Welcome to Substack, Dames Nation!
We are so excited to send your this, our first letter from our new home! Please write us at email@example.com or tweet us (@TwoBossyDames!) if you notice anything amiss about this issue’s new formating or the like-- it’s a new toolbox and we’re still getting used to it. Something, on the other hand, to which we’re well accustomed? Nicole Chung writing something really perfect and devastating that leaves us like:
Such as the clear-eyed, tender, and profound essay she published this week on processing the pain of her father’s sudden death…while finishing her memoir on the challenges being part of his adoptive family, an essay we each individually loved so much that we had to share it here, in what constitutes “above the fold” in this newsletter, and follow it immediately with a link where you can preorder a signed copy of All You Can Ever Know. Because you will want to have your own copy as soon as possible, which in this case is early October. Future You will thank you!
Two Bossy Dames Quarterly Podcast #4: Lady Dames Talk Lady Bird
Live Footage of Your Dames watching Lady Bird.
Yaaaay! It’s a new episode of our Two Bossy Dames podcast, begun for Patreon, but continued now for all of you equally! In this episode, Margaret and Sophie discuss at length the perfection of Greta Gerwig's Oscar-Nominated film Lady Bird, just in time for you to really dig in before the Academy Awards on Sunday (where it’s nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Original Screenplay, though not favored to win any). Then we extend the conversation by talking about some of our favorite coming of age stories.
Here’s the complete list of works mentioned during our Recommended Further Viewing & Reading section:
One note: This episode was taped in late 2017, before the recent reports of author Daniel Handler's history of persistently subjecting fellow authors to a wide array of inappropriate sexual comments was widely known (though this is not his first offense in the realm of deeply problematic jokes). If we recorded the episode today, we would still have recommended Why We Broke Up (which is as much a credit to Maira Kalman as it is to Handler), but we would not have done so without making note of these reports. Hence!
Dame Margaret’s Thirst Traps & Runaway Train of Thought
This whole video is An Attack.
Am I linking to Bim Adewunmi’s essay on the Em-BAE-ening of Michael B. Jordan and Anne Helen Peterson’s essay on Taylor Kitsch’s Instagram exclusively to include gifs of these very attractive men in this, our first newsletter on a new platform? No. I am not. Both pieces are incredibly interesting takes on our perennial favorite subject of IMAGE FORMATION, and you will enjoy them mightily. But the gifs DO sweeten the pot.
On the subject of hotness, let’s all take a minute to assess Antoni Porowski, the food guru from Netflix’s rebooted Queer Eye (no longer for “The Straight Guy”) makeover team. He first came to my attention when mentioned by a noteworthy local crop top cat in a round-up of worthy crushes. He then further intrigued me when I sat down to watch the show myself, in order to have this (I unbiasedly think) very interesting and worthwhile conversation about it for my TV podcast. And now, thanks to Helen Rosner, I have the quintessential take on him, one that does justice to both his beauty and his…. questionable cooking expertise. I could withhold none of this from you, friends, and still retain my ability to sleep tonight. ARE YOU WATCHING QUEER EYE? Do you like it? DO YOU, like me, FEEL CONFLICTED ABOUT THAT? Please @ me, I’m dying to talk about it more.
Speaking of things I’m always dying to talk about, have I told you lately how funny and exquisite GQ’s Dave Holmes is? Because he’s one of my favorite writers and his recent piece “It Turns Out I Have a Sadomasochistic Relationship With Fifty Shades Freed” delighted me SO much that I think I may need to listen to his excellent and ALSO hilarious memoir for at least the third time.
SPEAKING OF DYING! Did you know that the Victorians used arsenic in, like, everything? Including wallpaper? And that a crusading doctor published a book featuring samples from all the most popular patterns (so people could identify and avoid them), and then named that book SHADOWS FROM THE WALLS OF DEATH, aka THE MOST METAL NAME ever given to a book of wallpaper samples!!!?!?!?! Because the Victorians did, and the doctor did, and now libraries that own it have to follow a whole host of wild procedures to make sure no one dies handling it! Librarianship: more death defying than you would expect!
SPEAKING OF OLD COOL THINGS! Have you ever heard of SUFFRAGETTO, a strategy-based board game from 1908 about suffragettes fighting cops in the streets and attempting to gain control of the House of Commons? Based on actual British suffragettes who learned hand-to-hand combat in order to do… just that? Because IT IS REAL, and-- thanks to some enterprising youngsters-- you can download a replica of it and play it for yourself!
All of which puts me in mind of Mackenzi Lee’s excellent new book, Bygone Badass Broads: 52 Forgotten Women Who Changed the World, a beautifully illustrated compendium of fascinating , sometimes villainous, sometimes heroic, but ALWAYS interesting women from throughout history, each short biography elevated thanks to Lee’s uncanny ability to find all the best telling details. I would mention this book regardless because it is Highly Pertinent to All of Your Interests, but it’s getting a particular shout-out in this week’s email because Mackenzi’s employer, Boston’s illustrious and essential Trident Booksellers, recently suffered some extremely bad luck-- a small fire, which triggered a large sprinkler system, which caused enormous damage to the shop and its stock of vulnerable paper books, which means the shop will be closed for an as-yet undetermined amount of time. It’s a VERY Dames Approved store and one way we can help them while they’re closed is by ordering books from their website--- books such as Mackenzi’s own, from the aforementioned Bygone Badass Broads to her Stonewall-honor-winning, utterly charming YA novel The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue. How often can you indulge yourself with a beautiful new book and feel like you’re doing something really virtuous??? TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THIS GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY!
And finally, speaking of books worth ordering, my good friend Jen Petro-Roy’s debut novel, P.S. I Miss You, comes out this Tuesday-- it’s a sweet, tender book about two sisters separated by their strict Catholic parents, questioning their faith and growing to understand themselves better. And-- despite being praised by Ann M. Martin, author of The Babysitters Club and Queen of Middle Grade-- it seems like a lot of schools have decided the book’s content is “too mature” for their students and are unwilling to book Jen on the school visits that really make or break debuts like this one. I could tell you at length how faulty the reasoning behind these decisions are, but there’s no way I could explain it better than Jen did herself, in this excellent essay for Entertainment Weekly. I bet once you’ve read the essay, you’ll want to read the book and--guess what!!-- you can order it through Trident’s website, too!
Devastating wink action here from Riggins.
Dame Sophie’s Iconic Ladies of the Week
Remember when The Schuyler Sisters performed historical feminist quotes in honor of Women’s History Month? Good times that feel a thousand years ago.
It’s Women’s History Month, yaaaaaaay! Women’s history is always getting erased & drowned out because historically we don’t value girls & women, and don’t bother to write down stuff about them, or save what they’ve taken the time to write down about themselves, boooooooooo!
Come with me on a women-in-my-family history journey, won’t you? My very favorite wedding gifts are the recipe cards all the women who were invited to my bridal shower sent me (some I’ll never make & some are beloved & in my heavy rotation list) and my paternal grandmother’s Bride’s Book from 1942. My Dad’s parents got married 6 weeks after Pearl Harbor, in a small town in West Texas, where the women’s section of the newspaper had several staff reporters covering events like the various showers and bridge parties and luncheons celebrating the forthcoming nuptials of local young ladies. The story covering my grandparents’ actual wedding & reception (24 attendants?! Leg-o-mutton sleeves! A veil described as “a froth of illusion”!) runs to at least 15 column inches. She carefully clipped all those stories and pasted them in her book with such care, passing it along to me over 60 years later. That world is long gone and my grandmother with it, along with most stories about her interior life, which is only highlighted by the public-facing nature of these stories, and all that they don’t tell me about her as a young woman. What did she think about her wedding dress? Did she care much about the catering? How did she choose her Maid of Honor? Did she change into comfy shoes at the reception? Was she sad to be relinquishing her career? Did she & my grandfather have sex before they got engaged? Was she worried he’d be drafted? There’s a lot I’ll never know about her, and that’s probably always been an underlying impulse in my writing, to be seen and known to others, as well as to myself, and it makes me very grateful for essays like Nikki Chung’s and Rachel Vorona Cote’s, about how she got to know her late mother through the songs they shared.
One of the greatest artists of the 20th century, Dolly Parton, has just donated her 100 millionth book to children participating in Imagination Library, a nonprofit she established in 1995 to honor her late father, who never learned to read or write. She celebrated this week by holding a special storytime at the Library of Congress, listen I’m FINE, my emotions are 100% in check, nobody is weeping gently into her keyboard, I don’t know why you’d think that. Also, please never forget that Dolly Parton has been rocking secret beautiful tattoos featuring flowers, butterflies, and angels all over her upper body. She is a queen, an icon, a holy one who walks among us. I’m reading Alana Massey’s fiery, delicate, fist pump-inducing essay collection All The Lives I Want and her piece exploring the theological-sexual agonies & ecstasies of Dolly, Lana Del Rey, and Fiona Apple is so good it almost makes me want to throw the book across the room.
Let’s talk some more about music. Glorious sing-witch Stevie Nicks is universally and rightly recognized as a style icon and superlative songwriter. What a weird, compelling voice! What a talented self-portraitist! She undertook a huge tour last year and is an influence on artists as varied as Belinda Carlisle, HAIM, and Solange, while also cropping up in every documentary of Great Men of Classic Rock I’ve seen in the last 5 years. I’m loving these pieces by Hazel Cills (on how remastered re-releases of her first two solo albums throw into sharper relief the contrast between her gauzy Fleetwood Mac persona and the harder edges of the Stevie who emerges in her solo work) and Carrie Courogen (on how the mystique of the long out-of-print and not on Spotify or Apple Music album Buckingham-Nicks is full of earlier clues to the masterful songwriter she’d become).
Since we’re in the 70s, let’s talk about Donna Summer and how, over the course of several decades, she embraced, then distanced herself from, then re-embraced her status as the undisputed queen of disco, all the while never quite getting the credit she deserved from rock (I will give you exactly one guess as to why in the world that was). If you long for a musical/cultural/social history version of John Dickerson’s political storytelling podcast Whistlestop, Chris Molanphy’s Hit Parade should be your next stop. Please join my wish-campaign to have him collaborate with Naima Cochrane of the absolutely essential #MusicSermon. Their combined erudition and infectious, delighted passion for contextualizing popular music history would have the power to launch a thousand playlists.
You may well never have heard of Laura Sisk before (I know I had not prior to reading this interview), but she’s the engineer responsible for the sound on albums like Carly Rae Jepsen’s E*MO*TION, Lorde’s Melodrama, Taylor Swift’s 1989, and Bleachers’ Gone Now. I assume you clicked on the link to the interview as soon as you saw Patron Saint of Dames Nation CRJ’s name up there. I know I’ll be keeping an eye out for Sisk’s name in liner notes from now on!
Above, A Dames Nation Motto For All Time.
Two Bossy Dames is brought to you by:
This important reminder that if we do not remember the past (i.e. early 2000s fashion), we are doomed to repeat it (i.e. SHRUGS) (which Dame Sophie still likes & wears from time to time, as mini-cardigans are dead handy).
These supremely dope alternative movie posters for GET OUT,
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