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, August 27, 2005

From blondes to wizards

August 22-27, 1975, I read:

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Anita Loos
Anita Loos created an archetype in Lorelei Lee, the not-so-dumb-as-you-might-imagine, gold-digging, blonde heroine.

Anthology containing House of Double Minds by Robert Silverberg
I managed to not write down the title of this science fiction anthology, but clearly it was the Silverberg story that impressed me.

August 22-27, 2005, I read

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, sixth in the Harry Potter series

An absorbing few days with Harry and friends. Even with all the powers of darkness running rampant in the wizard world (sort of a “post-911 Hogwarts” high security atmosphere), Rowling has created a world that is a compelling place to revisit. The scenario of discovering unfolding new powers within oneself and facing unambiguous evil is refreshing in a healing way. Real life in our mundane world is never so simple—which is why we need such escapes from time to time.

This site link below has some fun Harry Potter links, and if you read the first one, an interview with J. K. Rowling, you’ll see a picture of her with her husband, Dr. Neil Murray (no relation to moi!) who really does look like a grown up Harry Potter—amazing! If only life would imitate fiction in this manner more often.


While we’re on this Harry topic, I’ve noticed a several fantasy heroes with the name of Harry. Harry Dresden in Jim Butcher’s “Chicago gumshoe wizard" series, and Harry Keogh in the Necroscope series come to mind immediately. Am I really stretching if I mention “Henry” in Jane Yolen’s Wizard’s Hall? Um, yeah, kinda. Okay, so that's not "several." For a minute I wondered if it could be a legacy of Shakespeare’s Prince Hal, Henry/Harry/hero thing, sort of like the great “Kate” phenomena in mystery fiction a few years back, where we saw countless Kates encountering corpses.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Untangling webs . . . ferreting out secrets

August 13-22 1975

Marjoe, Marjoe Gortner
This was an interesting story of someone born into the business of evangelism, who managed to learn to think for himself and live as a rational person without disrespecting the tradition he was raised in. This fascinated me because I was beginning the process of sorting out the deeper religion from the crowd control. Later, I saw the documentary movie, Marjoe, about Gortner revisiting his former profession with a film crew. An interview that gives the gist of his journey is at the link below.

Looking Away, Hollywood and Vietnam, Julian Smith

Jacqueline, Ron Goulart, photographer (photo book of Kennedy-Onassis)

Eleven Blue Men and other Narratives of Medical Detection, Berton Roueche

Poe, Poe, Poe, Poe, Poe, Poe, Poe by Daniel Hoffman
Um, this one was about Edgar Allen Poe.

The Edge of the Chair, Suspense, fact/fiction, Joan Kahn, Ed.

August 13-22, 2005, concluding my tabloid research, I read:

Poison Pen, The True Confessions of Two Tabloid Reporters, by Lysa Moskowitz-Mateu & David LaFontaine

What really offended me about this book was the contemptuous attitude that the male half of the formerly married couple adopts toward tabloid readers. I’ve now read several books on this subject and this was the only one that stooped to sneer.

One thing the former couple still has in common is a feeling of having been traumatized by the process of working for the tabloids--though frankly, I think reporters for a great many non-tabloid news outlets get just as down and dirty in pursuit of a story as any of the tabloid transgressions described. Haven't these people seen The Front Page or His Girl Friday?

LaFontaine, the male half of the former couple, has major S. Hunter Thompson attitude that doesn’t mesh well with his “I’m too good for this job” pose. His wannabe gonzo riffs came across as adolescent.

To her credit, Moskowitz-Mateu, doesn’t put down tabloid readers, although she appears to feel equally ill-used by her former employers. Mostly she feels for the celebrity targets of the tabloids, and she spends a lot of the book in mea culpa mode, confessing to ploys she undertook to get stories and bemoaning the effect on her psyche.

"I Watched a Wild Hog Eat My Baby!" A C0lorful History of the Tabloids and Their Cultural Impact, by Bill Sloan

Sloan has worked for both tabloid organizations and been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting for a mainstream newspaper. The book’s title comes from one of the more fanciful tabloids. But the author gives a comprehensive history of the popular press journalism from the penny dreadfuls of the 1830s through Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst’s wild and wooly press in the early 1900s. He points out that the tabloids of the last 30 years have invaded the mainstream media to the point of undermining their own existence.

The book with the wildest title had the most thoughtful examination of the phenomenon--go figure

Saturday, August 13, 2005

little houses in which our hearts...

Old Songs are more than tunes, they are little houses in which our hearts once lived.
Ben Hecht

For me that quote applies to books as well—

August 8 to August 12, 1975, I read:

Harriet Said, Beryl Bainbridge

Death of a Dude, Rex Stout
Ah, Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin—there’s a little house of the imagination in these stories. Wolfe’s brownstone with the orchids he cultivates, the able chef and the constant diversion of solving crime. This was my first exposure to these mysteries, as you can see, I immediately went to get more!

Death of a Doxie, Rex Stout

Don't Fall off the Mountain, Shirley MacLaine
A whole different kind of mystery with Shirley MacLaine.

Kings Full of Aces, Rex Stout
(anthology - Too Many Cooks, Plot It Yourself, Triple Jeopardy, Home to Roost, The Cop Killer, The Saint and the Monkey)

August 8-12, 2005 I read:

The Historian, Elizabeth Kostova
This was a hypnotic book. The storyteller’s art is highlighted by the Scheherezade device of a storyteller using the stories in a life and death game. I wouldn’t have bought this book in hardcover if the first chapter hadn’t drawn me completely in. Kostova manages to sustain the weaving of several narratives through the device of the narrator gradually learning from her father about her origins and her mother—about which her father has been mysteriously silent. His silence involves a threat from a vampire, and he only begins to speak when the danger of silence becomes greater than the danger of telling the story.

Story threads from the daughter, the father, and the father's mentor become puzzle pieces for the reader, and each thread is distinct, clear and fascinating.

Great stuff. I’ve heard this book called “The Da Vinci Code with vampires” but that’s like comparing a wonderful oil painting to a Sunday cartoon strip. The Historian has deep and heartfelt characters as well as an interesting historical puzzle, and that whole vampire threat thing.

I had trouble tearing myself away from it until around page 470. Seriously, this is a 641-page book. When the author dropped a sizeable chunk of a straight-up historical lecture into the plot, things slowed waaaaaay down, and I was able to set the book down for awhile. I had no intention of abandoning it, but I was able to unglue myself from the pages and take a break before coming back.

I really don’t think this digression on pilgrimage routes of Christian monks in the middle ages helped the book. But what do I know? To be honest I skimmed it, and even though it was only a 14 page mini-lecture, it seemed longer. It also ushered in a lot of information on the same topic that cooled my own interest down considerably, though I guess it was necessary to complete the puzzle aspect of the plot.

The good news is that skimming this section, and a lot of other medieval European stuff that only marginally interested me, I was still able to enjoy the last few hundred pages of the book.

I did notice a kind of distancing the reader from the ending however. It was almost as if the author were putting the ending in a historical context, which might or might not have served the story well. I liked it enough that I’ll go back and look at it later, so I may feel differently when I examine the text more carefully.

All in all, however, very few books have held my attention for 470 pages so masterfully, and this is the experience of reading that we keep coming back to seek.

Friday, August 05, 2005

From Mishima to the Enquirer in 30 easy years...well, mostly easy...

July 30-August 5, 1975

After the Banquet and Death in Midsummer and Other Stories, Yukio

I went on a brief Yukio Mishima binge after my Buddhist scholar friend told me that her teacher told her "not to spend too much time" on a translation assignment of Mishima's Double Suicide. Dangerous literature appealed to me at that point. For whatever reason, however, I never became very entranced with Mishima. Curiosity followed by mild irritation would be accurate words for my reaction.

Frankenstein Unbound, Brian Aldiss

July 30 to August 5, 2005

Secrets of a Tabloid Reporter, My 20 Years on the National Enquirer’s Hollywood Beat, Barbara Sternig

The Untold Story, My 20 Years Running the National Enquirer, Iain Calder

Truth be told (!) this is research for a ghost story novel I'm writing, ghosts and paparazzi! Honest. But, totally aside from my admitted weakness for celebrity biographies as a kind of soothing potion, I have to say that I think the tabloids are unfairly maligned.

Former Enquirer Editor-in-Chief, Calder sums up my view very handily on the last page of his book:

I believe gossip is as old as civilization. In the days before television, neighbors would be as shocked and entertained by such tidbits as: “Mrs. Jones down the road has run off with the milkman.”

These days the neighbors would have no idea who Mrs. Jones is. Most people hardly even know their next-door neighbor. They do know Oprah, Rosie, Tom Cruise, Britney Spears, and Regis. They want gossip about them. When an Enquirer reader learns something new, it’s fun, and it gives her a feeling of power to call a friend and say: “Did you know. . .”

This, I submit is human nature.

The Untold Story, Iain Calder

Also, I gotta say it, the Enquirer’s readership is 90% female. Did you ever notice how publications aimed at women are frequently disparaged as second rate and trivial? I’ve ranted and raved on this subject as it relates to size acceptance in an essay on my web page at http://www.maadwomen.com/lynnemurray/essays/tabloid.html