Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Lipstick turns into green eyeliner

ME gives me crazy dreams, cinematic, and it's a boring sin to tell your dreams to others - unless they are actually in them - but I'm telling you anyway. I was enrolled at an Italian university and needed photos, there was a booth across the road, and I put on lipstick but it was not lipstick but green eyeliner, no matter how many times I tried to smudge it off and reapply. Eventually, I said to the booth woman, I don't care, please take the photo anyway and she was not happy. I've started reading The Stranger in the Mirror by Jane Shilling, perhaps the dream comes from there. She was 47 when she started writing the book, a year younger than I am now (well, I'm only 48 and four months, I do, sadly, count the months now).

I love the cover, Shilling herself, posing naked, she looks fabulous.

I don't look my age - and I'm glad of that - though it's all down to genes and having to sleep a lot, not by being virtuous in any way. Still, I am my age and, in truth, the thought of middle-age creeping up horrifies me quietly, I think because it underlines that much of my adult life has been shaped by illness and it's honestly depressing to think back to what could have been - that's why I don't. I often think these days I have one foot in the well world and one foot in the ill world - am sure I've said this before - and I hop between them, constantly losing balance (although it probably appears that I am balancing more easily than I actually am).

I'm told The State of Me Kindle version is going up from 99p to £2.99, so if you want a bargain now's your chance (you can barely get a cup of coffee for £2.99, so it's still a bargain). My brother just gave me an Amazon voucher (he gifted me the Kindle, he's a real convert) and said - only half-joking - it's for e-books not shiny hardbacks. I've (slightly) guiltily just bought a shiny hardback cos it's not available in Kindle (and the paperback is not out 'til autumn). I've ordered 'On Being Ill', the essay by Virgina Woolf.

Shilling's book is full of lovely literary references - she speaks of the importance of the comfort to be found in reading fiction - and I was struck by Virginia's words, which she quotes: Considering how common illness is, how tremendous the spiritual change that it brings, how astonishing when the lights of health go down, the undiscovered countries that are then disclosed . . . when we think of this . . . it becomes strange indeed that illness has not taken its place with love and battle and jealousy among the prime themes of literature.

I was trying to say something similar here.


Lesley said...

I've just turned 50, and am feeling the sting so Shilling's book is definitely on my to-read list.

nmj said...

Hey Lesley,

I think middle-age (never sure whether to hyphenate or not) is quite scary regardless of circumstances, I don't know any female friend who is not slightly horrified by their encroaching late forties/ & the, frankly, unsayable 50.

No one seems to agree on when middle-age actually begins and this line made me sigh:

Fashion journalists and doctors would place the onset of middle age well before the end of fertility, at the point at which one's rate of egg production and cellular renewal begins to slow, and one's ability to wear hot pants and biker jackets with conviction to diminish.

I want it to start at whatever age is greater than I currently am!

Was going to say you'd love the book, but I know that you have already downloaded and finished. ;)

You are way ahead of me! Funny - I think this is the kind of book that I def prefer to read on paper.

Mim said...

I love Woolf's essay.

Your dream is not boring!

Regards from Boston

nmj said...

Hey Mim, I hadn't even heard of this Virginia essay 'til I read Shilling's book, so am v much looking forward to it.

Hey Lesley, I've finished the book now. I really enjoyed though it felt a little padded here and there, some of the chapters could have been shorter. I also admired that she did not dish the dirt on whatever catastrophic breakdown there was between her parents and herself, she simply stated it happened (and she clearly had suffered); this shows that a succesful memoir does not need to bare every bone.

Anonymous said...

Having just read this blog post, On Being Ill is now on my Amazon wish list! I did manage to find a great bargain for my Kindle, I got the whole works of Virginia Woolf (including the above) for £1.99. This is especially fab because the student loan well has dried up so no shiny books for me otherwise.
Katie x