Gothic Charm School is a nonfiction book about goth culture and manners. Jillian Venters, aka “the Lady of the Manners,” takes us through a ton of different aspects of what it means (and doesn’t mean) to be a goth. For those of us, like me, who love goth culture, this is a hilarious and fun read. For those who are trying to understand goth culture, it’s a helpful tool to clearing up misconceptions and promoting understanding. I absolutely adored it.
The Lady of the Manners is extremely funny. The book is laced with sarcasm and gentle ribbing. She regularly refers to us gothy readers as “snarklings” and every time certain words or phrases are used (Babybat, Secret Goth Cabal, Real Goth, Sexy Death Chick, Undead Creatures of the Night), they are typed in gothy font to immediately put a different stress on them (be it cynical or loving). There are illustrations (by Pete Venters) all throughout the book to complement the text.
Best thing the Lady of the Manners tries to teach: to always be polite, whether you’re a goth yourself or you’re talking with someone who is. Being polite, no matter who you are or who you are with, is a good thing. That includes when you’re on the internet!! (something so many people forget, as I’ve been privy to so much lately) Another great thing: goth is not a “stage” you “grow out of,” it’s a set of interests and aesthetics that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and all backgrounds. Other great things the book emphasized: there’s no such thing as not being goth enough; there’s not a checklist of things to complete or a level of gothiness you must attain to be a “real goth;” there are many different types of goth culture; and my personal favorite: friends don’t let friends dress like The Crow. *snort* That one really cracks me up, especially because I had…um…an acquaintance once who adored dressing as The Crow all the time to try to show how goth he was. 😀
There’s only one point in this book where I really disagreed with Ms. Venters (well two, but one was very minor). There’s a huge debate in the goth world on whether goth is primarily about fashion or music, and Ms. Venters is on the fashion side of the debate. I’m on the music side. Technically, I would be on the literature side of the argument except that I only started reading gothic literature recently. I’ve been listening to goth music since I was sixteen, so I’ll have to stick with music on this one.
(The minor quibble, if anyone cares, is about Marilyn Manson. I have not listened to his music from the last decade, but I don’t consider his 90s stuff “metal.” It was very industrial, bordering on goth-industrial. Perhaps Ms. Venters is referring to his later stuff when she calls his music “metal,” but the classification still felt odd and wrong to me. See? It’s a very minor quibble. And not really even about goth stuff!)
There’s definitely a limited market for this book, but it’s perfect for anyone interested in goth culture (by immersion, proximity, or just plain curiosity). I’ve been holding onto my library’s copy for a couple weeks now and it’s almost due back, but this is one that I know one day I just have to own. I loved it to pieces!!