The Earnest 90s

A cultural decade after my own schmoopy heart

First and foremost, I need to apologize for the unexpected hiatus. My plan was to write even more often in July, but instead, after turning in my line-edited book, my brain oozed out my ears, and I sent exactly zero newsletters. But now I’ve returned, and we will proceed without further delays. Thank you for bearing with me: writing a book and all the attendant anxieties, not to mention the project’s inextricability from the loss of my mother, has been an emotionally complex—albeit deeply rewarding—process.


For several months now, I’ve been thinking about the way we characterize the 90s in terms of its cultural and emotive legacies. I’m especially mulling over this now because I’m working on a piece about 90s erotic thrillers. Films like Basic Instinct and The Last Seduction—in which a woman with no interest in genuine, emotional ties exploits a bumbling man for money, sex, or both—seem to support a prevailing theory that this was a decade marked by cynicism. Certainly, there were plenty of reasons to be disillusioned: Reagan’s “trickle down” economics, Desert Storm, and the AIDS crisis, which was all but ignored by the aforementioned president and ravaged communities across the country. And we can point to all sorts of artifacts that seem to exemplify atmospheric cynicism. There’s the slew of erotic thrillers which seem to articulate a widespread moral vacancy. There’s the grunge movement. There’s “Daria” and “My So-Called Life” (goddess bless Daria and Angela Chase).

And there’s the film “Reality Bites,” which is often treated as 90s representation par excellence because the four characters at the core of it, particularly Winona Ryder’s Lelaina Pierce and Ethan Hawke’s Troy Dyer, are altogether uninspired by the workaday world beckoning to them, regarding their options as uninspired and precarious, thanks to an economy shattered by the previous generation. Troy opts out altogether. Instead, he justifies his slacker tendencies by mansplaining continental philosophy to everyone within earshot (Troy is terrible). Lelaina fears that she can’t trust capitalist America with her art (and probably, she can’t—no ethical consumption, etc, etc).

But cynicism is never what comes to mind when I think of the 90s—on the contrary, earnestness is. Some time ago, I referenced to Paul the “trademark earnestness of the 90s,” and he returned that, in fact, it was a little odd to characterize the decade this way when it’s typically described in such opposite terms. He’s right, too. I’ve been drawing conclusions based on my engagement with 90s popular culture and assuming they are widely shared. Because I was young in the 90s, I was less attuned to the larger milieu than to the scraps available to me, and while I’ve since encountered plenty of commentary that draws on this perception of a cynical 90s, I’ve nodded along without entirely feeling the truth of it. Yes, the 90s in many ways ushered in a specific variety of cynicism. But I would argue that 90s earnestness was far more present, far more structural in terms of its influence on popular culture, then we acknowledge.

And truly, would a sap like me love the 90s as much as I do if the decade didn’t supply so much heart-on-sleeve material?

Of course, there’s no either/or here; there never is. Earnestness begets cynicism in its way: we expect the world to be better than it is, and then when we’re disappointed, we retreat as a means of self-preservation. But that retreat—that malaise in the face of broken, crooked institutions—signifies a desire for something better suppressed by the fear of a broken heart. In the 90s, my friends and I thought Bush was relatively hardcore, though their most famous song, arguably, is literally entitled “Glycerine”—that is, sweetness at its most fundamental.

The music video makes some attempt at being artsy and weird, but it more or less amounts to compilation of footage in which Gavin Rossdale turns his melancholy puppy dog eyes towards, and then away from the camera, as he strums out—with profoundest drama—his romantic yearning on the guitar. “I needed you more / You wanted us less / I could not kiss, just regress” — this is the stuff of a heartsick, wannabe bad boy brimful of feelings, and to this day, I love it. You might say it “has a beautiful taste.”

This is the same era that gave us the women of Lilith Fair, musicians who understood irony—they were, after all, staring back at an entrenched, messy history of men convinced they knew better—and who were largely take-no-shit, but earnestness is not the enemy of resistance. The Indigo Girls’ cover of Dire Straits’ “Romeo and Juliet” is probably one of the sexiest pieces of music in existence. Sarah McLachlan all but convinced us that a subterranean temple was the ideal place to lose one’s virginity, such was profundity of the experience (of course, the Pure Moods compilation had a hand in that—you’ve listened to Enigma’s “Sadeness,” right?). Tori Amos and Ani DiFranco were idiosyncratic, but the feelings were always big—sweeping—fully transporting. K-Ci and JoJo wrote the soundtrack to our most consequential slow dances. In 1996, Baz Luhrmann gave us a gritty adaptation of “Romeo and Juliet,” but what could be more earnest than two stupid teenagers willing to die for one another? And while Garbage’s repertoire errs on the side of bored disaffection, “#1 Crush”—featured on the movie’s soundtrack—renders perfectly the wallop of attraction.

Even “Reality Bites” is deluded when it comes to its own pessimism. In spite of everything, Lelaina and awful Troy can’t relinquish the hope that love will provide some kind of salvation, and we’re meant to believe it does. And, for that matter, consider the song Lisa Loeb recorded for the film:

Oh, my fellow spectacled queen.

Likely enough it seems as if I’m splashing around in a bunch of lightly-considered evidence, but I don’t want to tarry much further because, well, I believe in this idea, and I’d like to see what possibilities there may be for it. But I created this newsletter on the deeply personal understanding that the 90s are a cultural vessel for Big Feelings, and I think that’s all the more evident when they unite with Victoriana where earnestness is tenderly embraced (we’ve already talked about Alfonso Cuarón’s “Great Expectations” and Jane Campion’s “The Piano”)—until, that is, Oscar Wilde came along and aptly and appropriately eviscerated everybody.

These days, when public displays of earnestness seem to demand a warning (i.e. “earnest tweet”), I cling to it like a dummy. Or rather, I cling to it like somebody who cannot be another way, only like this: bald-faced and daydreamy and saturated with every feeling. Sometimes I wonder if it’s naive, wrecked as our world is. But if we are wandering in a wasteland, an earnest hope that we’ll meander towards something better is really all we’ve got.

A Long Unbinding

On The Wachowskis' Bound and Bisexuality

At first, I knew them only by their lips.

In 1997, Gina Gershon and Jennifer Tilly were nominated for an MTV Movie Award. As lovers in the Wachowskis’ Bound (1996), their sultry, urgent romance—blood warm lust lusciously consummated, but never, no never, satiated—garnered a nod for “Best Kiss.” They didn’t win, and I don’t know what I would have done if they did, maybe walked through the neighborhood for hours, letting Tori Amos pour into my ears through my Walkman as I wondered what it was precisely that I couldn’t forget. As it was, the flake of footage MTV broadcast that evening entirely unspooled me. According to my muddy memory it’s a dark scene, two lips, near-disembodied by way of closeup, but indelibly feminine, list towards one another with hesitant, breathy excitement: at twelve, I thought that perhaps this was a sign of nervousness because at that tender age I understood sexuality in terms of trepidation and shame.

Now I know the specificity of that sort of erotic union: you’re impatient—so impatient—and yet you protract the wait, the build up, just a little bit because you realize the impossibility of both fully experiencing something and keeping it, too. The moment you hand yourself over to any moment, you succumb to its transience. And so, you force yourself to tarry, bending towards what you want, but slowly, slowly. Not just yet, you tell yourself. You self-impose that incandescent torture hoping that, perhaps, the pleasure will crystallize. It never does. How many ways do we try to safeguard our bliss? To return to it? Perhaps it’s folly, to wait for the kiss.

Because I was twelve at the time, I caught this glimpse of Gershon and Tilly covertly—I wasn’t really allowed to watch MTV, and if my father had walked in while I was watching the contenders for “Best Kiss,” he absolutely would have changed the channel. Probably I was so frightened of being caught watching this program that I turned it off myself, an exercise in self-monitoring that came of absorbing my family’s taut discipline. And while I desperate to learn more about this movie—Bound—I discerned from that fleeting scene that I would never be permitted to rent it. I’m not sure, in fact, when I learned what Gershon and Tilly looked like, when they became more to me than two tremulous lips, yearning. But eventually, I saw a promotional poster.

It hardly took a glance before I determined that Gina Gershon should always win Best Kiss by default, that her lips—the slant and slope of them, the insouciant roundness—disqualify every other pair of lips in perpetuity. Pair them with a shaggy soft butch haircut, and how’s a girl expected to keep it together? I did not, at this point in time, realize that I was bisexual, which is, in retrospect, hilarious to me. I was head over heals for Gershon’s Corky years before I saw the movie, and after I finally did it required every ounce of restraint not to watch it again, each day, for the rest of my life. It’s easier than it might otherwise be for me to summon this moderation because the film is quite violent, and I always struggle with that.

In a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, Tilly and Gershon discuss the artfulness of Bound’s love scenes, of the pains the Wachowskis took to get them right, and of how they manage to eschew the male gazey depictions of lesbianism that have loomed large in media. I was an adult when I finally watched the movie. I had, gradually, stockpiled a list of romantic films, many of them focused on queer women’s narratives, that I was determined to watch as soon as I was at liberty to do as I pleased. And when I did—when I watched Bound and But I’m A Cheerleader and The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love—I both recognized a colossal physiological want and performed herculean mental gymnastics to suppress that want, or at least to contort it into a different, easier narrative. To this day I’m not sure why. I always told myself that if I were queer, coming out would be comparatively easy for me because I was ensconced in the liberal enclave of my college and surrounded by empathic, broad-thinking people in both the English department and the Women’s Studies department. Yet I was queer and, clearly, I was too afraid to come out. Instead, I repackaged my queerness as academic curiosity. I took courses like Lesbian Fictions and a seminar on Virginia Woolf. I sought out charged female intimacies in the literary milieu that most interested me: Victorian England. I discerned my various crushes on women and pressed that recognition down—down—down. I watched Bound and dreamed of being Corky’s Violet.

Perhaps I’m not the right person to make this assertion, but I’m fairly certain that most people who are interested in sex, whatever their inclinations, would consider Bound supremely sexy. It is, after all, a fantasy of sorts: catching a glimpse of someone beautiful in an elevator and then, suddenly, taking them to bed.

Can you imagine? Pause, for a moment, and think of how you’d react if you were awaiting an elevator and suddenly the doors opened to reveal a swaggering Corky—and she lived in your building! I would be forced to either marry her or to move, there would be no mediating option.

It’s either cruel or brilliant that Corky and Violet never actually have sex in their building’s elevator. An elevator is, after all, the classic mechanism for accelerated erotic tension: the quarters are tight, and your solitude is brief in an undetermined sort of way—when will the other person exit? And will somebody else hop on, thereby harpooning that crackling, lusty womb? And if someone does, well, how dare they?

But then again, the Wachowskis, Tilly, and Gershon supply us with so many gifts over the course of the film, perhaps I’m wrong to wish for more. Pride Month has made me greedy, maybe. What I can say with certainty is that I am grateful to be safely out—I know this is not a luxury available to everyone—and grateful that I now watch queer films with full appreciation of what they inspire in me. I never met my own Corky, or my own Graham—a moment, please, for Graham:

Still, there is freedom in knowing, fully, without misdirection or sublimation or clipping at the edges, what we want.

An Addendum

Some things to click and to read and to watch

My dear CVs,

I thought, as an addendum to my first installment, it’d be nice to follow up with accounts and newsletters I enjoy, particularly those that fall under the umbrella of Cornflake Victorian. This missive is free, and honestly, I wish that they all could be. But at the present time it is financially impossible for me to write without some monetary compensation. So, the next full installment, which I’ll send in early June, will be exclusive to paying subscribers, as the rest will be for the foreseeable future. I will do my best to include free dispatches, I promise. But we all know that it’s hard out here for a writer. In any case, if you want to be sure you’ll receive the next newsletter, sign up via this post. If you would like to receive Cornflake Victorians but simply cannot afford it, let me know, and we’ll work something out.

Otherwise…

Now then!

I began this newsletter because I was inspired by others who embarked on this endeavor before me, and I’d love to tell you about them, and to encourage you to subscribe to them if you don’t already do so.

  • Helena Fitzgerald writes the luminous Griefbacon, an essay newsletter that is personal and vast and exquisitely attuned to the minute particulars of life.

  • Grace Lavery writes The Stage Mirror, which is a master class in bringing together rigorous intellect, Victoriana, capacious empathy, and personal storytelling.

  • Two Bossy Dames (Margaret and Sophie) are responsible for the brilliant newsletter by the same name, which brings together insightful pop culture musings, delightful wit, and a great deal of period piece enthusiasm.

  • I can’t even watch horror movies, but I wouldn’t miss Emily Hughes’s Nightmare Fuel for the world. She is a discerning reader NOT to be reckoned with, and if she tells you to read something, you ought to do so immediately.

  • Julia Carpenter’s A Woman to Know is rigorously researched and such a crucial project in a landscape that compulsively and systemically forgets the women who have made this world more livable.

  • Mara Wilson’s Shan’t We Tell the Vicar? not only has the most perfect title, but is so witty and thoughtful and warm.

  • Of course I subscribe to Nicole Cliffe’s Nicole Knows. I’d read her grocery lists. Give yourself this treat.

  • I’m not a Mom, though I hope to be, and still I subscribe to Sady Doyle’s Momism. And particularly in this dreadful political climate, I turn to her.

  • Anne Helen Petersen’s The Collected AHP is free and weekly and I highly recommend it. It’s really well done, and is frankly a gift.

  • Finally, I just upgraded to Lyz Lenz’s Men Yell At Me because it’s too good, and I don’t want to miss a thing. Lyz cuts through bullshit like a hot knife through butter (Quick! Who uses this simile in the 1998 Great Expectations adaptation that was the focus of our first installment? I do love a throwback.)

It’s entirely possible that I subscribe to more, and if I think of them, I’ll be sure to include links in future newsletters. I resist the notion that these newsletters will save journalism—we are never saved by one thing; silver bullets are a fantasy—and while I’m already thoroughly enjoying this, I bristle at the idea that paid subscription newsletters mitigate the low wages and precarity that are so inherent to the labor of freelance writers. But in the meantime, this is one way that we support one another, and I do believe in that. We are one another’s Medicis.

When it comes to Victoriana, I turn to all sorts of places. I’m a fan of the V21 Collective, and of course I love Grace Lavery’s The Stage Mirror, as I’ve already mentioned. The Victorian Web is another fantastic resource if you don’t already know it. I also love following Romanticist Anne C. McCarthy, Claire Jarvis, Kate Hamill, a brilliant playwright who recently adapted Vanity Fair, K. Handozo, Kate Washington, and, obviously, my brilliant bestie Leigha McReynolds.

For 90s delights, may I humbly suggest following the Instagram accounts for podcasts girlymags and Capsule98, and of course listening in as well—they do 90s pop culture in such a vivid and loving way. And if you’re not already following Slayerfest 98, a fantastic Buffy the Vampire Slayer-themed podcast—I’ve been honored to be a guest three times, which makes me an official Scooby, I believe—subscribe posthaste. Host Ian Carlos is a delight. I should also warn you in advance that Buffy is and forever will be my very favorite show, and that we’ll certainly be delving into that topic here on Cornflake Victorians.

It’s time for me to sign off, but before I do, please permit me another aggravating reminder that my book is on preorder and because preorders and first week sales are so extraordinarily important, I must be a little obnoxious about this for the upcoming months. And now, as a palate cleanser, let’s end with some musical 90s delights, shall we?

And one especially for my Mom:

Until June, my loves!

RVC

Shall We Begin?

Rabbit, where'd you put the keys, girl?

Welcome, my loves, to Cornflake Victorians!

Here, twice a month, we will indulge in all matters 90s, Victorian, and very likely other various and sundry topics. There will be Big Feelings, always. There will be swan dives into delicious pop culture. There will probably not be cornflakes, at least the conventional breakfast sort. (If you’re wondering about the reference, allow me to brighten your world. Tori Amos will loom large in this space.)

Originally I planned to launch this newsletter on May 30, primarily because I am ensconced in book revisions and was using this as a carrot that I might enjoy after, if not totally completing, at least nearing the end of what has proven to be a very intense—rewarding, but intense—editorial process. But instead, I began working on it right after Mother’s Day: if you are familiar with me and/or my writing, you know that my own mom died just shy of a year and a half ago, after enduring three and a half years of ovarian cancer and the ravages of both disease and its treatment. This was my second Mother’s Day grieving her, and while I can never predict how I will react to these family-centered holidays so imbued with cultural meaning, it was no surprise that I felt, well, acutely shitty. When I woke up the next morning morning, my head and heart addled by a bizarre mélange of mourning and agitation over a now-erstwhile dragon-y television show, I decided that beginning work on this newsletter a bit early would be the way I eased into the rest of the month. And so here we are, the Cornflake Victorians!

Before we begin in earnest, a quick word about my credentials: although I was in training to become a Victorianist, I did not complete my doctorate, although was relatively close. So I remain, in perpetuity, ABD—“all but dissertation.” But although I do not write to you as a bonafide professor, I am very well-read and well-trained, as well as honest about the extent of my knowledge. I promise never to speculate or assume when I can offer definitive historical information, and I will always let you know what I’ve been in error, as I’m sure I will be, at times—though hopefully not too much! And this is not meant to be a lecture series in the form of a newsletter; this is supposed to be something more whimsical and, hopefully, interactive.

So, here we go!

As I’ve suggested on Twitter, I want to begin by bringing together the obsessions to which the title of this newsletter refers and write a bit about one of my favorite films AND favorite novel adaptations: Alfonso Cuarón’s 1998 film, Great Expectations starring Gwyneth Paltrow as Estella (oh, those halcyon pre-GOOP days), Ethan Hawke as Finnegan Bell (aka Philip “Pip” Pirrip), and the late queen Anne Bancroft as Ms. Dinsmoor (an updated, delightfully deranged and over-the-top Miss Havisham). Cuarón does not look back at his work with much fondness. At the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival he actually said, “I think it’s a complete failed film.” Yowza. I, on the other hand, love it for a myriad of reasons, some of them admittedly quite personal. But in fact I would argue that it’s a robust interpretation of the original work that, if rather heavy handed at times, lays bare how and why we attempt to reinvent ourselves, and what happens when, in so doing, we find ourselves utterly and emotionally unmoored. It’s also extremely sexy and lush, and I see no reason to apologize for that. A beautiful, horny film is a gift.

Because this is a modernized adaptation of Charles Dickens’s novel, which was serialized from 1860 to 1861 we must expect changes to the narrative (A quick note: books were prohibitively expensive in the 19th century—many of the novels we read now, collected within one cover, were printed in magazines, in installments). I’m not going to detail all of the various narrative differences here, but if you’d like a quick and dirty primer on the original novel, you can check out this Wikipedia page. But I do heartily endorse the novel, despite its author being a virulent asshole, because it’s quite good: Estella is deliciously and tragically mean—a brutal beauty weaponized for vengeance who arguably understands the nuances of Miss Havisham’s motivations better than she does—and there are moments of queer tenderness that surprised me the first time I read it. And Joe Gargery, Pip’s surrogate father, is a king among men, far better than Pip ultimately deserves. On the one hand, the novel is yet one more piece of evidence revealing Dickens’s myopic, misogynistic perspectives on women and the blame he casts upon him for his own misfortunes. As I’ve written elsewhere, Dickens endured a miserable childhood, and it curdled his estimation of his mother, as well as prompting him to fuss about Mothers Who Don’t Properly Mother Their Sons all over his oeuvre. Miss Havisham is the sort of bonkers, tragic character who materializes from one male author’s outsized opinion of men’s importance on this earth—and who has, understandably, become something of a punchline (I mean.)—but who also never fails to instill me with profound sadness. To want so desperately and lavishly, and to be so distorted by heartbreak that existence is only tenable by nurturing revenge by proxy—well, what a horrifying way to linger in the world. And as you learn in the novel, the young Miss Havisham is treated pretty monstrously.

Let’s pause for a moment to admire Anne Bancroft doing the damned thing. For my money, she is one of the finest Miss Havishams to grace the silver screen.

I don’t want to spoil all the various the nooks and crannies of the novel for those who haven’t yet read it, but it really is so weird and tender and marvelous in a way that makes me even angrier at Dickens for being such a shitbag. Did you know that he tried to have his perfectly sane wife committed to an asylum so that he could bone somebody else? Because he absolutely did that. Thankfully, he was unsuccessful—that wasn’t always the case in situations like those, which were more common than you might want to suppose. Women were great in spite of the Victorian era, but the Victorian era, well, it was stridently lousy for women.

But I digress from our scheduled programming (from time to time I will probably digress in these newsletters, and I hope you’ll forgive that)!

Rather than England, Cuarón sets his film in the Gulf Coast, where Finn, an orphan, is brought up by his sister and her partner, Joe, the latter role exquisitely rendered by Chris Cooper. The overpoweringly verdant environment is ideal to the film’s rippling current of somatic, lush desires: for sex, for money, for a new identity, for power. Before Finn moves to New York City to pursue both a career in art and, obviously, Estella, greenery thrusts its way into most every scene (and even then, we are treated to a luscious park scene).

Cuarón’s Florida, however, is mossy and dank and fecund in a sweaty, claustrophobic way. It’s a proper motif for the way in which yearning and lust—and their twinned entanglement—crawls at the bottom of each of us, twining and twisting in our bloodstreams and seizing upon our atomic matter. It is there, creeping in our bodies, as soon as we first draw breath, and when it goes unchecked, it will dismantle us with total brutality. Thus, the shots of the Dinsmore estate:

The name of the estate is a little on the nose, but we’ll let it slide.

And because Estella represents, for Finn, these many desires, it’s only appropriate that green is her signature color. Let’s take a moment to appreciate Paltrow’s sumptuous, gloriously 90s costumes.

Ugh. Perfect.

If you’ve seen the film, you obviously remember this scene. And I wager that you, like me, cannot hear Chris Cornell’s “Sunshower” without feeling, shall we say, a bit flushed?

That said, most of the characters wear green at some point. Miss Dinsmore certainly does, which makes sense: she is the embodiment of destructive desire. Poor Joe wears a frilly mint green tuxedo shirt in a pivotal and heart-shattering scene. Finn wears it less often once he’s in New York City, but it does make appearances.

It’s not my intent to spoil the film for those who haven’t seen it, so I won’t inch through scene by scene. I do want to note that one deeply queasy aspect of the film is its sexualization of young Estella which, while it may make narrative sense, and gesture to the sort of emotional abuse inflicted by her obsessive, misandrist guardian, is carried out in a way that exploits a young girl’s precocious beauty rather than urging us to be disturbed by it. In this way, the film, like Miss Dinsmore, presents her as a sort of doll to be admired, and if Cuarón came to recognize that, well, good. The water fountain scene, however, is a stroke of genius, and although I was in high school when I first saw the movie, it seized my gut, not only in a visceral reminder of my first lusty stirrings, but as a resonant call to a girl who found herself both dazzled and bewildered by the broad, wild sweeps of desire that seemed to surge within me like an ocean. Often they were tied to a person, and sometimes they were something more protean and free-floating, a yen for satisfaction I couldn’t yet fathom but knew was at the bottom of me.

For that reason, the infamous “Kissing in the Rain” scene could almost bring me to tears. I was transported by it: the fact of desire and the will to act on it. I was 15 and deeply romantic, so of course I wanted someone run through pouring rain in pursuit of me, and of course I wanted to have voracious sex (I would not have sex for a few more years and only possessed a vague comprehension of it), but I think, really, my response was far more primordial: it was cathartic to bear witness to so much want, and for it to be treated the way I understood it: like a mighty, soaking storm with the strength to fling a body out to sea. The comfort, then, was that Estella and Finn found anchors in one another.

(Psst, don’t watch the below video if you haven’t seen the film and aren’t keen on spoilers.)

My obsession with this film extends to the soundtrack and the score, and yes, Tori Amos does make an appearance, thank you so much for asking!

I highly recommend the score if you enjoy working with instrumental music in the background, and I recommend the soundtrack to everyone who lives for a fine compilation of 90s alternative.

After all, it includes this banger from Pulp, and its use in the film is ::chef’s kiss::.

In fact, the film is altogether quite brilliant in the way it incorporates music, and sound in general.

And of course, we’ve got Iggy:

My mother and I used to listen to the score in the car, playing “Kissing in the Rain” on repeat. Now, when I hear it, I am dizzy with competing associations and responses: teenage lust, sonic pleasure, and the bone deep mourning that found a home within me the day Mom died. But a story like Great Expectations accommodates grief, and so, ultimately, I wipe my tears and carry on.

***

We’ll wrap up here, although of course there’s much more to say, and we can certainly revisit past topics. I appreciate your patience as I experiment with structure and form; I’m still trying to determine how exactly this thing ought to take shape. Please do let me know if there are topics you’d like me to cover—I’d like for this to be collaborative, and if you’re shelling out hard-earned dollars for this newsletter you ought to enjoy what you read.

I hope you won’t be put off if I conclude with a little bit of personal news here and there. I’ll also see about collecting links to reading pertinent to Victoriana and the 90s. For now, the big news of the day is that my first book, TOO MUCH: How Victorian Constraints Still Bind Women Today, is available for preorder. You can easily order it on Amazon or at Barnes & Noble, but I really urge you to order it from your local independent bookstore. And yes! The cover does indeed pay homage to the Pre-Raphaelites. The glorious, snarling face you see belongs to Frederick Sandys’s “Helen of Troy.”

Two big essays of mine also ran this past week, one of which takes as its focus the 19th century poet Letitia Elizabeth Landon (not Victorian, strictly speaking, but adjacent). The other does not correspond to the topics at hand, but it would still mean a great deal to me if you read it. I also must recommend this gorgeous Mother’s Day essay by my dear friend Caitlin Gibson, who writes beautifully about mourning and mothering.

Until next time, my fellow Cornflake Victorians. Subscribers should expect the next installment in early June. In the meantime, may you have a happy, restful weekend. Stay in touch.

In muchness,

RVC

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