I don't exactly recommend it, but I remembered enjoying elements of the two or three episodes that I watched of Girlboss. Yes, yes, the TV adaptation of Sophia Amoruso's book that was probably canceled as soon as it was released on Netflix in 2017. That’s the one. Stick with me here, I’ll get to why it came to mind in a moment.
What I liked about it was it captured how eBay transformed shopping in the aughts, which I haven't seen discussed as much as say, Napster to music. For a time, eBay was a cheat code: if you were patient enough and clever with search terms—anything you wanted, you could find eventually at a price within in your budget, it seemed.
And on the selling side, there were people making money—resellers like Amoruso, finding on-trend clothing in thrift stores. They would make the pieces look desirable on eBay with detailed listings and great photography with their most model-looking friends modeling. (Random thing I remember: you'd find storefronts like Nasty Gal not by searching for "vintage" but for "sienna" because Sienna Miller was THE fashion icon of the moment for her basic boho style. Typical listings would have a subject line like, "Vintage Faux-Calfskin Fringe Boots. sOooo SiEnNa!!!”)
I don't care about the building the girlboss empire stuff, but wow, do I miss when eBay was good. In 2006 — when the show begins — I was living in a group house, sleeping on whatever bed the previous tenant had left. Beside me were stacks of thrift store sci-fi novels. (I vividly recall having to cut mildew off the sides of two Thomas Disch paperbacks that I hadn't read yet because I knew I was unlikely to find those books again). Years later I would learn that Jeremy Hammond was one of my roommates but that I don't remember him at all—that there were roommates I didn't even know—says everything about my living situation at the time.
And despite this, I had Prada shoes in my closet, Narciso Rodriguez dresses, Gucci bags. (I hate that this sentence makes me sound materialistic but these were things I searched for and found). That’s what was hanging in the closet in my room in my shitty group house. I was struck by the craftsmanship of the pieces, the quality of the fabrics and the full-grain leather. I regularly wore outfits that retailed for what could have covered a year's worth of my rent. The spoils of eBay tricks: saving searches for a designer's name spelled wrong (“narscisco”), getting broken things — broken zippers that could easily be fixed, stains that could be hidden with a new hemline, etc. And if I didn't like the clothing that came in the mail, or if I got tired of it: I'd take better photos of it, write better copy for a listing, and sell it for more than I paid for (never could-make-a-living-off-this money, but, go-out-to-eat-several-times-a-month money).
It never occurred to me that reselling would scale—that seemingly thousands of people would try to build their own Nasty Gal types of empires. Thrift stores are just about useless now. Prices are jacked up for the Poshmark and Mercari resellers and the inventory is likely already clogged up with fast fashion Shein garbage, even Goodwill scans donations for good stuff it can put up on its own auction sites.
This is not the end of the world. Not in the least. But, yeah I really wish for women in their twenties making minimum wage to find a $3,000 dress for a couple bucks every once in a while, like I did then.
I finally found a good bookcase. That’s the second bookcase that has stood in this spot in my place in as many months. It’s a long story, so I’ll save it for the end.
Right now I am reading Money. In April, I had a library hold on the novel. Someone mentioned it to me in conversation and I thought, hmm...Martin Amis. He's fallen out of fashion, might be a good time to read him. I let my library hold lapse because other things had come up and by the time I remembered, he'd passed and there was a queue for it. That day, I got the last copy off Alibris. Surprised it’s out of print. Guess Amis really has fallen out of fashion.
I like it with perhaps even more reservations than I have for Girlboss. The story goes: what if a guy who sucks did not shut up and it was somehow entertaining. Oh, yeah, I’ve heard that one before too. But really, it’s okay. So far, at least.
It's taking me forever to read because I can only take about twenty pages at a time. I hate to be in this man's headspace for too long. It’s bleak and deficient in the self-loathing that ordinarily tempers an egotistical narrator. I have no empathy for this man at all. And yet I want to make it to the end. I see the Ballard influence on Amis (feeling alienated in the modern age) and I get from it what I had hoped to get from the Patrick Melrose novels (which struck me as minor—irritable rather than irreverent; too materially comfortable for wit that drives the knife in). This is the ravings of an unpleasant person at his lowest and brazenly despicable. It’s an interesting book and I’ll be glad when it’s done.
Now the bookcase…bookcases.
Let me tell you about my bookcase woes. These bookcases .... * Jennifer Coolidge voice*....are trying to murder me!!
I needed a bookcase for my new place. Don’t tell me about Billys. They are made of paper now and will inevitably topple over in an earthquake and kill me (yes, despite being made of paper). I needed a non-Billy bookcase and spent weeks searching for variations of “Oak bookcase” “Amish bookshelf” … on Facebook #$!@*&#! Marketplace.
Finally, I found a bookcase at a good price. I went to inspect it in person, it looked hefty—very midcentury grandfather’s study. Perfect, I thought. The sellers delivered it and within minutes my air purifier started going nuts and my allergies were acting up. The bookcase smelled dusty and vintage, like, musty in a sweetish way but not bad. I cleaned it with Murphy’s soap, washed it down with a vinegar rinse and everything else I read to do online. I removed all the shelves, and carried it — all 70 inches, about as tall as me — and put it on my porch to catch some sun and air out. And once the bookcase was outside, I felt so much healthier in my apartment. My throat wasn’t tickling anymore. I wasn’t sneezing, my eyes weren’t itchy. Inspecting the bookcase again, I realized the grime was mold and that the particle board the oak was veneered on was disintegrating because, it turns out, particle board is basically a sponge made of wood and glue and if it gets wet it stays moldy and mildewy forever. I remembered how the sellers took me to a dark garage to see the bookcase, and how, when they delivered it, they took their N95 masks off not when they left my place but after they put the bookcase down in my apartment. Welp, guess I got scammed.
The thing with bookcases is, they are big and heavy and a pain to move in or out. But I knew I had to get rid of this one, because I kept panicking that I’m going to get copies of my next book (more on that soonish) and if I put them on the moldy bookcase, the books—my books, written by me, a v very important authoress!!—would get moldy and maybe I wouldn’t even realize it. But what if I sent one of my books out….to somebody very important and…the book, in the mailer, sent media mail….got all moldy and arrived in that state. And that someone…opened my book… covered in mold!!!!!!!! (Sorry, guess this is the un-interesting part. All the intrusive thoughts I had in the space between discovering my bookcase was poisonous and not disposing of it yet). In the end, I put it up for free on Facebook Marketplace with detailed photos and some hardcore DIYer picked it up.
This left me bookcase-less.
The situation lit a fire in me. I did what I always do when I feel like I've been shown up: I obsessively studied the subject so it won't ever happen again. I spent what felt like years watching videos about types of woods, types of finishes, and furniture restoration (like this guy). I thought about taking woodworking classes but I’ve been taking pottery classes and my pottery keeps ending up with holes and all asymmetrical. And I thought well, what is the woodworking equivalent of fucking up and getting a hole in your pottery pot? Hmm…woodworking is probably not a good hobby for me, no.
I read countless Reddit threads about wood furniture and discovered the strangest of strangest people there — some guy whose entire posting identity is reminding people that This End Up is still in business. So then I just got lost down another rabbit hole looking at This End Up and vintage This End Up. And yes, I thought, this is probably a decent-ish solid wood bookcase but I couldn't get over the asshole hackysack philosophy major dorm-room early 90s aesthetic. If David Foster Wallace was a bookcase....I just know David Foster Wallace must have had a whole houseful of This End Up!
I expanded the scope of my studies to read about furniture in general, which has lead me to better appreciate set details from films I love, like that Rachel sits in a Charles Rennie Mackintosh Argyle chair in Blade Runner (Wow!)
Consequently, I have (newly) informed bookcase opinions. Here are some of them:
I believe the best bookcases —bang for buck-wise— are Amish-made, but oh, it turns out many in the Amish community are not good people. No, no. They don't just make bookcases but puppymills. Imagine learning that after spending thousands on a very well crafted cherry wood bedroom set. The poor puppies!
I believe that plywood is often a better material for a bookcase than "solid wood" if by solid wood someone means regular pine (and not “southern yellow pine.”)
More bookcase opinions from me: I think shelves with doors at the bottom are useful for authors because then you can store a bunch of your own books in there without having to look at them. Glass doors/barrister bookcases are also good if you have dust allergies or simply do not like dusting.
Finally, I got to the point where I think I can tell the difference between maple wood or poplar (like next-level wood familiarity). And finally, I felt informed enough to make an informed purchase. I went to a furniture store that’s been in business for a hundred years and got the marked down floor model of a Mission-style non-Amish but Amish-like REAL OAK WOOD 84 inch tall bookcase. Yes, it was still a lot of money but I will guard this bookcase with my life. It will never end up in a landfill!! Nevertheless, this second bookcase also, surprisingly, made me sick. Despite having been on the floor, it was off-gassing in my apartment like crazy the first few weeks. (You just can’t win—with old furniture, there’s the risk of mold and mites, and new stuff comes with VOCs.). The first night with Bookcase 2, I really thought that was it for me…I needed to decide: a bookcase or my health? Anyway, it seems to have mostly aired out by now.
More bookcase opinions:
Spine bookcase, I thought I hated. In photographs, I thought they looked too clever, too industrial and design-y and like you might as well just stack from the floor. But I found someone on OfferUp selling a DWR Story bookcase for a song and now I'm a convert. I want the planter now. It saves so much space.
That’s two bookcases in my little new place! More shelves than books, at least for now, with most of my books still in storage.
Oh, and the Story also solves the issue of transporting a bookcase — the whole thing can be dis/assembled with an Allen wrench. I knew someone must have written an ode to vertical bookcases by now. I did not expect that person to be Christopher Hitchens (and for City Journal??) But he was a mega-fan and if you look, you’ll find a bunch of photos of him posing all serious author-style with Sapien bookcases. Okay, well, he was right about *exactly one thing*.
Once I get a million things done this week, this is what I'm reading next. Look at that cover of Hospital Ship: Jesus and a dozen lads named Jez (I don’t know if any of them are actually named Jez but there’s definitely gotta be a "Euan" among them.) And that Rucker cover!!
Thanks for reading.