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

Friday, November 24, 2006


Because both of our parents were from the Midwest, my brother and I heard a lot of G-rated swear words when growing up. One of my favorites my father used was "Triskaidekaphobia" which means fear of the number 13. The wikipedia page on this was fun, because it introduced me to the word friggatriskaidekaphobia, which sounds like something Sylvester The Cat might mutter when really perturbed.

Evidently there is at least one person who loves the number. I'm neutral on the actual number 13, but I really loved the book I read this past week The Thirteenth Tale (see below).

November 12 to 24, 1976 I read:

Bring on the Empty Horses, David Niven
I recall this as a charming and amusing book.
one Niven site.

Change Lobsters and Dance, Lili Palmer
I couldn't find much about Lili Palmer online until I looked for Rex Harrison and Lili Palmer. Being married to Harrison seems to have captured more public attention than her acting, which is generally held to be excellent, though she never became a star of the same magnitude. If this link works, here's a lovely picture of her.

Palmer tells the story that Harrison (then known as "Sexy Rexy" for his philandering ways) asked for a divorce so as to marry Kay Kendall, who was dying--the idea being that he would remarry Palmer afterward. That story sounds like the plot of an old-style "weepy" movie, and it's a little hard to believe. They divorced, Harrison married Kendall, who did die a few years later. Harrison and Palmer did not get back to together. Did anyone really think that would happen? Maybe so. People say and do equally as weird things around relationships and give equally as bizarre explanations every day of the week. In this case all three parties were actors, who dealt spent a great deal of their lives creating illusions. Perhaps they exercised the famous "suspension of disbelief."

Those Who Can, R. S. Wilson, Ed.
No memory of this book.

November 12 to 24, 2006 I read:

Speaking of believing things, sifting truth out from smoke and mirrors, that's a major theme in the book that I liked so much....

The Thirteenth Tale, Diane Setterfield
This book captured very well the hypnotic power of stories--the quote on the back gives its flavor:

My gripe is not with lovers of the truth but with truth herself. What succor, what consolation is there in truth, compared to a story? What good is truth, at midnight, in the dark, when the wind is roaring like a bear in the chimney? What you need are the plump comforts of a story. The soothing, rocking safety of a lie. Vida Winter.
in The Thirteenth Tale

I think it’s something closer kin to dreams rather than lies that stories tell. But part of the art of story telling is in the difference between those two words. "Lies" is a word with a stinging hook in it, while "dreams" is a sweet and sappy word, without enough of a barb in it to snare you in to hear the tale. The quest for the truth among thickets of seductive stories is the theme of this book. The hidden secrets of a reclusive novelist are gradually revealed in the story she needs to tell, but can hardly bring herself to utter. The story needs to be drawn out of her by the narrator, a young woman who has her own ghosts to exorcise in the process. It doesn't get better than this book.

Gil's All Fright Diner, A. Lee Martinez

This book has the dubious distinction of being the first one I've ever posted a negative review about on amazon.com. I got very angry when a book that looked like silly fantasy fun suddenly started dripping authorial venom on one of its characters--a fat woman. The first 14 pages introduced the heroes, Duke and Earl, a grubby werewolf and vampire--seedy vagabonds who wander into Gil's All Night Diner. At that point the author throws in several sneering paragraphs of contemptuous description of the fat woman who owns of the diner.

This woman treats the down-on-their-luck guys very decently, offering them work, food and a place to stay. Then on p, 47 (also known as where I stopped reading), the diner owner tries, in a hesitant way, to seduce the seedy werewolf "hero" who turns away. The author then provides a detailed interior monologue--four pages worth!--of the hero's revulsion at being offered such an unappetizing body, culminating in the werewolf's self-loathing for being the kind of male (one can hardly say "man") who only attracts such a "fat/ugly" women. Let me just say, as I did on Amazon and have elsewhere, that I think telling fat jokes is simply another manifestation of the same prejudice that was reinforced when in-group solidarity was affirmed by telling jokes targeting racial minorities, women, gays and Jews. The assumption was that the targets of these jokes would never be in the audience to hear them. The purpose of the joke was to unite "us" against "them." When it comes to fat jokes in a book, I am the "them" being targeted, and it makes me sick to pay money to be insulted.

I won't comment on the fate of this particular copy of the book, except to say that it won't be spitting venom at any other fat readers--paper can be recycled.

Working for the Devil, Lilith Saintcrow

As if to offset the above disappointment, this author was definitely a happy discovery for me. Dante Valentine, her tough-minded, psychically gifted heroine, raises the dead for a living. This owes a debt to Laurell K. Hamilton, Kim Harrison, etc. It's set in a gritty, Blade-Runner-with-Psychics-Unchained world. A world that has suffered an apocalyptic meltdown of religion and many of its institutions in the face of events that proved undeniable truth of the existence of supernatural entities. The first few scenes take the heroine literally to hell to accept a job to assassinate a demon for the Devil--the alternative being her own death and quite possible the end of human life. Definitely a high stakes game, and a well-told tale.

Saintcrow's cool web site

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Reading Thomas Harris without a helmet and other desperate acts

October 28 to November 12, 1976, I read:

Crime Prevention in the 30th Century, Hans Stefan Santesson, Ed.
Still around.

The Odd Couple, A comedy in Three Acts, Neil Simon
In those days I read a lot of plays. Neil Simon writes funny, even on the printed page.

The Subject Was Roses (A Play in Two Acts) , Frank Gilroy
This play won the Pulitzer Prize.

Marathon Man, William Goldman
Nobody does it better. No matter what "it" you're talking about.This is the book (and later the movie, the script for which Goldman also wrote) that set dentistry back a-ways.

Black Sunday, Thomas Harris
In this, his first novel, Harris demonstrated that he was/is a superb writer. It was his next, even better-written book, Red Dragon, that I wish I hadn't read. Worse yet, Harris is a slow writer, the book was reprinted, and I was half way through a second read before I realized I had been down this road once and I wasn't going to enjoy where it went. I finished it--I didn't say it was bad, just extremely disturbing.

After being traumatized by Red Dragon, I read The Silence of the Lambs some years later only because I was in a kind of death wish state. Others might ride motorcycles with no helmet--I read Thomas Harris, also without a helmet. I'm happy to say I have not got to the point since where I need to read any of Harris's others. At the end of The Silence of the Lambs, I could see that he had fallen for his villain and was revving up for a sequel and I personally was not crazy about making Hannibal the Cannibal the hero of the next book. Did you realize that if he'd named the character Norman, he would have had to be Norman the Mormon. I'm just saying is all…. It would have been a different book that's for sure.

October 28 to November 12, 2006 I read:

Assassin's Apprentice (The Farseer Trilogy, Book 1), Robin Hobb
Speaking of being in a kinder, gentler mood, this was a medieval-style fantasy world, with an apprentice assassin, who had a troubled origin and undeveloped occult powers. It was a page-turner without being bone-chilling. I rarely chill my bones these days unless it's totally inavoidable--just a lifestyle choice.
Robin Hobb's web page

The Other Side of the Story: A Novel, Marian Keyes
This author is one I particularly like, and I'm so persnickety about what I read nowadays that it's hard to predict what I will enjoy. This was a long book--like 600-plus pages, but the characters were all interesting and going through some difficult times, with humor and a satisfying resolution. I did find the various viewpoints a little jarring the first time the author suddenly switched focal characters. But it's the author's voice that makes Keyes books enjoyable to me, so I hung in with her.