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, April 14, 2007

A debt to pleasure...of the literary kind

Another almost-month with no books read. Existential anxiety has that effect on me. However, I have been revisiting a manuscript of my own that needs work. That process reminds me why I have always traded financial security for time. (In the interests of full disclosure I should say that every job I've done that offered financial security has been so excruciatingly dull that my mind might have snapped under the strain. So the psychiatrist's bills I have saved by pursuing the muse should be factored into the equation.)

A phrase that keeps coming back to me recently is the title of a book Bruce Taylor set up by the cash register in his Mystery Bookstore in SF, now ably commanded by Diane Kudisch as Bruce has retired. The book Bruce was handselling was John Lanchester’s excellent crime novel, The Debt to Pleasure

Lanchester plucked the quote from John Wilmot, the Earl of Rochester. I'd never heard of Wilmot, which is not surprising, considering how outrageous his work was. I'm not a scholarly student of his time period, and if Henry Miller and D.H. Lawrence couldn't be published during most of the 20th century due to censorship, Wilmot wasn't going to be showing up in any poetry anthologies. He was notorious, even among his fellow Restoration Rakes.

“Hazlitt judged that 'his verses cut and sparkle like diamonds', while 'his contempt for everything that others respect almost amounts to sublimity'.”
Rochester's bio.

Most of his poems seem to include all the commoner Anglo-Saxon four-letter words. His subject matter is either ruttish or scurrilous and the phrase that stuck in my mind from his poem, The Imperfect Enjoyment, is used during a discussion of premature ejaculation—

When, with a thousand kisses wandering o'er
My panting bosom, "Is there then no more?"
She cries. "All this to love and rapture's due
Must we not pay a debt to pleasure too?"

Note, this site is not for the prudish.

The debt Wilmot refers to is the pretty simple, "you pleased me and now I'm incapable of pleasing you, sorry about that, dear." Wilmot died at 33, probably of syphillis--another debt to pleasure paid.

But for me the phrase seems to refer to the cost of doing what you want to do...or need to do.

The book I began to write in the spring of '77 was a good learning experience, but essentially, unreadably bad. Even the title is too embarrassing to quote. I am hoping the friends upon whom I inflicted this book have mercifully forgotten it.

The manuscript I’m now editing is my 10th book. Book 11 is with my agent. Book 12 is in progress, put it aside to do this edit. Although it hasn’t found a publisher yet (and I am finding things to improve in the ms.) Book 10 after lo these many re-writes/re-reads still makes me laugh. It ain’t Shakespeare, but I knew that going in. There are no cringe-worthy moments.

(If you're mathematically inclined, I'll explain that 6 of my books have been published, and 3 sit in the closet, including the abysmal first novel.)

So that’s what I did with my last 30 years. I’m not naïve enough to think that this entitles me to anything in a material sense. But it’s what I wanted to do with my life.

Damn that existential anxiety! I think it’s insinuating a whiny note into this blog. So enough about now, looking back 30 years--

March 11 to April 15, 1977 I read.

Orbit 18, Damon Knight

Victorian Murderesses, Mary S. Hartman
Only got three-quarter way through it.

Carrie, Stephen King
This was one of those books I remember reading, where I was when I read it (on a cockroach-menaced sofa bed, in the dim light of afternoon, at a time when absorbing storytelling was welcome). Whatever one may think of Stephen King after the crushing juggernaut of his success has swept its way through the reading world, I think back to reading Carrie and thinking—wow, that’s good.

A Plague of Demons, John Creasy, as Gordon Ash

The Art of Seeing, Aldous Huxley
Had to skip last few pages.

So You Have Glaucoma, Viers
Note—I didn’t. But the Lions’ free glaucoma testing van student doctors thought I might, and that netted me an anxious few weeks—during which I read this book. Also a free appointment for more extensive testing that indicated I just had weirdly shaped eye nerves…I was the only person under 50 in the waiting room. Also the experience of having my father reassure me that if I did have glaucoma, he would personally drive me to Mexico to get marijuana if I also needed that—my father’s version of worrying, although he was by nature more of a warrior than a worrier.

The Medically Based No-Nonsense Beauty Book, Deborah Chase
Oy. I was 27, living in LA and far from immune to the beauty obsession. I do give myself points for a little common sense with this one.

Magic, William Goodman

Born on the Fourth of July, Ron Kovic
My memory was that I had reviewed this book several months earlier for the Buddhist newspaper. Maybe I was re-reading, as it was quite a powerful book

1876, Gore Vidal

From March 11 to April 14, 2007

Reading and re-writing one of my own manuscripts.