Saturday, November 15, 2008

A Tchotchke To Remember The Smell of Whimsy

Casual Poet
This is a tchotchke by which to remember the whimsical smell of 2008 and possibly pre-Black October 2009.

Whimsy is (or should it be "was"?) vintage pieces, innocence, nostalgia for a time that predates one's existence, indie-cute, collections of curios, baubles and bagatelles, ephemera, eggshell blue Victorian magpies against rustic white-washed walls, dusty heirloom marbles in glass containers.

Karen Russell's "St Lucy's Home for Girls Raised By Wolves", Karma Kettle & Rhapsody Shepherd's Pie
Whimsical literature comprises passing fables, tales, fancies. It is haunting, magical, lyrical, quietly beautiful, kitsch, funny and sad and full of fantastical creatures in Raymond Carver-ish yet surreal worlds. It is Karen Russel's St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves inhabited by strange, eccentric, precocious child narrators: fragile, vulnerable, edgy, old-fashioned youth. It is the love of beauty of things, words, stories for their own sake. It is without agenda, without political motive. It is without objective meaning. It is open-ended, arbitrary. It is the simulacra of eclectic bookart (see, eg. BibliOdyssey) in Illustrated Field Guide to Surreal Botany.

"Illustrated Guide To Surreal Botany" Singapore Book Launch, BooksActuallyBooksActually
Whimsical literature can be bought in whimsical bookshops like BooksActually.

Karma Kettle & RhapsodyScones and Tea, Karma Kettle & Rhapsody
You finish reading whimsical books in whimsical cafes like Karma, Kettle & Rhapsody on a rainy Saturday afternoon, amidst dusty lace curtains, mismatched furniture and an abandoned sunbird's nest outside the window.

Main Door, Casual PoetOmelette, Casual Poet
Or if your taste runs to things Chinese, then in Casual Poet (隨意詩人). Indie Chinese and Japanese magazines, t-shirts and hoodies from Booday (蘑菇), a lady boss who nags you into eating your omelettes while they are still hot and yummy: "eat first, you can go and look at the books later!".

Perhaps one day, this period of whimsy will be marked in history by the institution of a university course on the subject. It is preceded by current scholarship on John Ruskin, the Pre-Raphaelites, Edward Burne-Jones, William Morris. Perhaps academics will write monograms on the parallels between the whimsical era and the "authentic and meaningful" styles that so characterised the arts and crafts movement in the 19th century, itself a reaction to perceived soullessness of the Industrial Revolution as the whimiscal is a reaction against perceived soullessness of shopping malls.

Whimsical consumerism is indie luxury, Etsy, Crème de la Crème a la Edgar, Shoppopo, edition8x8.
Whimsical weddings feature grooms wearing non-floral boutonnieres, DIY photo booths.
Whimsical art is less Banksy more Little People.
Whimsical private banking is by shoebox.
Whimsical homes in Knightsbridge look like Roland Emmerich's.

Will this valuing of tchotchka end with the financial crisis of Black October?

The New York Observer observes that shelter magazines are on the fold: Blueprint: Design Your Life, House & Garden, and Home having already shuttered, O at Home folding last week, and rumours swirling that Domino may be packed up and put out with the trash too.

But if the parable of the rich fool is anything to go by...

Emily Zak, Playing Dress Up
Jess Cartner-Morley, Lean Times and Hemlines

But hey, this is only a tchotchke.


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