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

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Boldly going where most people had already gone

At this point in 1975, I believe I had just purchased a television set. My first. If I'd had one during the (many) years I was in college, I'd probably still be in college. So I was able to watch all the Star Trek re-runs for the first time. The books I checked out of the library reflects that. Well, except for the Jayne Mansfield bio, but I believe I already confessed to my celebrity bio weakness!

November 13 to 24, 1975

Jayne Mansfield and the American 50s, Martha Saxon

Bracknell's Law, E. W. Hildick (noted that this was a murder mystery)

The Trouble with Tribbles, David Gerrold

The World of Star Trek, David Gerrold

The Making of Star Trek, Stephen E. S Whitfield, Gene Roddenberry

November 13 to 24, 2005

Yikes! Still doing editing and scrambling away at web page essays. Reading the backs of cereal and soy milk cartons. I may be enjoying the essay writing about as much as I enjoyed the Star Trek reading 30 years ago. Hard to tell!

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Nutrition--physical and mental

November 4-12, 1975

Nutrition and Your Mind, George Watson

I found a neat quote from him online in a site discussing nutrition and alcohol abuse


I don't remember reading Nutrition and Your Mind, but alcohol was certainly relevant to my life in 1975--it was a major part of my rather questionable coping strategy.

Those were the days when my only cookbooks were the Adele (not Angela!) Davis's nutritional cookbook given to me by my health-food-freak grandmother, and whatever diet book I was trying to follow at the time. As I look him up on the net, some of Watson's ideas about nutrition and psychological functioning resonate. Other people have taken his ideas in a number of different directions since. Some of them have made a lot of money morphing them into diet books. I don't remember if I experimented with his ideas back then—probably.

The Doonesbury Chronicles, GB Trudeau

Fun, and mentally nutritious! Still going strong after 35 years, and now it's online—god, I love the internet!


November 4-12, 2005

The past week or so I've been editing business stuff for pay and starting to write the essays I keep threatening to put on my web site, so I didn't read any books during this period. I'm sure full-scale fiction withdrawal pains will strike at any moment.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

A little touch of Falstaff in the night & Fat Chicks Ruling

Thirty years ago I was having a great time reading plays and thrillers--this past week…ehhh, about fifty-fifty fun to irritation. I think it's cumulative. I concluded reading a whole banquet of books with Fat in the title, preparatory to writing a sort of round up review and "state of the F word." Even avoiding the obviously negative books, it was a mixed mood experience, as you'll see below.

October 27-November 4 1975

The Odd Couple, Neil Simon
The Subject Was Roses, Gilroy
Marathon Man, William Goldman
Black Sunday, Thomas Harris

October 27-November 4 2005

Fat Boys, A Slim Book, Sander Gilman

Is the title offensive? I asked a fat male friend and got no reply—so I guess that would be a "Yes." It's offensive, and on purpose. When a woman refers to herself as a "fat girl" or a Fat Chick" it can seem like taking control because pairing a frivolous word like Girl or Chick with the much-demonized "Fat" puts an aggressively flirtatious spin on it.

The word "boy" has a different history. First of all, Gilman is referring to others, not himself. This is not the "fat boy's guide to life." For all we know, Gilman is quite thin. As is frequently the case in academic works, he does not discuss himself at all. But he admits that "Fat Man" has a totally different resonance than "Fat Boy." To call a grown male a boy indicates a put-down.

On the one hand, Gilman wants to explore the most derogatory description possible. Yet he includes a wierd little explanation of why it might be okay, simply because fat males often refer to each other this way.

The phrase "fat boy" will serve as shorthand in this study for the obese male. Elmer Wheeler pointed out that his rather obtuse (and rotund) publisher initially objected to his title: "I straightened out the publisher. Fat boys, I told him, have a habit of calling to each other, 'Hey, fat boy!'" [Elmer Wheeler is or was, the author of The Fat Boys Diet Book in the 1940s]
Fat Boys, A Slim Book, p. 8

This anecdote "straightens out" nothing. Aside from the questionable wisdom of insulting one's publisher, the fact that men hurl insults at each other when they are bonding is well known (some women do this as well). However, men also hurl insults just before they violently attack each other, as in the expression "fighting words." I see no evidence of brotherly affection in the text of Gilman's book, or in old Elmer Wheeler's "explanation." We never hear from Wheeler again in Sander's text. Possibly his miffed publisher made sure the book never left the warehouse.

Gilman's reason for compiling centuries of the most derogatory statements about fat men (and women as well) is that these attitudes have persisted throughout history. Slavery, mass murder and child abuse have also persisted throughout history but that doesn't mean we should accept them as folk wisdom. The book is on the scholarly side, with almost as many pages devoted to footnotes as to text. I can't call it a Recovering Dissertation because evidently the author has published a few other scholarly type books earlier.

Perhaps if someone had paid me to read the entire book.... But no one did, so I didn't. Short as it was, I could only bear to skim most of it. For ordinary folks, I'd recommend keeping a fast acting, anti-depressant handy while reading it. (Is there such a thing? Never mind.)

As a fiction writer, what particularly offended me was Gilman's take on Falstaff. I've used the Falstaff archetype in my own fiction (don't ask where, but if you want to be notified when it sees print, I'll email you—it may be a few years!) My own creative experience with Falstaff, the Fat Rogue, was an amazing one. When I invoked him from the place where fictional characters live (in this case, Room #23 of the Boar's Head Tavern, in the Shakespeare Quarter of the Collective Unconscious), Falstaff was alive, exuberant, and energized. As a con man and bad boy, he radiated naughty energy and and he was ready to meet my characters and run with them. He had some ideas of where he wanted to go for starters. First stop the Big and Tall Store for clothes, next stop a tavern with ale and pork roast, etc.

I felt that Gilman's dissection of the meaning of Falstaff (diseased, aged, emasculated) combined an autopsy report and a social worker's report. All data and no juice. I strenuously disagree that Falstaff engendered contempt in audiences. Queen Elizabeth the First did not request a play be written "with Falstaff in love" because he was a diseased, impotent, old codger. She didn't think there was too much of him—she wanted more!

I really wanted to like Fat Boys, A Slim Book because there aren't that many books exploring maleness and fatness. If someone knows of any that really do, please tell me!

Fat Chicks Rule! Lara Frater

After Fat Boys, I was relieved to turn to this, a witty book with no pretensions and a totally positive and accessible tone.

In the interests of full disclosure, I should say that under Fat Chick Lit, Frater lists my Josephine Fuller mystery series, for which I am duly grateful.

The edge to Frater's book comes from her description of her own experience growing up fat.

When you begin to look into size acceptance you encounter so many "fat stories" and so much suffering. It reminds me of the phrase "Speak Bitterness." The women's movement of the 1970s borrowed this phrase from 1940s China, where women who had been literally enslaved, were liberated and encouraged to talk about their experiences being sold as concubines, battered and oppressed in ways unthinkable to us.

Sometimes it is very healing to speak the bitterness—to be allowed to say what happened, and to know that people will listen. I'm not going to go into this at great length here, but I gotta say reading a few dozen "fat stories" can depress the hell out of you for awhile. The ill-treatment doesn't extend to slavery, but there's no question that people with low self-esteem can be easily exploited.

Frater's Introduction devotes three pages to her own story as a fat person--which was the perfect amount for this kind of book. She discussed how she has coped, and while admittedly a work in progress, she is ready to offer up resources to help others. She says--

I want to help end the cycle of destruction that dieting and lack of self-esteem leads to, and help my fellow fat chicks accept two important things:

You are beautiful even if you don't measure up to the Hollywood standard of beauty.

There is no perfect number, perfect weight, perfect size or perfect body, except what you think is perfect for you.
Fat Chicks Rule! p. 13

Frater offers a wide range of strategies for fat chicks getting ready to rule. Some chapters include, Roll Models: Famous Fat Chicks, Entertainment, Seating Issues, Witty Comebacks, Fat and Fit are Just Fine, Tips on Looking Hot, Romance, Sex - including positions! The explanation of how "the same thing that makes us fat helps us to enjoy sex." was worth the price of admission.

I liked the crystal clear, totally positive tone of Fat Chicks Rule! I would definitely give it to a young woman struggling with body image issues, but I hope it finds its way into the hands of many, many women of all ages.