Coven Editor’s Letter August 2015: A Fangirl’s Notes

Hello there,

The theme this month at The Coven (incidentally, which rhymes with ‘oven’ – thus I have been pronouncing it wrong for years) is FANGIRL.

We’ve got a lot of great essays coming up this month on woman and pop culture and women in pop culture. We’ve got Karen Carpenter. We’ve got Edie Sedgwick. We’ve got Beyonce. We’re going to have a week devoted to Taylor Swift essays, that one woman grist factory for the mill that is feminist long form writing.

May God help us all.

When you think about female fandom, you may well think of the following – hysteria, obsession, crying, screaming, teenage girls and their tiny, tiny brains and their erotic One Direction fan fiction. “What are they thinking of?” you wonder, before you crack open another beer and get stuck into watching the Arsenal match. There’s just no accounting for taste, is there?

One of the most valuable aspects of being a Fangirl – of having a heavy, detailed, unrestrained love for a person or a body of work – is the sense of community that this love prods into being. People bond over interests. Friendships are forged stronger than Valyrian steel (and if I was a real Game of Thrones fangirl I would have known what Valyrian steel was instead of googling ‘Game of Thrones powerful forge’) in the fires of such loves. What you fangirl over is a reflection of yourself, and who could you love better than someone who loves just like you?

But enough of that.

Here is a list of people, places and things that I am a fan of.

1) Cheap Date

For those not well acquainted with this long gone ‘zine, Cheap Date was started by Kira Jolliffe and Bay Garnett in the ‘90s and I have seven out of the ten issues and don’t even think of asking to borrow them, ever. I bought a copy of their book, The Cheap Date Guide to Style, in 2008 when I turned twenty-one and it said everything that I was thinking back then about fashion and personal style. It felt so much a part of me, part of this primal period of growth and re-evaluation of self, that when I eventually met Bay last year, I’d told her that I had the book since I was a kid. This was patently wrong and must have been a bit confusing – not least for me when I went home and realised how fallible my memory is.

When you use ‘fangirl’ as a verb, it means to gush insensibly, but it’s hard not to gush when the people you admire are so nice. Last year, I was casually forced to organise a talk with Kira and Bay at my old university and they bought me a scone at a member’s club in Mayfair and gave me back issues of Cheap Date and were incredibly kind and encouraging and forthcoming. And I have everything on tape! So, yeah. I can fangirl with the best of them.

2. The prose and journals of Sylvia Plath.

A confession. I do not like the poetry of Plath. At best, I am just not well enough acquainted with contemporary poetry to appreciate it. At worst, I find it pretty boring. But The Bell Jar. My God. The tortuous subjectivity of protagonist Esther Greenwood, her meanness, her sharp observations, her inertia and self-loathing. No woman could be her but Plath, and yet Esther is all of us at our worst.

And Plath’s journals! No woman could stick her finger up her nose and come out with such a golden, literary booger.

Do you realize the illicit sensuous delight I get from picking my nose? I always have, ever since I was a child. There are so many subtle variations of sensation. A delicate, pointed-nailed fifth finger can catch under dry scabs and flakes of mucous in the nostril and draw them out to be looked at, crumbled between fingers, and flicked to the floor in minute crusts. Or a heavier, determined forefinger can reach up and smear down-and-out the soft, resilient, elastic greenish-yellow smallish blobs of mucous, roll them round and jellylike between thumb and forefinger, and spread them on the undersurface of a desk or chair where they will harden into organic crusts. How many desks and chairs have I thus secretively befouled since childhood? Or sometimes there will be blood mingled with the mucous: in dry brown scabs, or bright sudden wet red on the finger that scraped too rudely the nasal membranes. God, what sexual satisfaction!


3) Ghost World and 30 Rock

I have a theory that Ghost World is the true story of Liz Lemon’s teenage years and she was a lot cooler than she is letting on. At the end, when Enid gets on the bus to nowhere? She’s obviously going to join an improv comedy troupe in Chicago. Obviously.

(I have not worked out all the kinks of this theory yet.)

4) Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Because I too like kicking butt and taking names and the first three seasons are just the right length to watch while getting over a particularly violent bout of the flu.

There’s more, so much more. I like Adidas Gazelles and Battle Royale, I like the graphic novels of Alan Moore and deeply regret selling my complete run of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen books to A GUY WHO HASN’T EVEN READ THEM YET. And that was two years ago.

I like punk zines and Angela Carter. I like Delia Smith because she reminds me of my mother. I used to love Queens of the Stone Age and Interpol, but I faded away when my favourite band members left, as fangirls sometimes do. I fangirl over the work of Janet Malcolm, who as a journalist is so unsparing in her subject appraisals that she must be made of steel (Valyrian steel, maybe). And because I am a fan of these things and I don’t want to over-intellectualise them, I write this in a rush, with no checks for repetition or wonky syntax.

Who do you fangirl over? Email me at and we’ll share them in next week’s newsletter

I hope you enjoy this month’s essays,


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