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

Saturday, July 30, 2005

The amazing Princess Bride and dinosaur cults in Hawaii

July 29, 1975 read:

The Princess Bride, "by S. Morgenstern" and William Goldman

My note on this title is "sigh" I adored this book. Some books you remember everything about them. I vividly recall the shelf in the news stand style bookstore in Honolulu where I found this book. I went exploring while all the other Buddhists were having a cultural performance of some sort. If I'd been feeling guilty it would have been a guilty pleasure. But I what I was feeling was rebellious. And the first fruit of my own personal declaration of independence was to find this wonderful, magical book.

I sighed after reading it because I enjoyed it so much and it was far beyond what I could imagine writing myself. The modern twists and turns in the story that frames the fairy tale, and delightful flights of fantasy and adventure within it--Cliffs of Insanity, the Rodents of Unusual Size, swordplay and true love. It's all there and the wit flows like wine. Way before the film was made, the watchword among aficionados of the book was, "My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."

Great stuff.

July 29-30, 2005 I read:

Casual Rex, A Detective Story, Eric Garcia

This is the second in this series introducing undercover Velociraptor and private detective Vincent Rubio. Coincidentally, Vincent's case takes him to Hawaii tracking a victim of a cult. Hmm. Cults in Hawaii. Not going there just now thank you very much. I've already been.

Garcia's first was dino detective book was Casual Rex, and I think there's third one out now called Hot and Sweaty Rex. Sort of Raymond Chandler meets Jurassic Park, although I'm not sure what Chandler would have made of the human-disguised, cross-dressing dinosaurs. A fun read.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The Hawaii to Yorkshire to Los Angeles Express

July 22-25, 1975, no books listed.

A fellow Hawaii convention of 1975 survivor informs me that July 22-29, 1975 we were in Honolulu. One major accomplishment of the convention for me was finishing Michener's Hawaii, and evidently there was an epidemic of reading that book among convention goers. In Honolulu, I found a book that I've adored ever since, but I'll talk about that next time!

July 18-25, 2005 I read:

Dialogues of the Dead, Reginald Hill

This is a mystery featuring the Yorkshire-based detectives, Chief Superintendent Andy Dalziel (often referred to as "the Fat Man") and DS Peter Pascoe. Definitely a size friendly book, because of the respect Fat Andy Dalziel demands. There's a very generous supply of locker room and barracks banter, but this must be one of the few police procedurals where the Oxford English Dictionary features so importantly in the plot! Hill knows how to tell a story--this is the 19th in this series, and I think there have been a few more since it originally came out. This book had an interesting variation on the double and triple twist ending.

A Playdate with Death, Ayelet Waldman

Very different from the Yorkshire police locker room! Waldman's "mommy track" mystery series, set in Southern California, features Juliet Applebaum, a former lawyer turned stay-at-home mother of two young children. In this book, the death of Juliet's personal trainer seems to have been a suicide but might have been murder. Juliet investigates, and finds a twisted trail of closed adoption, covert anti-Semitism and family secrets. There were some laugh-out-loud moments in the book, which I always enjoy.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

haunted mysteries and historical horror

July 14 to 17, 1975, no entry - maybe I was still chipping away at Michener’s Hawaii, in anticipation of actually going there that month.

July 14 to 17, 2005, I read:

No Man Standing, Barbara Seranella

This is the fifth in the Munch Mancini series wherein the former biker chick and recovering addict protagonist solves a mystery and copes with the ghosts of her past. Excellent writing, and the heroine’s grit makes her human and understandable. The previous four books are No Human Involved, No Offense Intended, Unwanted Company and Unfinished Business. There’s a sixth, Unpaid Dues, and a seventh, Unwilling Accomplice, just out, but I don’t have my hands on those.

The Colour Out of Space, Tales of Horror by Lovecraft, Blackwood, Machen, Poe, and Other Masters of the Weird, selected by D. Thin, New York Review of Books

These are the venerable masters of the weird--and I can’t resist being naughty and pointing out that none of these stories are protected by copyright, which makes them much cheaper to anthologize. If one is not used to the florid verbiage of bye gone storytelling, one might be impatient with these masters. This one was.

However, I’ve been going through some Lovecraft nostalgia. One of the things I did in Hawaii in July 1975, was to play hooky from the Buddhist convention to watch on The Dunwich Horror (with Sandra Dee!) on TV in the hotel room. Amazing. Younger readers will find it hard to imagine, but I actually did not own a TV, so this was a special treat for me.

The Masters of the Wierd anthology had some good stories, specifically the title story. I wouldn’t recommend the gratuitous sadistic cat slaughter in Bram Stoker’s The Squaw, which is also horribly contrived--the minute the iron maiden torture device is mentioned, you know the author’s going to turn twist the narrative into a pretzel to get a character in there. I sort of wanted O. Henry to come in and shake his finger at Stoker for this.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Reality, fiction, emotion

July 11, 1975, I read:

The Reality Trip, Robert Silverberg

July 7 through July 13, 2005, I read:

Something Rotten, Jasper Fforde
The totally charming, and moving, fourth and final book in the Thursday Next, time-traveling, book-traveling series. I always like books that make me laugh out loud, and am generally suspicious of the ones that bring tears. I distrust manipulative writing and never touch known tearjerkers. But Fforde ends this book and the series with genuine emotion and a resolution that seemed inevitable and just right.

The Closers, Michael Connelly
Connelly is a master of storytelling and particularly in elegantly filling in the somewhat complicated background of his police detective, Harry Bosch, without ever giving the reader the sense that the story stops so that information can be delivered. If you read the early Connelly books, you can see that it was not ever thus, and it gives us all hope to see a writer growing more powerful with each book and giving a series character more depth.

The True and Outstanding Adventures of the Hunt Sisters, Elisabeth Robinson
If this book had not been so well written, I wouldn’t have stayed the distance because both the tragic and the comic subject matter equally push my anxiety buttons. It is told in letters written by older sister Olivia as she tries to keep her Hollywood producer career going and at the same helps take care of her gravely ill younger sister. I had to skip some sections that so faithfully recorded the long hospital hell sections. “Blah-blah-blah--hospital” Two pages later. “still in the hospital." In real life you have no choice. In a book you can skip the pages.

Ironically, the book’s comic relief letters were almost as painful for me. The narrator alternates letters to and about her dying sister with letters and emails selling herself as a producer and detailing her deals with Hollywood, movie stars, backstabbing fellow producers.

Let‘s see, life and death in the hospital waiting room, or grinning tap dancing in the face of rejection and double dealing--way too much like what writers go through selling our work.

It‘s truly a testament to Robinson's excellent writing that I read as much, and skipped as little as I did.

That said, this was not one of those books of such stunning genius that I was unable to skip. There are such books--I‘ve gravitated to them through some sort of death wish in times of crisis. Hot tip: If you‘re going through a horrible life crisis, I personally do not recommend reading D.M. Thomas‘s The White Hotel or William Kennedy‘s Ironweed--beautifully written, majorly depressing.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

No computer for 2 weeks….resurrecting old habits

On or around June 23, my old computer turned itself off and refused to be turned on again. It expired at the age of 6, which is roughly 102 in computer years. It had lived a full life and certainly pushed its brain to the max. It was sorely missed by me. I had no connection to the internet, no way to add to my ongoing manuscripts…no way to do the work I do in order to pay my living expenses--and in the short run, no funds to simply buy a new computer.

Over the past two weeks I tried a loaned computer that didn’t work. It could not be induced to connect with the internet. This was one of those computers, that when you talk to tech support and they ask, "What kind of computer do you have?" you have to read a list of parts that your local Frankenstein Junior has kindly put together and zapped into existence. The New Improved Tech Support Person then tells you that the equipment you have won't cut it, and recognizing a sales opportunity, routes you to a sales person who tries to sell you a new computer that you can't afford.

While I wasn’t looking in the past six years, 3.5” floppy drives have evidently become obsolete, and are no longer standard equipment on computers. So much for my diligent habit of backing up my work! The teenager who was kind enough to help with the loaner computer eventually stopped returning my calls--and I totally understand why! In one of our last communications, I asked about the floppy drive, he suggested I get someone who does have a floppy drive to email me the documents. Alas, since I was unable to connect to the internet to retrieve them… Old people's problems--eeek! When I was his age, I distinctly remember hanging up on some old person who was bugging me about a problem I could not solve and did not want to hear about.

At last, on Friday, July 8th, due to the kindness of my saintly brother and the early payment of an outstanding invoice, I was able to rejoin the computer world with a new brand name computer. Although it doesn’t have a 3.5” floppy drive (or 8-track stereo--sorry that’s a ‘70s joke), I was able to get on the net--receive my archived manuscripts from a kindly neighbor with a 3.5” floppy drive, and rejoin the 21st century.

During the two weeks with no computer, I did my writing with a pen and paper, and read lots o’ books. These old, old habits had never really gone away, and they reminded me that there are ways to cope, no matter what happens.

I read so many books in the last two weeks, and have enough to say, that I’m going to break it down into two entries today and tomorrow.

June 23-July 7, 1975 I read:

George, Be Careful: a Greek florist‘s kid in the roughhouse world of advertising, by legendary adman George Lois

Just as I was looking back at this book, I happened to see George Lois on a television reality show, The Cut, wherein designer Tommy Hilfiger holds a sort of designer boot camp/Survivor Manhattan Island for aspiring designers.

Psychic Discoveries Behind the Iron Curtain, Sheila Ostrander and Lynn Schroeder

Psychic discoveries continue, even in the absence of the iron curtain.

June 23-July 7, 2005, I read:

Geisha, Lisa Dalby

Ironically, here’s a 1975 book that I missed the first time round. The geisha world of womanly wiles and eloquent, ritualized clothing that Dalby explored as an anthropologist and a participant is pretty much the opposite of the way I was raised as an American woman. But living so close to Japanese culture as a Buddhist, it fascinates me. This book captured a very familiar world to me--the rich details of geisha life and the very different relations between the sexes in Japan, as seen by an American woman. I also saw how the author of Memoirs of a Geisha (his name eludes me at the moment) took waaaaay too much material from Dalby, and yet, I found his book to be so gorgeously written that I forgave him. I don’t know if I would have done so if I were Ms. Dalby, however.

Paparazzi, Peter Howe

Interesting book about the rogue photographers - thin on text, thick on pix, naturally.