Agatha Christie, Where Have You Been My Whole Life?

In my quest to begin reading regularly again I decided to pick a good old fashioned crowd pleaser. For those of you who do not know, I am a horror fanatic. I love horror films, gothic literature, horror conventions, etc. Here is a pic of me meeting John Carpenter last weekend:

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John Carpenter and I. Also, he told me I smelled good. Thank you, Chanel.

I think my obsession with horror stems from, mainly, two places. First, my family is pretty interested in the genre, and I’m not even just talking about my parents. My grandmother might be the biggest fan I’ve met. Secondly, as a woman, I am proud of the genre and enjoy appreciating the fact that it’s historically dominated by females. And, no, not in this way: 

Laurie Strode, Nancy Thompson, and Sidney Prescott.

I mean in this way:

Mary Shelley

I decided to read a novel by Agatha Christie. I must admit, I’ve not read much of the gothic genre. I’ve read the average amount of Shelley, Coleridge, and Brontë, but otherwise my horror interest has been dedicated to film. (Also, I understand Christie is technically mystery, but it fits the theme.)

My fiancé recommended I start with her classic, And Then There Were None. I started the novel at about 11:45 p.m. and was finished by 3:30 p.m. the next day. I absolutely devoured the novel, and could not wait to turn the pages. What I loved about her writing was that it was genuinely interesting. She truly captured the essence of suspense, and I felt the nervousness of the characters with them. Was I, too, on Soldier Island? I don’t know if I trust that Vera Claythorne, and Blore seems too odd for words. 

The novel was great, and I cannot wait to read the next. I also love the fact that it was written by a woman. Yet again, here is another female author writing brilliantly in the gothic genre. Even cooler than that, she is the second best-selling author of all time, second to only Shakespeare. 

This post was more of a book review than anything else. I just had to share with all of you how excited I was after reading.

Reflections on International Women’s Day: Spending Time With Mama

International Women’s Day seems strange to me. I mean, as a group of people who make up a decent portion of the population, I have issue with celebrating our magnificence on only one day.

Women are pretty amazing. We are strong, enduring everything from sexual harassment to negative stereotypes about our driving skills. Every year more and more women are attending universities and receiving advanced degrees. We are politicians, artists, advocates of great causes, and scholars. Oh! And we do this really cool thing where we create beautiful life in our wombs. In light of that last point, I decided to dedicate my celebration and appreciation of International Woman’s Day to a truly inspiring and perfect woman: Mama Mary.

As many of you know, I’m a cradle Catholic. It’s hard to see the world from a Catholic perspective and not witness the glory of femininity in its entirety. One person throughout all of history was conceived without sin, and that was a woman. One person perfectly followed God’s will for their life, and that was a woman. One person brought the Son of God into this world to save us from sin and death, and that was a woman.

So many people were celebrating International Woman’s Day in light of famous women who broke glass ceilings in their fields. Those women are important, too. Thank God for women such as Jane Goodall, Maya Angelou, St. Joan of Arc, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Audrey Hepburn. And thank God for the “ordinary” women in our lives, such as our mothers, sisters, and aunts. 

But Mary’s significance for the betterment of all humanity should be recognized as truly remarkable, and never be forgotten.

Does the Muse Dwell in Suburbia?

Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.” – William Wordsworth

What do we imagine when we think of poets or poetry? I think immediately our minds wander to images of coffee shops in the city. You know, the ones filled with people dressed in black who snap their fingers after someone performs an interpretive dance? The other popular image that comes to mind looks like a scene from Dead Poets Society where rich youngsters learn about the human experience through the works of Keats or Browning.

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I have to ask, though: Is this real? This is what the movies tell us. This is what our stereotypes look like. Well, I don’t buy it. Poetry is not reserved for Manhattanites or preppy academics. Poetry is for everyone, and the muse dwells wherever life thrives. 

This “wherever” also includes suburbia. Lucky for those in New Jersey, there is in fact a thriving poetry scene. I had the pleasure of talking with a local poet about his experiences in New Jersey, and I think he emphasized a point that Wordsworth brings up in his Preface to Lyrical Ballads. Essentially, any powerful emotion that is later contemplated is great inspiration for art, and there is no limit on where those emotions stem from. Sadly, as many from New Jersey know, the state is currently plagued by a terrible heroin epidemic. There are also so many areas still being rebuilt after Hurricane Sandy.

“I know that I grew up in a single mother household, and I knew poverty and adversity and loss as more than just far-off concepts, but real life challenges,” said Damian Rucci. “I know a lot of poets who are growing up in this world and there is dark inspiration everywhere, but there is also beauty. New Jersey gets slagged by a lot of people who haven’t been here and seen the vastness of the Pine Barrens, or the crisp crimson of the setting sun on the Bayshore, or the white sands of the beaches along the shore. There is a lot of beauty in this state still, too.”

Damian Rucci
Damian Rucci

Rucci is a local poet from Keyport, New Jersey. He founded the “Poetry in the Port” gatherings, and manages the new “Street Poet Review.” He will soon be publishing a collection of poems called, Poor Poems for Poor Souls. If you’re interested, check him out on Facebook.

Suburbia is not just rows of cookie-cutter houses and housewives. There is life in suburbia — real, powerful, painful, beautiful life — and people are writing about it. 

So, now what? If you’re interested in poetry or the arts in New Jersey there are tons of opportunities for you to check out. I wrote about “Poetry in the Port” and a few other spots to check out a few months ago, here. Also, the “Street Poet Review” will be hosting a launch party on March 22 at Espresso Joes in Keyport. 

Check out these great poets and art from New Jersey. If you have any questions or could recommend an event, as always please contact me at!

Reading After a Drought

“Water, water every where, nor any drop to drink.” 

Reading has always been a passion of mine. It is so easy to pick up a book and let your mind wander away to some distant world, leaving everything behind.

I can’t lie, though: I graduated college and my reading habit came to a halt. I didn’t want to read. I didn’t want to think about books or poems or authors. I didn’t want to think about why Mrs. Dalloway bought the flowers herself. I also didn’t care about Aristotle’s opinion of government, or why Hamlet was so moody. After studying English for four years I was so relieved to come home and not read.

I watched a lot of horror movies. Yes, Little Dead Rotting Hood is just as terrible as you’re probably imagining, Psycho is always an excellent choice, and I wish I knew why Hannibal Lecter liked to eat people. I also watched a lot of television shows. Blackish is hilarious, and I absolutely do not recommend Sister Wives. My favorite is The Golden Girls and I will laugh at Dorothy’s sarcasm till the day I die.

While I was searching through my laptop yesterday, I found all my old essays from college and immediately felt melancholy. For the first time in months I craved reading. So, I decided to start again.

I read most of the books on my shelves so I travelled into the next room and searched my father’s bookcase. I picked up Nausea by Jean-Peal Sartre. Honestly, this was probably not a wise book choice to begin reading again. However, it was Nausea or James Joyce’s Ulysses

Should I feel bad for letting my reading passion slip away? I don’t know. In the same way, I wouldn’t want to eat chocolate following a weekend stay at Hershey Park. I think my exhaustion was a normal reaction. The important thing, I think, is to not let it slip far enough away where it it impossible to recover.

If you have a book recommendation, please reach out. I need new material to read! 

Romance and Roman Cappuccino

I remember my visit to Rome quite well. It’s hard to forget a place that magical. Even more so, it’s hard to forget a place where everything has significance.

Although obviously important, I’m not referring to historical significance. I won’t even talk about that here. I’m talking about the fact that Romans, almost as beautifully as the Lord, himself, breathed life into Adam’s nostrils, give life and spirit to every aspect of their lives. Even minor, insignificant events that most Americans would ignore mean something in Rome.

A specific incident during my vacation stands out in my memory. We were grabbing a quick cup of coffee at a corner cafe on the Via Veneto. I asked if I could have mine to go and the waitress looked at me perplexed, almost as if I had offended her. “No,” she laughed. “We don’t have cups to go.”

I stood there and accepted her truth. She gave me my cappuccino in a porcelain cup, which of course came with a saucer, and I enjoyed my coffee at that cafe and did not leave until I finished.

That coffee meant something more than just a cup o’ joe. It was crafted by her, and she lovingly gave it to me with the intention that I was going to enjoy it. Would it have tasted differently in a plastic cup? I don’t know, but I do know that I enjoyed taking a moment to actually savor the experience and I do not regret it.

Just as a thought experiment, what if we were to apply that Roman philosophy to all aspects of our lives? Can everything have meaning in a world void of much? Everything is cheapened, from our food to our music, to our homes and even our romance.

Being Catholic in a contemporary world is a really interesting experience. The Church calls us to live life through love entirely, all while living in a society that is on-the-go. Can those two conflicting world views exist in harmony?

I write this post in light of romance and how romance is perceived in the contemporary world. It’s hard to see men and women in their uniqueness when those definitions have been lost. It’s hard to see what we need, primarily love, when the world lacks it authentically. What if we equated love, romance, marriage, and sex to the way Romans enjoy cappuccino? Every instance with our significant other would be enjoyed throughout, and would hold significance in the way God intended.

It’s hard to escape modern reality, for we marinate in it all day. In a world dedicated to earning dollars and brownie points, it’s nice to know another way of life does exist, and is attainable. I’m not preaching on a soap box. I’m merely presenting and pondering another way of life that seems more peaceful and might bring about more love in the world. After all, love is truly all we need.