I wrote down everything I read and began writing my own first novel...

This blog aimed to contrast what I was reading in in 1975-79 with the same month, week and day, 30 years later in 2005-2009. I'm leaving the blog up in archive mode, blogging in real time on Live Journal--and still writing novels.

Lynne Murray's Live Journal and Bride of the Dead Blog

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Footwear and gender issues in vampire books

April 24-27, 1975
Nothing listed, so maybe I wasn't reading much in that time period.

April 24-27, 2005 I read:

Necroscope III: the Source, Brian Lumley

I don't know how other readers or writers, or book people categorize books, but sometimes I divide them into "boy books" and "girl books" because the target audience is pretty clear.

Women will read often books primarily aimed at men. I know some women who grew up reading both The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew mysteries, but I've yet to meet a man who has read Louisa May Alcott's Little Women.

Necroscope III is a boy book. Espionage thriller stuff, supplemented with fighting, gory, slimy, scary monsters. Lots of explanation of machines and how gateways into other dimensions might work--including diagrams!

Another strong indication that a book has a male target audience is when all the women are beautiful, sexy and available, the male protagonists see them mainly as once or future sex objects, and are always having to protect them from being ravished by the bad guys.

There wasn't much humor in this book. I'm not counting the unintentional--e.g., I laughed at the hero's dead mother going on about how he hadn't "called" lately and all the dead people were rooting for him... I don't have space to totally explain, but briefly, the hero's special gift is communicating with dead people, his mother is dead, but she's not done fussing. I can kind of relate to this. The closest thing to laughter was the bad guys [evil laugh] kind of sneering at the good guys just before a fight. That doesn't really count for me as humor.

I had to contrast this "boy vampire book" with the "girl vampire book" I read several days ago. Undead and Unwed, tested my patience severely with the heroine's obsession with designer shoes. If the author hadn't managed to be genuinely funny about it, I would have stopped reading.

But then I never managed to get the whole high heels thing. Working as a receptionist and official "foot bath person" for a podiatrist for a few months when I was in school really sealed my fate as a comfortable shoe person. The prettier the shoe, the more damaged the foot. Forget it.

Margaret Mead once said something to the effect that a man never has enough tools and a woman never has enough shoes, and that remark seems to fit into the "boy/girl" categories I outlined above.

Suffice it to say, no one in Necroscope III: The Source pays much attention to footwear, except when hiking over razor-sharp rocks to get away from the bad guys. And come to think of it, it's the female character who brings up the whole footwear issue. Hmmm, Margaret Mead may be onto something. The tools in Necroscope, etc., however--usually weapons--were lovingly described.

I confess that, not having to fight off vampires, and being only minimally handy, I probably couldn't use any more tools than I now have. And yes, I wouldn't mind having more shoes--but comfy shoes! As one of my more fashion-conscious co-workers put it, "Your shoes are so. . . aggressively comfortable!"

Don't get me started on the stiletto heels in Hamilton's Anita Blake vampire books.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Fantasy and humor

Orange Notebook

April 15-23, 1975 - nothing listed in the notebook. I must have been preoccupied with actual life.

April 15-23, 2005
A Monstrous Regiment, Terry Pratchett
This book follows the adventures of Polly Perks, who cuts off her hair and disguises herself as a man to enlist in the Borogravian army and find her missing brother. Borogravia follows an insanely fanatical religious, and when the government is not harassing its own citizens for violating an encyclopedic list of "Abominations," the nation is continually attacking its neighbors. This war is not going well, and recruitment goals are so far from being met that very few questions are asked. Some of Polly's fellow recruits include a vampire, a troll, a religious fanatic, a sort of "Frankenstein's assistant" called Igor, and two recruits who stick uncommonly close together at all times.

Terry Pratchett's Diskworld series is amazing to me in that he manages to be satirical, laugh-out-loud funny, and profoundly thoughtful. He deftly tells the story, entertains, and offers insights on subjects such as war, religious faith, gender, death and lies. Something about reading Pratchett makes me wonder about humor in horror. He's more in the fantasy line--he has monstrous character such as vampires, but like all the other characters they are played for laughs rather than fear. But he's set me thinking. . .

Saturday, April 16, 2005

From the Occult '70s to the Time Traveling Present

April 12 to 23, 1975 I read:

Occult America, John Godwin

I had no recollection of this book, which evidently was the only one I read until around May 23 during this period. (So the next few weeks entries will be all 2005, it looks like--but I digress) I looked it up and found: OCCULT AMERICA, By John Godwin; 1972, Doubleday & Company, Inc.

Online at the Church of Satan's web site I found an amusing excerpt of Godwin's meeting with Anton LaVey in his San Francisco Church of Satan headquarters. He starts this chapter by saying--

All you have to do is ring a certain San Francisco telephone number and wait until a chirpy secretarial voice at the other end says, “Good morning, Church of Satan.” It is, let’s face it, a wee bit anticlimactic.

The Church was founded in 1966 by Chicago-born Anton Szandor LaVey, whose exotic names derive from Romanian, Alsatian and Georgian ancestry. He got off to a rather creaky start when—in order to raise support for his movement—he staged some embarrassingly naïve nightclub rituals involving topless witches and a bikini-clad “inquisitioner”; allegedly a former counselor for Billy Graham.

Godwin was irreverent and had a reportorial eye for hype, so I probably enjoyed the book.

Some people are frightened or threatened when young people explore fringe ideas. But I think that fear doesn't stop the people doing the exploring. I suspect that people who feel threatened are looking through the lens of their own religion, and fearing ideas that don't have an official stamp of approval. I've been a religious fanatic, and I know that mindset well.

In fact, one reason I was exploring books out on the fringe reality in 1975 was looking for boundaries. I was hitting my head against the wall--sometimes literally--trying to get my brain working again after a seven-year fanatical interlude. I wasn't looking for a different religion--Buddhism had saved my life before and was continuing to do so--still does so to this day. But back then I was sifting out how to be a Buddhist without being a fanatic.

The Occult America book was not a particularly dark or scary one. From the excerpt, it seems to have been more of a reporter shaking his head at human folly. The English do that so well.

April 12-15, 2005, I read:

Lost in a Good Book, Jasper Fforde
Speaking of the English doing things well, this is the sequel to The Eyre Affair. It moves a little slower, but there are action sequences. I truly savored the whimsical Alice in Wonderland alternate universe Fforde has created, where the heroine Thursday Next could genetically engineer her own dodo from an over-the- counter kit, small groups of reengineered wooly mammoths migrate north to south across England to the delight of tourists, and the occasional Hispano-Suiza motorcar is dropped on our heroine's picnic blanket from a passing hot air balloon freighter.

Time is out of joint and in order to put it right, our heroine has to go voyaging through it, also through a breathtaking library in another dimension that contains all the books written, or even imagined. Sigh. I was, of course, captivated, tending as I do to watch My Fair Lady repeatedly in order to examine the Professor Higgins library more closely. I think I would like to live there.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Bodyworkers, murderous healers and more vampires

April 10, 1975 I read:

Bodies in Revolt (Thomas Hanna) for the second time

Even though I read it twice circa '75, I had no recollection of this book. I went and looked it up online and found it was all about somatics, and Hanna was evidently a charismatic explorer and teacher of bodywork--which probably explains why I read it twice. I'm a sucker for charisma. Hanna lived and died (in 1990) not far from me here in Northern California. I found this quote and an appreciation of him on http://somatics.org/somaticscenter/library/bea-passing.html

“Life can be seen lucidly only against the supporting background of non-life; I cannot see myself without seeing us; and we cannot see ourselves as a species without seeing the gyrating whole of the cosmos.”

Yet for Tom, even the “vision that is whole” remains incomplete if it is not translated into the realm of action and experience, as we can see in these lines from “Zero” (2,3):

“I believe that wisdom is not discovered by knowing the truth but by living it. Unless it is lived it is humanly worthless.”

April 10-12, 2005, I read:

Cruel and Unusual Intuition, Claire Daniels
In the interests of full disclosure I should say that Claire Daniels is my close friend, Jaqueline Girdner. But, her New Age mystery about a murder at an intensive workshop for healers might possibly have amused Thomas Hanna--who seems to have a been a prototype for the kind of healing Jaki is writing about. Although maybe you have to be a mystery fiend to realize that throwing a murder in spices up the healing so very much! Jaki/Claire's books always make me laugh out loud, which makes them a treat to read.

Bride of the Fat White Vampire, Andrew Fox
Another one of the many flavors of vampire--set in New Orleans, but much richer fare (and funnier) than Anne Rice. This sequel was even more fun for me than Fox's first--Fat White Vampire Blues. I've reviewed these on my website if you want more info, and I put a link to his web page. He's got a lot of improvisation on old horror movie themes in this book, and if I knew more about comic book horror, I'm sure I would have been able to see stuff from them also.

Reading material-wise, I notice that I seem to be getting more frivolous as the years go on. This works for me. Although I've always had a strong frivolous streak, I'm just getting more and more confident about letting it out to play.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Diagrams and vampires

April 1975 around April 5-9 I tried to read:

Total Man, Stan Gooch

I noted that I didn't finish it. I have no recollection of this book, so I just went and looked it up on the web. Still no recollection, but if the web explanations were like the book I can see why I bailed back then. Diagrams of psychological concepts. I like the concepts, but the diagrams don't help me understand them--particularly when they are lists. Aiiii, the only lists I like are shopping lists and I don't always follow those.

April 5-9, 2005, I read:

Undead and Unwed, MaryJanice Davidson

Vampire chick lit, well--actually it was vampire romance with attitude, and in this case a vampire with a major addiction to designer footwear. It was an amusing read. I don't know if this kind of humorous romance existed in 1975, but if so I wasn't reading them--certainly there were no humorous vampire romances!. I recently re-read Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire and remembered everything I'd liked about it back when I first read it. I also noticed the purple prose that would eventually spread in some of her later books to take on a life of its own. Comparing Interview with the Vampire with Unwed and Undead is kind of like comparing heavy, smoky incense with a scented candle.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Arriving at April

Now that I've caught up to April 1975, I reached a place where I didn't read quite so much (I shudder to think what I was doing back then that got in the way of my reading. Most likely it involved alcohol.)

Around April 1-4, 1975, I read:

Flying Saucers, C. G. Jung

This book had a profound impact on me. I've been a fan of Jung ever since 1968, when one of the very few things I read in that year crammed with incident was Jung's Foreword to The I Ching, or Book of Changes. I read it several times and it was well worth it. Flying Saucers shows Jung again, as the objective student of human behavior studying a phenomenon without judging it.

I may end up reading more this year than 30 years ago. April 1-4, 2005, I read

Mystic River, Dennis Lehane

I had heard this book was brilliant, and I'm reading it later than everyone in the world (it seems) because the subject matter was so dark--beginning with a child abduction. Usually I wouldn't touch that theme at all, period. Life is too short for me to depress myself that way. But Dennis Lehane is a spellbinding storyteller, his narrative moves on such an almost lyrical undercurrent. He weaves narrative hooks into his characters' voices together so masterfully, that it was a wonderful experience in the same sense that a beautiful song can turn tragedy into pleasure. Unlike other beautifully written, depressing books where innocents get trashed (The White Hotel and Ironweed come to mind--you couldn't pay me enough to read those books again) the characters in Mystic River were all so screwed up from the get-go that there was a kind of distancing from them. This made it possible, for me at least, to keep turning pages and not to get too upset when fate caught up with them.

Monday, April 04, 2005

beadwork (also fiction) as a spectator sport

March 16-31, 1975, I read:

Native Funk and Flash (I have Scrimshaw listed as author, but that may be the press. I remember this as a beautiful, sort of funky, folky book about putting beading on blue jeans. Something so far beyond my uncrafty self that it might as well have taken place on the moon. But the pictures were cool.)

Natural Magic (Black Watch is what I listed as author, but that's probably the press here too.)

Killers of the Mind, Lucy Freeman, ed.

Of men and plants: The autobiography of the world's most famous plant healer,
Maurice Mességué

Clearly I was going through a "back to my hippie roots" phase there - gazing at beadwork, talking to plants, a little psychopathology on the side...oops!

In contrast March 16-31, 2005 I read:

The Full Cupboard of Life: More from the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, Alexander McCall Smith

The Sunday Philosophy Club : An Isabel Dalhousie Mystery, Alexander McCall Smith

I've loved the No. I Ladies' Detective Agency mysteries, with their "traditionally" built heroine Precious Ramotswe, who runs a detective agency in Gabrone, Botswana. I don't know if it was the colder climate or a dozen other factors I could name, but I had major trouble warming up to the Isabel Dalhousie mystery. The heroine is a philosopher-academic who is isolated socially and emotionally from the mainstream of life (geeze! You'd think I could relate to that!) The setting is in Edinburgh, Scotland. The whole thing moved a lot slower and I had trouble staying engaged with it--even though there was an actual murder on the first page. Paradoxically, the Precious Ramotswe mysteries rarely have a murder at all, but the stories with their little puzzles draw the reader right along!

Sunday, April 03, 2005

self improvement, and failing that, laughter...okay, laughter either way

March 1-15, 1975, I was reading:

The Past Through Tomorrow, Robert Heinlein
The Short Stories of Saki, H.H. Munro
Seduction and Betrayal, Women and Literature, Elizabeth Hardwick
W.C. Fields and Me, Carlotta Monti & Cy Rice

Helping Yourself with Self-Hypnosis (I neglected to note the author--not sure whether I helped myself with this book!)

It's all Arranged, 15 Hours in the life of a Psychiatrist, Campbell

Dossier, the Secret Files they keep on you, Neier
The more things change, the more they stay the same, eh?

March 1-15, 2005, I read:

Dave Barry Hits Below the Beltway, Dave Barry

Dave Barry makes me laugh out loud repeatedly--this is worth infinitely more than the price of admission. My neighbor pointed out that this is a book probably published in early 2001, pre-911. But his insights on politics are just as funny now as then--and I needed to laugh.

Seven Strategies in Every Best-Seller: A 186-Page Guide to Extraordinarily Successful Writing, Tam Mossman

This book put into words concepts that most authors learn over decades--e.g., start the action as late as possible. It also resolved the mystery of why so many protagonists are orphans--I'd never thought of that, but I accept his explanation, and I had to laugh at the cute scene with:
...widow, Martha Wayne (having survived the bullets that killed her husband, Thomas) [having] a heart-to-heart with her son, Bruce: "I just know that batcowl restricts your vision. And keeping all those toxic chemicals in your utility belt--is that wise?"
(Seven Strategies , etc., p. 61)

Frankly I don't know if reading Mossman's book will create best-selling writing, but I'm willing to test it out and let you know.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

radical cookbooks, ideas & fiction of the salted peanuts variety

February 16-28, 1975

Angela Davis: An Autobiography

Like some other readers of this book, the shoe store scene sticks in my head--where as a young woman she and other young African American women went into a shoe store in the segregated south in the 1950s, spoke only French to the owners and were cordially received as foreigners--until they revealed that they were local African-Americans--not exotic French tourists. It reminds me of a Maya Angelou passage where she talks about being cordially received as a black American in France, and seeing black Algerians be rejected by the same people. Sigh...

The other Angela Davis story I have is really an Adelle Davis story. For years the only cookbook I had was Let's Cook It Right by Adelle Davis, a gift from my health nut grandmother. As a student, I rented a room from Mrs. P., an elderly, very conservative, very Caucasian lady--whose living room furniture consisted of a large armchair strategically placed in front of a large television set. She watched a lot of news and she knew that Angela Davis was in jail at that point. When Mrs. P. saw me using the Adelle Davis cookbook she commented that "she probably doesn't get to cook much WHERE SHE IS NOW." Of course, Mrs. P. might have been referring to Adelle Davis being dead, but I think she actually believed that noted black revolutionary Angela Davis had written a cookbook--which I, as a crazed radical student was using!

Play it as It Lays, Joan Didion
Dead Cert, Dick Francis
Nerve, Dick Francis
Odds Against, Dick Francis
Slayride, Dick Francis
Bonecrack, Dick Francis

Dick Francis is like salted peanuts as far as stopping goes

Yoga, Youth and Reincarnation, Jess Stern
Re-reading for about the tenth a book that I had first encountered as a teenager

The Essential Lenny Bruce, (John Cohen, ed.)
Selected Poems, Paul Verlaine (Trans. C.F. McIntyre)
Tales of Terror and the Supernatural, Wilkie Collins
Asian Laughter, An Anthology of Oriental Satire and Humor (Leonard Feinberg, ed.)

February 17-28, 2005:

Can't Buy My Love: How Advertising Changes the Way We Think and Feel, Mary Pipher (Foreword), Jean Kilbourne

This book was fascinating, and horrifying! My 1974 self would have been depressed by how far into our guts advertisers have been able to reach to manipulate us for profit

Bloody Bones (Anita Blake Vampire Hunter, Laurell K. Hamilton

After writing a vampire book, I wanted to go back and re-read an old favorite--I promise when I get the links together, I'll put a link to her blog--which is interesting.

Friday, April 01, 2005

When browsing meant bookshelves

Ah, 1975, there was no Internet--okay, so there was an Arpanet for academics and dept. of defense people, but that didn't count for clerically employed students like myself. But the libraries were free....

Getting closer to the current month - February 1-15, 1975 I read:

The Liberated Man, Warren Farrell
I noted that I didn't finish this book--I also hadn't met any liberated men at that point, and I didn't know anyone else who had--this was a hot topic back then--among women.

Two Views of Wonder, Ed Scortia and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro (ed.)

Me and the Orgone, Orson Bean
My recollection was that he actually took part in the physical therapy called rolfing. Hearing his experience did not tempt me to try. There's a lot to say about that wild and crazy guy, Wilhelm Reich, "father of the orgone" but I can only offer an opinion from a distance, and I guess I just did.

Marilyn, Norman Mailer
This was such a beautiful book because of the pictures of the incomparable Monroe. I also confess a weakness for the prose of Norman Mailer. No one said genius had to be mentally healthy. . . as a matter of fact. . .

February 1-15, 2005, on the 11th, I finally completed that vampire book (whew!) and mailed it off to my agent. During the post-manuscript-mailing recuperation period, I my hands on:

The Good, the Bad and the Undead, Kim Harrison
I liked the first book in this series, Dead Witch Walking, and this second one did not disappoint. I'd quibble a little bit about the heroine being a knee-jerk, loose cannon for the sake of plot tension. She did tend to say stuff like, "I'll go up in that haunted attic with the monsters because I damn well want to, and nobody's going to stop me!" But that didn't spoil the fun for me--just mentioning is all. . .