Historic Dover, Delaware by Frances Via Flickr: A beautiful Victorian home, sitting on the corner of a very busy intersection near the Historic District of Dover, Delaware. The house is for sale …. I would love to see the interior.
Pair of waistcoat shapes, 1750-59, French, silk embroidered with silk.
To make a waistcoat, the embroidery was made first in two lengths of fabric: the right side and the left side. The waistcoat shapes were purchased with a silk mercer or haberdasher and then taken to a tailor to make the waistcoat.
The Victoria and Albert Museum share an interesting fact about this waistcoat shapes:
“The stamp seen on the inside of the lower right edge reads ‘Custom House / SEIZED DOVER / GR II’, indicating that this is contraband – a French waistcoat shape apprehended during an attempt to smuggle it into England during the reign of George II (1727–60). For most of the 18th century, imported French silks and laces were taxed heavily, in order to protect British textile industries. Smuggling of these and other taxable goods was rife through all levels of society; customs officials at British ports searched very carefully and seized any contraband items. Articles confiscated in this manner were usually burned, so the survival of this beautiful but forbidden object is indeed remarkable.”
Helen Oyeyemi, who is not yet thirty, published her fifth book, Boy, Snow, Bird, this past March, which wrestles Snow White into mid-20th century Massachusetts. I first came to her through White Is for Witching, her third novel. It’s a haunted house story, but what a house: this Dover bed and breakfast speaks, and when it does it reveals a profoundly racist, misandrist agenda. It will, if you let it, eat you alive.
You may have noticed a pattern already, and you’ll find it echoed across her other works. Oyeyemi takes an old story and she guts it. The reworking is often violent, but it’s profoundly satisfying, and makes thoroughly adult, thoroughly literary books out of conceits that are often reserved for children’s, or genre, fiction. She finds in these stories a radiating core of truth, one that speaks more directly to contemporary issues than we may have assumed. What is Snow White about if not whiteness; Bluebeard, if not misogyny; a haunted house, if not the living sins of the past. Though she traffics in folklore, Oyeyemi concerns herself with the raw stuff of life.
I saw her read twice during her short time in the United States promoting Boy, Snow, Bird. (She currently lives in Prague.) We spoke a little at both, and then continued our conversation via email. Be warned: we talk about the entirety of Boy, Snow, Bird—even the end.
I. WHETHER WE WANT THEM OR NOT
THE BELIEVER: You’ve explicitly made clear that Boy, Snow, Bird is grounded in the story of Snow White. You’ve also talked a little about how navigating the histories of these stories, moving through their permutations, is kind of like a maze. As I was reading the book, I was reminded of different versions of this story: the first edition from Grimm has Snow White’s mother, not stepmother, do the deed; as well as the variant story in Grimm about Snow White and Rose Red—a story of sisters! How much did you draw upon these nonstandard Snow Whites?
HELEN OYEYEMI: Ah, Snow White and Rose Red and their bear! I didn’t read alternative versions very closely—this was different from all my Bluebeards and foxes for Mr. Fox—I knew the flux in this book would be less drastic in terms of identity, and so I just went for a takedown of “fairest of them all.”
BLVR: Though they’ve been recorded by men, fairy tales are essentially women’s stories. While this novel is clearly a story about women, do you feel like it is a women’s story?
HO: I don’t think it has enough of a subversive spirit to truly be a women’s story. Off the top of my head I’d say Jane Eyre is a women’s story, as is Woolf’s Orlando, and C.J.L. Almqvuist’s The Queen’s Diadem—I think the people in this book are looking for peace, whereas in the other books I’ve named and love, there are these outsiders rattling the cage of rationalist narrative.
(This happened in my house in Dover-Foxcroft, ME, as per guidelines.)
I struggle with… hearing things. Always right before I go to bed. In fact, most times the shit I hear wakes me up.
Well normally it’s like I’m hearing scraps of a conversation. Like eavesdropping. Nothing is said directly to me, not since it started back when I was 11.
Back then I used to hear people whispering, giggling, and shouting my name. Imagine that happening when you’re eleven, dude, it wasn’t fun. At all.
But then it turned to eavesdropping, and that’s all fine with me. Less scary. Still startling ofc, but less scary.
Well last night I had just barely dropped under the surface of sleep and then, right in my ear, I hear the most sinister, masculine, threatening whisper ever.
It goes “Sssssoft bed…”
I immediately rolled over and nearly screamed. There was nobody there. I was so scared. And even though it didn’t say my name or anything to indicate it was talking to me, it was definitely talking to me. I just know it. And it wasn’t a kind voice.
Now I’m afraid to go to bed tonight. I’m afraid things will pick up again, and that I’ll be addressed again. I’m afraid it’ll be just like it was when I was eleven.
Fuck Yeah Nightmares Mod Fey: It sounds almost like you might have been suffering from sleep paralysis. Well, I hope so, at least, since this was submitted a while ago and I’d hate to think that the ghosts got you since then…. 6/10 for scares and thank you for sharing!
She smiled shyly at him and he bit his lower lip to refrain
from pulling her into his arms and kissing her senseless. She was as
breathtaking as he remembered her, the little creases around her eyes only
making her more real, more tangible, more within his grasp.
“Nolan.” She said as her hand fidgeted with her purse. “Emma
“Killian Jones.” He tilted his head at her. “But I presume
you’ve already figured that out.”
Her green eyes sparkled at him and he could have easily
spent the remainder of the afternoon lost in her eyes. But Rome was waiting to
be explored and he only had one wish: he wanted to see the city with her. As
they did ten years ago, he wanted to get lost in the streets with her by his