Archive for the ‘Fiction’ Category

As seen in the paper today

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

Frank and Ernest are (is?) not on my must-read comics list, but every so often they nail it.
Frank & Ernest

(And … how cool that you can just embed the strip like that. Yay for technology!)

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Wallpaper in Victorian fiction (Gilman 1891)

Wednesday, September 12th, 2007

Since I became an old house junkie, I have begun being distracted by noticing the house details in old movies and, even more recently, old books.  Have you ever read The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1891)?  Go, read it if you can stand it (it’s short), and then you’ll know why the notion of bed rest gives me the creeps.  

Here’s an excerpt from early in the story:

The paint and paper look as if a boys’ school had used it. It is stripped off–the paper in great patches all around the head of my bed, about as far as I can reach, and in a great place on the other side of the room low down. I never saw a worse paper in my life.

One of those sprawling flamboyant patterns committing every artistic sin.

It is dull enough to confuse the eye in following, pronounced enough to constantly irritate and provoke study, and when you follow the lame uncertain curves for a little distance they suddenly commit suicide–plunge off at outrageous angles, destroy themselves in unheard of contradictions.

The color is repellent, almost revolting; a smouldering unclean yellow, strangely faded by the slow-turning sunlight.

It is a dull yet lurid orange in some places, a sickly sulphur tint in others.

Not the kind of wallpaper I want — no matter how authentic.  But, then [spoiler alert], I agree that bed rest would not be helpful to avoid going mad,* either.  (See Mrs. Gilman’s story behind the story.)  (Nor is bed rest helpful in getting pregnant after an IVF transfer, although many doctors still recommend it.  Most studies find a slight edge for normal activities, and, at most, the studies find no significant difference.)

Here is a nice summary of what the cutting edge designers of the 19th century had to say about wallpaper.  I don’t think they would have liked the yellow wallpaper either.

*My great-great-grandmother was committed to an insane asylum by her husband about twenty-five years earlier (soon after she had a baby – probably post-partum depression although he blamed “monomania on spiritualism”), and submitted testimony to the Illinois legislature about it.  (But for the internet, I would never have known.)

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