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Gothic Charm School Is Now in Session - The Book of the Celestial Cow

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July 5th, 2009


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06:32 pm - Gothic Charm School Is Now in Session
Gothic Charm School: An Essential Guide to Goths and Those Who Love Them, by Jillian Venters (cupcake_goth) with illustrations by Pete Venters, is both enjoyable and appropriate for people who aren't even very Goth at all, this non-Goth proclaims! I assume that any Goths reading this post are already interested in the book, being part of the built-in audience, but you may want to read this book if any of the following apply to you:

You know a Goth personally: Does that person you hang out with who's always wearing black kind of freak you out? Jilli's here to tell you that you have nothing to worry about, and she will even tell you ways to politely engage in conversation with this Goth and, having learned a little more about the history of Goth and the Goth subculture, you will have things to talk about!

You're not a Goth, but you see one on TV: Although I don't watch NCIS, I know that there's a popular character named Abby who's a Goth. Now you can see how subculturally accurate her portrayal is! As above, if you've been exposed to Goths without knowing much about them, the book gives you a very good explanation of why Goths are gothy. The only chapter that really started to lose my interest was the chapter on fashion since it was not Relevant to My Interests, as I have no sense of fashion, but everything else is still interesting to non-Goths.

You're not a Goth, but you're Something Else: As I suspected, a lot of the Lady of the Manners's advice applies to anyone who's "different." If you're a little left of normal for whatever reason, you likely experience some of the awkwardness, prejudices, and misconceptions that the Goth community does, and Jilli can help you deal with that sort of thing.

You're not a Goth, but you're not sure What You Are: What struck a chord with me while reading the book is how comforting it must be to be Goth. Because it affords you a template upon which to construct your own identity. It gives you an outlet to express yourself. In delving into what is a Goth and what is not a Goth, falling headlong into this whole different world of aesthetics, you start to wonder what your own system of aesthetics and identity are, even if it's not Goth. What makes you you?

You're an asshole: The Lady of the Manners's #1 Manner is "Treat everyone as you wish to be treated." Her advice about how to behave in public, at work, at clubs, with roommates, when dating, on the Internet, and in any number of other situations is sound whoever you are. It is a good reminder of the general rules of etiquette, and we could all use a refresher.

It's also good if you just want to while away a few hours learning something new and laughing all the way. Jilli writes as if she's addressing you, the reader, giving the book a readable, informal tone that lends itself to witty asides and amusing digressions. I will admit, the third-person affectation can be a bit grating at times (I've never read a book where the author referred to herself in the third person the whole time), but you get used to it. Another minor annoyance was the fact that terms like babybat and babygoth and gothling are used throughout and written in spooooky font, but there's no glossary and, although most of the spoooooky words are defined through context clues, I couldn't really figure out the distinctions between the terms since they appeared to be used interchangeably at times. Knowing exactly what age range each term encompasses, however, isn't really essential to one's enjoyment of the book. Besides, any flaws are balanced out by Pete's lovely illustrations—I particularly liked the depictions of all the different Goth fashion styles (Deathrocker, Perkygoth, Rivethead, Cybergoth, etc).

So buy Gothic Charm School and support my friend Jilli, Goths everywhere, and good manners!

(Please.)
Current Mood: hungryhungry
Current Music: Marilyn Manson - mOBSCENE

(17 memoirs | Describe me as "inscrutable")

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:mina5643
Date:July 6th, 2009 02:49 am (UTC)
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To be fair, I tend to look at goth as a part of who I am, not the whole of my identity or a template of it. Some people feel differently, but well, *shrug*.

Overall though, a good review of her book. :]

Edited at 2009-07-06 02:49 am (UTC)
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:July 6th, 2009 02:54 am (UTC)
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To be fair, I tend to look at goth as a part of who I am, not the whole of my identity or a template of it.
Oh, no, I get that. But even if it's only a part, you get a whole community and feeling of belonging out of the deal.
From:wee_warrior
Date:July 6th, 2009 03:11 am (UTC)
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hat struck a chord with me while reading the book is how comforting it must be to be Goth. Because it affords you a template upon which to construct your own identity.

On the one hand, I actually disagree (it's complicated explaining why, and I'm not doing it at 5 a.m. in the morning, but maybe later if you're interested) and on the other - isn't that - the template - the case with every underground (lifestyle, fashion) movement you could join? Technically, everything that affords some sort of dress code comes with a prefabricated identity.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:July 6th, 2009 03:20 am (UTC)
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On the one hand, I actually disagree (it's complicated explaining why, and I'm not doing it at 5 a.m. in the morning, but maybe later if you're interested)
I am. I probably didn't express myself properly. It was more about my constant wish for something I was truly passionate about, that made me special. There's a lot in the book about developing your own sense of style, and I wish I had one.

the template - the case with every underground (lifestyle, fashion) movement you could join
Yes. But I haven't read a book about all of them!
From:wee_warrior
Date:July 9th, 2009 03:06 pm (UTC)
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Right, I forgot to answer this earlier.

I disagree that it comes with a template, because the reasons why you could become a Goth are multiple and depend on the single person who does it, and the definitions on what makes you a Goth really seem to differ between different people and/or groups within the subculture(s). I mean, I identified myself as Goth for roughly two years, during which I wore dyed, shaved hair, exclusively black clothing and black boots and hung around in Goth clubs where I wore makeup in stark contrasts. I also liked "dark" music at that time and was depressed and morbid. My friends, at most, were interested in the music and occasionally the dress code.

Nowadays, I no longer identify as Goth, and no longer go into the clubs, but I still like the music and the style, I still have shaved and occasionally dyed hair, and I'm still depressed and morbid. My friends are roughly the same, also. I couldn't tell you what changed exactly, other than my decision no longer to identify as Goth.
From:ikcelaks
Date:July 6th, 2009 03:16 am (UTC)
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"Treat everyone as you wish to be treated."

Interesting. I wouldn't have guessed that she'd like the Golden Rule all that much, since it's guilty of making the very poor assumption that everyone has similar feelings on how they would like themselves to be treated.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:July 6th, 2009 03:22 am (UTC)
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How's that? Are you implying that some people want other people to be dicks to them?
From:ikcelaks
Date:July 6th, 2009 03:30 am (UTC)
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But, different people have different definitions of what it is to be a dick.

For instance, some people really enjoy being laughed at, and others do not. Different cultures also often have vastly differing views on rudeness and etiquette.

The point is that you really need to treat another person as they want to be treated, with in reason.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:July 6th, 2009 03:44 am (UTC)
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That's true. But you often have no way of knowing how someone else wants to be treated. The specific situations in the book aren't as grey as the full spectrum of human behavior allows, though. Most people don't want to have condescending remarks made about their clothing or be harangued about their job or be burned by a swaying cigarette. Basic politeness, which Jilli believes is more subversive for a Goth than scowling and delivering sarcastic retorts to the mundanes.
[User Picture]
From:sjester
Date:July 6th, 2009 09:01 am (UTC)
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The terms "babybat," "babygoth," and "gothling" are interchangeable. I wasn't aware there were any specific age delineations to the terms, but hey, perhaps I'm not all that far from babybat-dom myself. (Though I do tend to hang out with the ElderGoths in Burque.) It seems to me that they all refer to someone who is entering the subculture and is prone to making rookie mistakes (i.e. going to the DJ to request Sisters of Mercy, to use one of Jilli's own examples, when you haven't realized that the DJ just played Sisters of Mercy 10 minutes ago).

And as far as the template thing goes... I'm about as convinced on that point as other commenters. Like mina5643 said, goth is part of my identity, not all of it. I go to the goth club because I enjoy it, and I have lots of friends who hang out there too. My fashion sense tends to align with goth, mostly because I happen to think black suits me well (as does red and jewel tones), and I really like things like fishnets and corsets - not to try and fit in with anyone, but because they really appeal to me aesthetically, and I wear corsets incredibly well. (And don't get me started on giant platform boots...) I happen to like the music too, but it's not the only music I like. I don't think that "being goth" is any more or less comforting than having any group of friends who share common interests.

Anyway, the book sounds awesome and I definitely plan to pick up a copy.

Edited at 2009-07-06 09:03 am (UTC)
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:July 6th, 2009 03:03 pm (UTC)
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The terms "babybat," "babygoth," and "gothling" are interchangeable.
Well, that's confusing!

And as far as the template thing goes... I'm about as convinced on that point as other commenters.
Heh. And here I thought I was being insightful when, in fact, I appear to be...wrong. I probably didn't express myself properly; I had feelings about identity and being part of something but I guess I was too succinct.

Anyway, the book sounds awesome and I definitely plan to pick up a copy.
Yay! I didn't know you were gothy.
[User Picture]
From:sjester
Date:July 7th, 2009 01:36 am (UTC)
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Not any more confusing than any other set of synonyms, probably.

I can see the being part of something aspect. It is, in fact, nice to find other people who have similar aesthetic tastes as you, especially when most people don't.

Yeah. I'm embracing it more as time goes on.
[User Picture]
From:gchick
Date:July 6th, 2009 11:18 am (UTC)
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Ooh, if Jilli could lock up the asshole market, she'd never have to work again!
[User Picture]
From:shamoogity
Date:July 7th, 2009 03:45 am (UTC)
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This is a great review. It's probably not a book I would have looked twice at, not being goth, but you did a nice job of explaining why I should check it out anyway. I do know enough goths to know that they're rarely what you expect.

By the way, I went to a Hey Ocean concert last night and Gene Simmons was there! It was weird. Apparently he's thinking of signing them.
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:July 7th, 2009 04:09 am (UTC)
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This is a great review. It's probably not a book I would have looked twice at, not being goth, but you did a nice job of explaining why I should check it out anyway.
Yay! Thank you so much for saying that, as that was my intent.

By the way, I went to a Hey Ocean concert last night and Gene Simmons was there! It was weird. Apparently he's thinking of signing them.
Crazy!

Also: ICON!! *steals*
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
From:spectralbovine
Date:July 7th, 2009 06:22 am (UTC)
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Thank you SO MUCH for this review, sweetie! It's the first review I've seen from a non-Goth, so it was especially exciting for me.
Aw, yay, you're welcome! I thought it was important for me to get out the non-Goth perspective.

(P.S. Every now and then I would pet my copy and exclaim, "JILLI WROTE A BOOK!")

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