Monday, 23 January 2012

McSweeney's 39

Issue 39 of the fantastic literary quarterly McSweeney's has finally arrived! My favourite thing so far is a letter from one of the readers featured on page 9 which is a sweet and witty insight into what being a teenager in England could probably feel like. Aww... it makes me feel just a tad nostalgic...;)

Dear McSweeneys',
The Twilight books have ruined my life. They've cast a light onto my own sad existence; not a soft, comforting twilight, but a bright yellow fluorescent light that illuminates my blemishes. Before, I was happy to kiss boys because they were funny, clever, or didn't spit when they spoke. Now my standards have changed.
My friends just think it's funny. They keep teasing me for fancying the anaemic boy from school: "Ooh, Elisabeth, here's a bright red apple, why don't you take it to Charlie and talk to him about forbidden love? I think he's in the nurses' office because he didn't have any protein at lunch." I know it's a teenage cliche to say "Nobody understands me," but seriously, nobody understands me.
Like Bella, the female protagonist of the Twilight books, I moved to a new town last year, and just like Forks, where Bella lives, it's really rainy. (Although, to be honest, most towns in England are rainy.) But this place has rain that's heavy and leaves the air moist and thick; rain that feels ominous and fantastical, you know? I also live with my dad, like Bella, although he isn't a surly police officer. He works in advertising. And the idea that I would cook him dinner each night because he can't look after himself is laughable. That's what he's marrying Carol for.
Recently, anyway, this boy called Simon asked me to the cinema. He's nice and always has gum, but what's the point? His mum's definitely not beautiful enough to be immortal. She wears saggy beige Ugg boots and gets her hair dyed ginger by a man who calls himself Giorgio but definitely isn't Italian. I guess maybe if Simon got a tan he might look like Jacob Black, the werewolf, but Jacob Black always has his shirt off and Simon has to wear a vest in PE because of his pigeon chest.
When I say stuff to my friends, they joke that I need therapy. Do you think I need therapy? What would I say to the therapist? "I'm depressed that when a boy I like walks into the sunlight, his skin isn't going to sparkle"?
I was thinking about all this on Wednesday, when I cut my hand. Not on purpose; I was cutting a carrot for dinner - I'm on this sort of intense diet - and my finger started bleeding. I remembered this thing my gran had said about how your own saliva is the best way to clot blood, so I put my finger in my mouth. And suddenly, there it was. The taste.
It was warm and salty, just like Stephanie Meyer said it would be in the books. I know it's silly, but I found it kind of exciting.
After about five minutes the blood stopped coming, and I didn't think of it again until a few days ago. I was in the house on my own and I just started craving that taste again. I know I'm not a vampire, because you can't turn yourself into one just by tasting your own blood, otherwise everyone who ever cut themselves would now be a vampire, which they're not. But maybe it doesn't happen like that? Maybe the vampire urge was always in me, inert and waiting for the right moment to erupt? Like racism?
Yesterday I googled "real-life vampire" and found this woman who who says her name is Redangel. She lives in Cornwall, and she says she has a contact at the hospital who gets her all her blood. "It's not ideal, but at least I know it's clean," she writes. She says she's not sensitive to light, the way vampires are, but she's definitely "more of a night owl." She wants me to visit her and her friends over the summer, but I'm not sure I should. Carol would totally freak out.
Maybe it's my parents' fault for splitting up when I was young. That and the fact they took me to Disney World repeatedly when I was a child and highly impressionable. It's completely ruined real life for me. I look out the window at my stupid street in my stupid town in this stupid country and I think, There must be something more. The idea of spending the rest of my days with nothing fantastical ever happening makes me so depressed I sometimes stay in bed for a whole day. Carol says it's just growing pains, and rubs my back in a way that she probably thinks is comforting and maternal. But it's not, it's just creepy.
Elisabeth Sankey, London


  1. Nostalgic for the imagined angst of a British teenager? Or do you see yourself in the awkwardness of the (putative) teen author of the letter?

    Perhaps I am too cynical, but I find that I cannot really relate to the story the letter portrays... There are plenty of angsty teen stories that I can, and do, relate to. But not this one. Maybe its a girl thing.

  2. I think this is not a true angst story but a mock one:) I like the over-dramatic (hence grotesque, hence self-depricating) self indulgence. I did relate to the dissapointment at the fact that magic doesn't exist, the brutal realisation that I will never have the kind of adventures I read about.
    I also like how well she manages to paint the people she mentions with just a few words. I think she's witty:)