Musings + Essays

Circe and Little Love Notes.

By: Jen Shoop

There is a section of Circe (full review forthcoming but it is gooooooooooood) to which I related deeply.  Circe has just discovered that she possesses magical powers, but it is not until her brother Aetees smugly explains them to her that she understands their extent.  She is startled, maybe a bit chastised, by this discovery and by Aetees seemingly easy grasp of them.  You can see herself refashioning her own image as she digests the information.  Aha, that is who I am.

It calls to mind my father’s casual “you run cool” comment and the way it shaped my understanding of myself.  And it also reminds me of a conversation with my sister many years ago, in her apartment on the Upper East Side (before she got fancy and moved to London).  We were sizing up a friend of ours who had shown some questionable decision-making.

“You know, there are those kinds of people who just seem like they’d run out of their way to help someone else, and others who…well, wouldn’t,” she said.  “Landon is obviously the first kind.  This guy’s the other.”

I relished the second-hand compliment as quickly as I agreed with her.  When I relayed the story to Mr. Magpie, he said: “Really?  She said that?”  And I could see him ticking through his rolodex of memories with my sister, wondering what had given her that (undoubtedly true) impression.

It is a strange thought that others might know us better than we know ourselves, that in many ways we learn who we are through their prism.  How people describe you, what they ask of you, when and why they call on you for advice or support — we spend time wondering about these, reading between the lines.  Is that what she thinks of me?  Why would she think I would get along with so-and-so?  Sometimes I think I could be a handier friend by painting a picture proactively.  I was thinking the other day: wouldn’t it be kind to send a friend a note out of the blue reminding them of — thanking them, really — for their virtues, making sure they see those best bits of themselves when it is easier to focus on the problem areas?  I should do this.

My Dad has told me many times that he sat down one afternoon in his mid-40s and wrote a letter to his own father.  In it, he thanked him, in detail, for his wonderful traits, for his lessons, for his generosities of one kind and another.  “I’m always glad I took the time to write that down,” my Dad has said, and we both nod at what is omitted from that sentence: before he passed away.

I have gotten into the habit of hand-writing thank you notes to my parents every now and then for their extravagant care and love.  I hope they see in these notes the incredible people they are, how deeply good and fair and tender-hearted.  But I could stand to do this more often, too.

So today, I have decided to clear my desk, open my inbox, tap in the name of a dear friend, and let them know why I love them.  Care to join?

#lovelettertoafriend — it’s a thing now?

Post Scripts.

+In case you want to go the extra mile with this, writing a hand-written letter is pretty much le ultimate.  Consider these chic Kate Spade cards, this stunning personalized stationery (<<the liners!!!), this splashy personalized set, or these letterpress cards.

+Gifts for girlfriends.

+Testing a sample of this cleanser I received while away for the weekend.  Full report soon but the reviews are compelling!

+This just arrived (I got the yellow-gold) and it is even better than expected.  I actually can’t believe the pricetag on it — how is it under $150 when so many of their other sweaters are well north of $300!?

+These nubby shoes!!!!  LOVE!  These are the kinds of shoes I can totally legitimize.  On the surface — what?!  They are so specific; I’ll only be able to wear them with like two outfits.  But no no my friend.  These are called “game changing shoes,” meaning when you look in your closet and feel “meh,” you pull on your black skinnies and a black sweater and throw on these shoes and instantly transform yourself into a cool girl.  Done.

+A $51 steal of a cocktail party dress.  Love the idea of this with some simple black pumps.  60s glam.

+Love the dimensions of this nubby sweater.

+OMG THESE FOR MINI ARE SO EXTRA.  Or these for a cool little boy.

+A great, well-priced toggle coat for a little lad.

+A controversial post: the weight of words.

+A heart-warming post: the same and not the same.

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20 thoughts on “Circe and Little Love Notes.

  1. I love, love, love this idea. (Coming weeks late to this post, per usual, but I’m going to write a letter to a friend this week!) I just picked up some really nice thank-you cards from Euni + Co, but am due for a replenishment of monogrammed stationery as well. My last batch was a Kelly Wearstler number from Paperless Post, but I don’t think they do printed stationery anymore! I’ll have to keep my eyes out for other options.

    Really intrigued by your descriptions of Circe and can’t wait to read your full review! I’m sure it will make me bump it up the list.

    1. YES. You must read it. MUST READ. One of the best books I’ve read this year. Glad this love note post resonated with you 🙂 xo

  2. I wish wish wish I could be there for the Circe in person convening. I adored this book. I’m probably jumping the gun a little here, but there was so much to love – that a typically masculine form (the epic) was subverted to become a story that is inherently female, the examination of what our inner most or truest selves look like and how in the right (or wrong circumstances in the case of Scylla!) these innate traits can take on their own lives and be heightened on the outer, the strength of the characters, Circe’s realisations around Odysseus… so. much. to. unpack. I’ll save the rest of my thoughts for a comment on the actual book club post, but suffice to say I’m definitely going to read more of Miller’s work. On a related note, I am also intrigued by The Song of Girls, by Pat Barker, a new release novel that explores what happened to the women in the Trojan wars… I can feel a full blown Ancient Greek obsession coming on.

    1. I hear you — me too! I have been considering Ursula Le Guin’s LAVINIA for my next read but maybe I should space these classic-inspired re-tellings out a bit. (Though I’ve never read any Le Guin and people rave about her!!!)

      AHH so much to unpack indeed. You bring up a good point about the feminine in Circe. I felt that was called out in high relief in her explanation of the transformation of sailors into pigs. In the classic (The Odyssey), this is something of an exotic bit of sorcery that Odysseus must overcome, a witch-like obstacle. In Miller’s hands, this is self-defense against rapists. Really a wild retelling and timely, too, in our current news cycle. Anyway, a lot A LOT to think through. More to come tomorrow! xo

  3. I just finished Circe last night, and I was blown away. I’ll be reading more of Madeline Miller’s books soon! I think I devoured the whole thing in just 2 days…
    I loved how thought provoking a new take on the myth was. The great myths tend to pose women as those that “absorb” or are affected by the actions of men. This re-imagining gave agency back to the ladies of Ancient Greece.

    1. So glad you enjoyed it — I did too. Completely agree with your description of her reimagining of the myths from a female (feminist!) lens. Powerful and thought-provoking. Can’t wait to unpack it! xo

  4. I loved the post “A Year of Magical Thinking” on Cup of Jo this week, which offered a similar idea. While I’m not sure I could commit to a note a day, I love the idea of sending someone a thank you note just because. It’s amazing how the little gestures of kindness impact us and I know that I don’t give thanks for the special people in my life regularly enough. #lovelettertoafriend is a great start!

    1. Love it!! I need to check out that post ASAP — have heard about it here and there across the interwebs. Thanks for the tip. xoxo

  5. So funny you posted this today! Read this yesterday and loved the idea
    I also ADORE stationery and love an excuse to buy it. Also, speaking of amazing flats…I bought these
    and love that they’re plaid and pedestrian approved! Not quite as fab as the ones you linked though 😉

      1. OOOO I love love LOVE those shoes and the thank you notes post!!! Thanks for both. Seriously might order those shoes tho.

    1. I have to say, I’m continually impressed with Zara’s shoes! Both aesthetically and comfort wise they work very well for me, hope they do for you too!

      1. So funny you say that — haven’t purchased a pair from them in awhile but one of my most beloved pairs of shoes EVER (literally still think about them today) was a pair of kitten heeled black pointed toe leather mules I bought while in Paris after graduating from high school. I wore them into the ground and I wish I’d bought multiples to see me through a few decades of hard use. Will need to circle back and keep an eye on their inventory!!! xo

    2. Isn’t it funny how loved items from our closet stay with us? I recently posted old pictures of my college friends and one of them responded immediately with, “I wish I still had that shirt!” I did keep a few beloved shirts from college that will never be worn again but have lots of fond memories attached to them, they’re currently in a box and never seen, but I know they’re there. Also, agreed with wishing I had purchased multiples, which I do now if anything gets that much love! Replacing an item like that usually ends in mild disappointment.

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