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, January 20, 2007

Hermits, sociable writers and the quest for myth

For me 1977 was the year that my writing began to take the form of a novel. Writing is such a personal and private thing for me that it's taken me years to understand that some people write well in groups (as it was for Anne Beatts below). That kind of writing still seems to me to be more akin to music than words, but I could see how it would work well for comedy as a performing art, which has a particularly strong rhythmical component.

January 3 to 20, 2007

Titters : The first collection of humor by women, Deanne Stillman and Anne P. Beatts
It’s been awhile since I read this. I didn't quite get at the time just how difficult it was for women to be taken seriously in humor...does that make sense? I mean that there were a lot more male humorists being published than women.

Beatts has famously written about the early Saturday Night Live as not welcoming women:

"The only entrée to that boys club was basically by fucking somebody in the club," Anne Beatts tells Shales and Miller. "Which wasn't the reason you were fucking them necessarily. I mean, you didn't go "Oh, I want to get into this, I think I'll have to have sex with this person.' It was just that if you were drawn to funny people who were doing interesting things, then the only real way to get to do those things yourself was to make that connection."

Here's that quote

This book has been called dated, but I don't have the copy I bought, so I can't check it. I still remember selling my copy at a garage sale. It was the first thing to go—snapped up immediately at a premium price. Maybe the cover…?
Here's what Beatts is doing now.

Intermission, Anne Baxter
This was a fascinating book, one I’ve read more than once—the story of Baxter’s leaving Hollywood for love and a life on a remote cattle station in Australia

Anne Baxter

Homage to Daniel Shays, Collected essays, Gore Vidal
This page gives an idea of the scope of Vidal's life and accomplishment, and ideas that shine in his essays.

Early del Rey, Lester del Rey
Here's an interesting 1968 review of 2001 by del Rey

Wampeters, Foma & Grandfaloons, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
My comment was “bravo!”
Vonnegut Quotes

January 3 to 20, 2007

Lately I've been retreating even further from the sociable model. The Middle Earth book below gave me some insights into why. I think it's a cyclical thing for me. I remember (like so many people) reading Tolkien as a refuge at 14, and again at 24. After an intermission of decades, I'm back seeking fantasy wherever I can find it.

Crazy in Alabama, Mark Childress

This was unexpectedly fun and funny (I understand there was a movie, and reading the book I can imagine that). The narration alternates between the parallel stories of 12-year-old orphan Peejoe Bullis in a small Alabama town in 1965, and his Aunt Lucille, who has parked her six children with her mother and is bound for Hollywood accompanied only by her murdered husband’s head in Tupperware container.

The Publisher’s Weekly review suggests that the author manages to inject: “magic in his mixture of humor and pathos, boyish candor and time-earned understanding. The narrative has a unique gentleness that tempers even the most extreme horrific or comic events without dismissing or oversimplifying them. Terrible crimes go unpunished, and good people face tragedy--not always nobly--but this remains a tale of laughter and great hope, one not easily forgotten.”

That’s a pretty accurate assessment of an extraordinary narrative accomplishment.

Thunderbird Falls, CE Murphy
The second book featuring Joanne Walker, Seattle beat cop and apprentice shaman. Not as fast-moving as the first book Urban Shaman, but still worth the read.

Meditations on Middle Earth, Karen Haber (Ed)

This book has some great contributors like Terry Pratchett, Poul Andersen, and Robin Hobb
The essays in this book gave me some insight into my own reading tastes lately—

Lisa Goldstein’s essay put it:

“Why do people read and reread these books? Why are they so powerful? What do we get from them that we can’t get anywhere else? ...

“My guess is that it’s because we need myth. Not just because myths are entertaining stories, or because some of them come attached with a moral. We need them, the way we need vitamins or sunlight.


We need them because they are magnificent stories, of course, tales that have been told as long as people have existed. But we also need them because they are stories about the hero who journeys into a dark place and comes out transformed, and that is a story we allknow intimately, a story each of us experiences in his or her life. Those dragons are our dragons, those magical helpers are our helpers. And sometimes the dragons are inside us, a part of us, and this is the most terrifying struggle of all.”

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Resolute words

Happy New Year to All!

People really do ask what your resolutions are. I don't much like the term "resolutions." I have goals, but they are intensely personal and I think of them all through the year, although a little more on New Year's Day. One thing that brings extra pain to this process of sharing resolutions for the next year is when I run into people who are throwing themselves into the not-so-harmless idea of solving all their problems by losing weight. (Few people call it a diet any more, but most of the resolutions involve restricted eating, and those who get to hear about them often have to suffer through hearing sample menus. Then there's the unavoidable postscript about how unhappy they are with their bodies and how the new "eating plan" will solve all that.)

Lara Frater at Fat Chicks Rule talks about how difficult it is not to resist the fantasy world when everyone around you is buying in big time to the madness and deprivation, and pressuring you to do likewise.

Lara quotes Marilyn Wann’s response last summer to a woman drowning in an ocean of Weight Watchers fanatics swimming in the high tide of "shrink-yourself-to-fit-the-bathing suit" season:

I totally appreciate the constant, pervasive pressure to buy the hate. This is the second-biggest time of year for people to go crazy hoping to be thin. There's January 1 and then there's bathing-suit season. So it's not about you. Fat hatred is just at high tide.

Diets are hate rituals. Any practice that involves a goal of weight loss is a hate ritual. I don't care whether it's "sensible" or extreme. I don't care whether Weight Watchers advises exactly the same food that I choose for myself because it's tasty and nutritious on any given day. They are selling hate. I won't give them a dollar or a minute of attention. As an ethical person, I could never advise another human being to undertake such dangerous, harmful, deceitful scams.

Marilyn's article is in the Summer 2006 NAAFA newsletter.

We now return you to our regularly scheduled reading “retro” book action.

December 24, 1976 to January 2, 1977

The Final Days, Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward
There's even been a book written about how Woodward and Bernstein's spectacular early success overshadowed later life... Woodward and Bernstein book page.

Ah, well, as they say in the Midwest, thank heaven for small favors. Being a late-blooming, non-spectacular achiever has at least rescued this writer from THAT trauma.

The Once and Future King, T.H. White

This was the second or third time I read this book, which I discovered when I was 14. It was one of those books where you remember the first time you picked it up, where you were and what it looked like. A family friend stored some books and games with us and said I could play with any of the games--which I did, a little--and read any of the books. Wow. This one was a much-read hardcover, but I remember being careful with the dust cover. It’s still a book I make sure to have a copy of at all times.

The Wind Chill Factor, Thomas Gifford

Oddly enough all I remember about this book was that at some point the hero was driving through a blizzard in a Lincoln Continental.

The Middle Mist, Mary Renault

This was one of her modern novels. The Charioteer was my favorite of those, but it is her novels set in ancient Greece—The Last of the Wine, etc.--that I remember with most fondness.

The Samurai, George MacBeth
No recollection of this book

December 24, 2006 to January 2, 2007

The Bromeliad Trilogy: Truckers, Diggers, and Wings, Terry Pratchett
This is not a Discworld book, but Pratchett is always entertaining and these three books about 4-inch Nomes looking for a home is charming, suspenseful and oddly heartening. Pratchett’s theme in this book (as in most of his works) is how learning and growing, and how it gets done in ways you never could plan. A good book to start the new year.

Big Fat Lies, Glenn Gaesser, Ph.D.

This book has been reissued (updated by the author) by Gurze Books, which does a tremendous service in keeping available books on body positive issues, eating disorders and size prejudice. As a baby boomer, I was nine when I ran into my first doctor waving a diet sheet and an amphetamine prescription the late 1950s. The one thing that struck me about this book was how every aspect of the anti-fat obsession affected my life as the national hysteria took root.

Big Fat Lies traces the life insurance industry’s meaningless charts (fervently embraced by the American Medical Association in 1951) and the drive to turn weight into the single measure of health, in spite of overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary.