The Fashion Magpie Reading and Writing

Aflare, Electric.

A couple of months ago, I wrote an homage to you, my Magpie readers.  In writing it, I realized that I carry you with me every day, all day, my personal Helicon, my own chorus.  Your comments and emails tumble through my thoughts; your names routinely recur in conversations with Mr. Magpie and my mother (“did you see the comment from Anna today?”); your interests lead me to consider styles and topics I might not otherwise have examined; your observations and encouragements and brave admissions (Elizabeth Schimmels!!!) humble me; your often gentle and diplomatic though occasionally deservedly sharp words of caution or surprise shape my musings, offering me guardrails when I am at risk of drifting too far.

This is writing: me, in conversation with you.  Each post half-formed until you’ve received it.  I often wait, tender-footed, until your comments appear in my inbox and I can assess my own writing through your reactions to it.  Do you know the tremendous role you play in my writing — in all writing, for that matter?  For centuries, humans got this wrong.  For generations, we positioned the artist as a gifted god on a pedestal, Her Word as Gospel.  Our role was subserviently exegetical.  It wasn’t until the 20th century and its attendant wars and the havoc that they wrought on our understanding of The Way of The World that we shed those old-timey fictions as to The Order of Things and thought: “Maybe The Artist is not in fact all-knowing.  Maybe, actually, her intentions don’t matter at all.  Maybe art comes alive when the reader breathes life into it.”  Literary theorists took many of these new “truths” a bit too far for my taste in positing that, actually, there is no stability at all in meaning.  We interpret what we interpret; we create and uncreate art as we bring our own experiences to it.  I do not believe this is wholly true.  I believe that the artist has a perspective and the reader has a perspective and when those forces meet, a kind of magic happens, even when that magic yields anger or opprobrium or — the most hurtful reaction of all for a writer — dismissal.

Am I flying too high right now?

Let me rein myself in with this conclusion: you are the patron, the chorus, half of the creative spirit behind this writing.  I sense your contours as I write.  Mr. Magpie has often told me that when he played ball, there was something gorgeous and mystical about when the baseball hit “the sweet spot” of his bat.

“It kind of radiates through your body,” he explained one day.  “It just feels good.  And the sound.  It’s a specific sound — the ball connecting with the bat, and the whole thing echoes through your body.”

That’s how I feel, too, when I’ve written something on pitch with you, your eyes over my shoulder, your head nodding: something connects, aflare, electric.

Thank you for this gift.

Post-Script: The 8 Most Popular Blog Posts of 2018.

In honor of this gift, I am sharing the most popular blog posts I have written thus far this year:

  1.  A Love Story.
  2. Ladybird, Loss, and the Visitation.  I have a hard time with this post.  Is it narcissistic or masochistic that I re-read it every few weeks, crying?  I even one time recorded myself reading it aloud and I don’t know why.  There is something in its emotional timbre that I wanted to hear back.  Oof.
  3. The M Series: Landon Lands in Lyon.
  4. Le Ultimate Fall Wardrobe.
  5. The Best of Everything: Beauty.
  6. Lowbrow.
  7. 10 Things I Love that I Shouldn’t.
  8. The M Series: A Prelude to Love.

Together, the popularity of these posts tells me a few things: first, that you enjoy my M Series and that maybe I need to jump back in that saddle.  I dubbed these posts the “M Series” because they were part memoir, part “magic” — magic in the sense that I took artistic liberties in the presentation of the details.  Everything happened as I described but writing gave me the space to order and fine-tune the minutiae in a way I’d never have been able to if asked to share the story of us verbally.  I spent long draughts of afternoons reflecting on those days in Lyon in particular, conjuring the exact feel of the city, the thrum of first love, the tenderness of separation.  I wrote the series first because Mr. Magpie is the love and joy of my life but second because I saw it as a kind of calisthenic to prepare me for writing fiction.  Fiction is a wholly different beast than the kind of memoir-ish writing I usually share here: it’s a different headspace, a different lightwave.  I saw the M Series as a bridge between the two.  And it proved helpful: I have written long sections of a fictional piece I hope to one day share when it’s in a more polished form.  It’s a love story (what isn’t?) but it’s also about the age-old tension between fate and personal will, a topic I have long grappled with from a feminist perspective in that women have had specific kinds of holds on their “will.”  It will one day be called Maiden’s Choosing, the title of the third book within George Eliot’s masterpiece Daniel Deronda, and when you read it, you’ll understand why.  I digress, but — your readership of my M Series has put more wind in my sails to persist in this project.

Second learning: the popularity of my post grieving the death of one of my best friends from high school reminded me that we all have suffered our own devastations, and that it is a beautiful, restorative thing to sit alongside others in mutual acknowledgment of those heartaches, even when we don’t say anything at all, and even when we still occasionally cry about them, eight plus years after the fact.  That post was a stunning kind of shiva for me.

Third learning: y’all is chic!  I love that amidst the heavier fare, there were well-loved posts on trends.  Everything in balance, right?  The asymmetricality of this blog is a reflection of who we are: yes, we wear our hearts on our sleeves and think deeply about our worlds and our roles, but we can also go crazy over a pair of shoes and talk long and deep about the virtues of Ole Henriksen’s truth serum.  (<<If you buy nothing else from this blog this year, please indulge in this.)  Which brings me to…

Post-Post-Script: The 10 Most Popular Products Featured on Le Blog in 2018.

  1. Instant pot.
  2. One-shouldered bow mini-dress.
  3. Acupressure mat.
  4. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng.  (One of my favorite books this year.  It has stayed with me, its depth doubling back on itself.)
  5. My faux Goyard iPhone case.  (I’m anticipating my new laptop case will achieve similar celebrity status.)
  6. The absolute best round brush ever.
  7. My glen plaid blazer.  (Available now in more colors…)
  8. Vintage Hermes scarf.
  9. My $70 shades.
  10. The boho dress I wore literally all summer long (<<on sale!  Actually currently wearing it since it’s 75 degrees out and muggy today…yes, in mid-October.)

Together, these items remind me of the breadth of your womanhood: you are attentive at home, you read a lot, you aren’t afraid of a fashion statement, and you blend the high-end with the budget buy.  I think we would get along famously.

Post-Post-Post Scripts.

+One of my personal favorite posts this year was this one on turning 34.  It is some of the most honest writing I’ve ever found in myself.

+In my most recent order from Amazon: these highly-reviewed toothbrushes (my dentist insists we should only use “soft bristle” brushes; these have 5x the normal number of bristles AND people rave about the hectagonal shape of the handle, making it easier to keep on an angle); this silicon alternative to bacteria-riddled loofahs to use with my new favorite body wash; this broom set for mini, which she LOOOOVES; and a spool of one-inch satin ribbon, which I go through with shocking velocity when wrapping gifts, tying up treats, etc.

+Currently at the top of my bag lust list: this Lee Radziwill bag (dying over the shape) and this Hunting Season bag.

+I need these alpaca ornaments for my tree this year.

+If you can’t tell with the reference to Mount Helicon, I’m midway through Madeline Miller’s Circe, our book club pick for this month, and I’M DEAD.  IT IS SO GOOD.

10 Comments

  1. I don’t have too much to add here, other than telling you that I will be first in line to read your book whenever it is available! I have loved being a regular reader of your blog over the past couple of years, and look forward to continuing 🙂

    Adding those toothbrushes to my Ama cart, btw — such a good find! I need some new toothpaste as well … I’ve been using Tom’s of Maine at home. I get spoiled, though — my personal philosophy on toiletries is that I’ll spring for the fancy travel version to keep in my toiletry bag, and I’ve come to love all of the different Marvis varieties I’ve used regularly when traveling (which I do rather often). But I have trouble justifying the full-sized tube, for some reason, even though it’s not THAT expensive! Haha.

    1. HA! I’ve fallen into the same trap, somehow able to justify the $12 version of a mini hairspray at Sephora but balking at buying a full-size $26 bottle, even though it’s a far better value. Samesies!

      Thanks for the sweet words, too 🙂 xoxo

  2. As I am sure most of your readers do, I spend an inordinate quantity of time reading everyday. Though I am not a lover of novels, I will pick up just about anything else—a chance encounter with a book about a subject to which I had not had previous exposure often leads to a month long bender where I consume many books on the topic, always refining focus and intentionally leading myself back to a point where it will be practically useful. Lately, this has habit has had me dancing around the studies and books on talent, inherent v. learned behaviors, deliberate practice, and coaching (the irony of those two sentences is not lost on me). What you wrote about using the M Series as a way to put yourself in the correct headspace to think about fiction reminded me of what I have been reading—you are engaging in deep and deliberate practice! You are refining your skills and building talent in a systematic way, and even better, being able to garner feedback about your writing. Keep it up!

    And since “feedback is a gift,” I personally love reading the M Series; it reminds me of the early stages of my own decade and a half relationship (we are the same age). You bring into clear relief the romanticism of the slips of time or seemingly inane happenings that, in my opinion,are the most significant to a deep and meanginful connection with your partner.

    1. Hi Suzanne – Thanks for writing about this; I hadn’t thought about the M Series as “deep and deliberate practice,” but I recognize the payoff and completely agree now that I think about it. Thanks for teasing that out for me.

      And, thanks for the encouragement on the M Series! So glad it resonates. You are so right that those little moments strung together make the big picture. xo

  3. I have just discovered your blog (through The Stripe, I believe?) and please allow me to gush over how much I have enjoyed falling down the rabbit hole of your archive this past week! This page is a lovely respite in this ever-changing world of blogging, I’m so happy to have found it.

    Bonus points for your Airedale Tilly!! I had a beautiful Westie for fifteen glorious years named Tilly, and I now have a three year old Airedale. As a terrier person (we also have a six year old Welsh), I think I’ve found the best kind.

    1. Ava! Love meeting a fellow terrier owner, especially one who appreciates The King of The Terriers. Tilly will be three in December and we are just now finally starting to see who mature and relax a little bit, although I think I might be overly optimistic, as other airedale owners have said, “Oh, they relax…never.” Ha! All part of the breed. She’s perfect for us.

      So glad to meet you and happy to have you here 🙂 xoxo

  4. I used to write a blog many moons ago, and I felt a very similar conversational relationship with my readers. All these years later, I still remember and hold close to my heart certain comments . And some of the people behind those comments have became some of my closest real-life friends- a remarkable stroke of luck I honestly still can’t quite believe.

    Now that I no longer blog, I enjoy being on the other side of the equation- discovering new blogs whose writing hits close to home and sending little missives out into the ether, hoping they’ll have the same impact that other people’s comments once had on me. I’m so glad I found your blog- I think we are very similar (and very different) in a lot of ways, and your writing is just so lovely.

    1. YES! You completely get it. You remind me that I need to be a better commenter on OTHER blogs I read, too — I can’t believe I hadn’t realized that until just now. Anyway, thank you for being here and for sharing your insights and perspectives 🙂 Glad to have you in the tribe! xoxo

  5. You’ve inspired me to speak up for the first time. I’m often intimidated by the beautiful and profound comments posted here, but I appreciate you saying that you are just as influenced by your reader’s words as we the reader’s are by your words. I love your writing, your wit, your ability to make me think. But I usually give up sometime during the “thinking” phase, never quite making it to the “forming a thoughtful response” phase. I’ll work on that and maybe one day your mom will say “did you see Brigid’s comment today?!”

    1. Brigid! Ah! Thank you for writing this. The funny thing is that you’re probably doing all of the intellectual heavy lifting — chewing on things, mulling things over — and so whether you comment or not, you’re accomplishing a lot more than you probably think. Anyway, thanks for weighing in here and for the ultra-generous comments. Never be shy to share whatever’s on your mind! I’m sure I (and my mother) will appreciate it all 🙂 xo

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