Literary Inspiration: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Gawain Collage

So here’s the thing about Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, a 14th Century poem I recently re-read to satisfy the theme of an epic work in my friends’ reading challenge – it’s repetitive, preachy as shit, and as presented (in written form, translated from its oral, Middle English origins) it’s a deathly dull slog through what should be a thrilling tale of chivalrous knights, fair maidens and fantastic creatures.

Faulting neither the original, anonymous storyteller (or storytellers), nor W.S. Merwin, the scholar tasked with translating found snippets of actual archived text into something approaching readable English, Sir Gawain was simply not meant to be read, was in fact an oral tale designed to impart moral lessons whilst entertaining exhausted warriors around the campfire.

So if a read-through (my first since university) seemed stilted and lacking in detail (except for the endless passages devoted to inventorying the Green Knight’s admittedly pretty badass-sounding suit of jade-hued armor) that’s because the story was missing that certain – and quite necessary – dramatic flair that’s only present during the live performance of a thing.  I’ve no doubt that 14th Century audiences were enthralled by this spritely, sweeping tale of “verray parfit, gentil knyght”s and the murderous green giants who seek to behead them, but absent that live engagement, there’s precious little to the story itself.  Knights be knightin’, you know?

Ah, but the real fun (fun?) of Sir Gawain lies not in the story, but in the translation itself.  Just looking over the original Middle English will leave you feeling slightly disoriented, like staring at a door frame set ever so slightly out of square – there’s something wrong there, but you’re just not sure what that wrong thing might be.  But if you’re interested in linguistics and etymology, as I am, Sir Gawain is literary catnip.

Gawain 4

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a weird one, and I’m not sure I’d ever point to it as a favourite, but it’s an enjoyable enough read, and as a case study in translation, it’s utterly fascinating and indeed, quite epic. 🙂

Sir Gawain 1

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Kaleidoscope Candy

Kaledioscope Candy 1

Cheery sprinkled nails (using Cirque’s gold glitter standard, Kaleidoscope) for this cheery Saturday morning.  Hope your weekends are kicking off most delightfully, friends! 🙂

Kaledioscope Candy 2

On a Sunny Sunday Morn

Arty

The blogging world is such an odd, circuitous little animal sometimes.  Case in point?  This manicure was inspired by a post a blogger friend, Sketchuniverse, posted to his art blog highlighting the beautiful work of another artist and blogger from Lucy’s Coloring Book.  It’s an M.C. Escher staircase of blog post appreciation!

I’m not sure I did Lucy’s design a ton of justice (please do click on the link above to check out her colourful, whimsical work) but I do love the bright, cram-every-surface-with-something approach to art, and indeed nail art.  These are fun and summery, and just a little weird and wacky – the perfect beauty note on which to end this summer weekend.  Hope you’re having a nice one, friends. 🙂

Literary Inspiration: The Bazaar of Bad Dreams

Bazaar of Bad Dreams Collage

Stephen King has mortality on his mind in this 2015 book of short stories, The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, that I read in service of my friends’ reading challenge for the theme of (no duh) short stories.  And now so do I; his creepy bleakness has a way of catching.  But I suppose I wouldn’t read King, and I certainly wouldn’t consider him my favourite author, were I opposed to being pulled into his twisted world of ordinary horrors run amok.

In this collection of short stories, some written in and around 2015 and others dating back much earlier than that, King’s preoccupied with those everyday horrors, particularly the fundamental unknowability of death.  You can tell from the bent of the stories gathered in this collection – chronic pain in The Little Green God of Agony, suicide in Herman Wouk is Still Alive and the reaper himself in Mr. Yummy, among many others – that the fallout from his 1999 car accident still weighs heavily on his mind.  References to chronic pain, illness and violent car crashes abound.

King also seems preoccupied with what I’d call everyday domestic horrors – your spouse abruptly dying while out running a mundane errand, your happy romantic partnership suffering irreparable harm, the loss of a beloved pet to accidental neglect.  Now in his early 70s, King seems more in touch with the real things that go bump in the night than ever before.

Bazaar of Bad Dreams 3

Ah, but this is still the same man who writes about rains of frogs and killer time-munching fuzzballs and psychotic action figures come to life (well, that one’s Richard Bachman) and The Bazaar of Bad Dreams is no exception to King’s screw-with-your-head approach to storytelling.  Bazaar actually kicks off with a particularly gory little monster car tale (Mile 81), before veering into something very reminiscent of Heart of Darkness (The Bone Church) and concludes with an old fashioned, super bleak end-of-times tale (Summer Thunder.)

For these nails, I drew inspiration from four of Bazaar’s stories.  I thought they’d all make decent nail art, even if they weren’t necessarily my favourites (that honour goes to Ur, an Amazon-produced tale about a Kindle e-reader from another dimension.)  Here we have, from index finger to pinkie, my one-finger versions of Dune, a story about a supernaturally prescient beach (here I have it just beginning to spell out King’s own name), Blockade Billy, a slow burn tale of murder on-the-mound, The Little Green God of Agony, the story of a man seeking to physically exorcise his chronic pain, and Premium Harmony, a quietly devastating story about an unhappy married couple arguing their lives away.  Classic King.

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Londontown Looks

Lakur Nail Art 1

Closing out the week, as promised, with a couple of easy nail art looks using three of the polishes I received from Londontown, nude Cheerio, hyacinth Briolette and shimmery grey Opal.  These polishes are all so delicate-looking, I didn’t want to mess about with any design that felt too done.  As such, these manicures are very much not my usual!  But I actually love to sport the less-is-less look every now and then; it makes such a lovely change from my usual “It needs more cowbell” approach to nail art (and, indeed, life.)

Lakur Nail Art 2

Included in my nice little package of polishes and other nail care goodies was, in addition to some intoxicating-smelling cuticle oil, a bottle of Londontown’s kur protective topcoat.  I’m quite picky when it comes to my to my choice of topcoat – it’s pretty well Seche Vite or nothing (literally; I’m not sure I ever would have continued on with my first awful nail art efforts had it not been for Seche’s smoothing and soothing influence.)  But Londontown’s topcoat performed beautifully, drying quickly to a hard, glossy shine that didn’t drag on the delicate designs.  A worthy challenger to Seche for my nail art affections, absolutely, and another great product from Londontown.

Kur Topcoat

Jumpsuit

Jumpsuit

I was about to wax all poetic about twenty one pilot’s searingly killer new song, Jumpsuit, and then I just decided to go with what I wrote on Instagram last night, after five days of naught but TOP jamming about my brain for as many possible hours as the people around me can stand – I’m so freakin’ in love with Jumpsuit, I want it to carry my books and take me to prom in a baby blue tuxedo.  Happiness is new any twenty one pilots music. *contented sigh*

Dumbass. Also Ooh, Pretty Ring!

Beaded Ring 2

I’m quite glad I did this manicure, inspired by an old beaded ring I recently dug out of jewelry box purgatory, earlier in the week, before I suffered one of those dumbass injuries that smarts like the dickens, leads to the temporary uselessness of at least a couple of limbs and leaves you rightfully questioning the life decisions that led up to this moment.  Like the decision to try to brute force my refrigerator out of its nook without realizing that it was quite firmly caught on something.  Or the decision, once I noted that it was quite firmly caught on something, to try to HULK it up and over the obstruction, like I was The Rock’s friggin’ weenie Canadian cousin or something.  I think you can see where this is going.

Which would be straight on through to Dumbass Injury Land, where I’m now sitting in quite uncomfortable forearm agony.  Yes, my FOREARMS.  Two days on and I still can’t register any sensation in my hands, wrists or forearms other than pain.  I can’t form a tight fist without sort of feeling like I’m about to pass out.  Typing this has proven to be a rather exquisite form of torture!

Anyhow, super glad I got this one done before I succumbed to my own idiocy.  Seriously kids, don’t try to dead lift your large appliances; it will not end well.

Right, so this manicure was inspired by this ring I bought, oh, 20 or so years ago from a designer who worked and sold out of the Byward Market Building in Ottawa, Ontario.  I add that detail because I cannot remember her name and I don’t believe she’s even working out of Ottawa any more; her booth in the Market Building disappeared many years ago (but if anyone knows of her name, please hit me up!)  I’ve actually got quite a few of her pieces, and they’re all weird, colourful and maybe just a little bit too much.  Wait till you see the beaded choker I’ll hopefully be able to show to you in a few days’ time once any sensation other than pain has returned to my forearms.  Until then, as always, nail art!

Beaded Ring 1