping for even a small breeze to blow through that house. That was almost 12 years ago, and I still remember the heat of that summer and how the light fell through the curtains. I have no idea why I can clearly recall that moment and not others, because I am almost constantly reading, but some moments stick, and others don’t. Of course, it’s not always the book that sticks with you, but the emotions surrounding the time when you were reading it. I was reading Eragon when one of my cats died in middle school, and I remember loving that book, but I also can clearly recall that I was halfway through it when the cat passed away.
We here at Sacred Chickens are very concerned with narratives- we love exploring, creating and analyzing them. So, when we run into a book, tv show or movie that challenges us on a narrative level, we get pretty excited. Given that, the Netflix series Russian Doll is perfect for us- it challenges our ideas of what a human story looks like in time and space and plays with that notion. Jarad’s review is for those of you who haven’t seen it. Julie has some thoughts and questions afterwards for those of you who have.
Jarad’s Review (for those of you who haven’t watched the series yet):
Julie was the one who introduced me to this series (I’m not much of a TV watcher) and once I started watching it, I couldn’t stop. I actually stayed up till three o’ clock in the morning trying to finish it, something I don’t do very often.
The narrative of the series is complex, and a gift to any book lover. It centers on Nadia, a woman who dies on her thirty-sixth birthday. Again, and again and again. She repeats the day of her party on a continuous loop, and no matter how hard she tries, she still dies at the end. Also, her cat is missing, and I’m conflicted as to which issue is more important. Without giving too much away, I will say that Nadia is a darkly funny, sarcastic character, and her deaths match her personality.
The series, in a nutshell, examines what it means to exist. Heavy I know, but also not really. Nadia is in the midst of an existential crisis; however, the episodes don’t feel like we’re in a philosophy lecture (the Philosophy department at my college is the most humorless group of people I’ve ever met. Even Socrates knew how to laugh people!). This series is impossible to summarize. I would just tell you to watch it yourself, but I do have to write a post. Nadia, although smart, funny, and an overall interesting person, is deeply unhappy, both because of past trauma and present issues. She, as many people do, doesn’t see the good in her life and what makes it worth living. The universe is trying to teach her something, I think.
It’s funny, smart, poignant, and it’s got great cast of characters. If you’re not interested yet, I suspect you’re from the philosophy department.
With most people's busy schedule, plants can seem like a hassle. Not for Jarad! He's digging his heels in against a plantless existence with an ever growing collection of houseplants.
I just moved back to college for the start of my senior year. This is an exciting time, but it also means that I don’t have a garden to tend to, and subsequently I’m starting to go a little stir crazy. For example, I had a dream the other day about hollyhocks. Sexy, I know but I am, after all, what several people have referred to as a, “plant freak,” so I suppose it’s only to be expected. This happened to me last spring as well, to the point where I was going around campus deadheading masses of daffodils and weeding flower beds, a job usually reserved for the people paid to do it. I couldn’t help myself, I had to do something. In my defense, they weren’t doing it often enough. And would it kill them to do a little pruning? That’s neither here nor there, but still I’m sorely tempted to take after a rose bush that’s half dead with my trimmers. Anyone have recommendations for a set of pruning shears that will fit neatly in a backpack?
My Year of Rest and Relaxation
Written by Ottessa Moshfegh
Review by Julie Carpenter and Jarad Johnson
This is a book that Julie lent me to read recently, and when I heard the premise I was immediately interested, but I didn’t know what to expect. I read the blurb and wondered how you could fill an entire book writing about a woman who was sleeping. So, I cracked it open this week and I was surprised. I didn’t like any of the characters, although they are objectively hilarious (Spoiler alert: not every character has to be likeable to make a good story), but I was still hooked.
This spring, I decided to get a little hands on experience with gardening. I went a little overboard. But only a little.
Monty Don once said, “It doesn’t matter how much you read or how much you study, nothing beats a lifetime of experience.” I think this is very true, and it’s something I decided to apply when I became interested (my mother says obsessed, but I think this is too harsh) in gardening. Besides my desire to be active in a garden rather than reading about it, I was eager to learn by doing. So, I did, and last winter I planned out several flower beds and one bed for vegetables, and I went a little crazy buying seeds. I couldn’t wait to get home for spring break to start all of my seeds, and as soon as the term was over, I busily went to work removing sod with a shovel and planting seeds, flowers and vegetables. For the first three months of the summer, I was watering all five beds with a two-gallon watering can, and it took almost an hour. Suffice it to say, I have never had the appreciation for a garden hose that I have now.