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

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Fun things to do in hell

I’ve been re-reading Descent to the Goddess, about the Sumerian goddess, Innana,(aka Ishtar)“queen of heaven and earth,” paying a visit to her sister, Ereshkigal, “queen of the Great Below” who lives in “the land of no return.” Inanna's visit is to attend the funeral of Ereshkigal’s husband, but the grieving widow greets her sister by demanding that she follow the customs of hell and be stripped, judged, killed, and her rotting corpse hung on a peg. I detect serious sibling rivalry here. Most hostesses just take your coat.

It’s too late to have second thoughts while being stripped, judged and killed, but Inanna might have been wondering whether she should have just sent regrets, flowers, and a nice card. Furthermore, this casts some doubts on the circumstances of Ereshkigal’s husband’s death. She seems to have been studying up on black widows, praying mantis mating behavior, and all those Alien movies.

Seriously, it's a very absorbing book. Jungian, feminist analysis—see below.

May 22 to May 28, 1977, I read:

The Season, a Candid Look at Broadway, 1967, William Goldman
Charlotte Bronte, the Self-Conceived, Helen Moglen
Note: read most of it.
Is There Intelligent Life on Earth? Jack Catran
Women, Women, Women, Dody Goodman, Chris Alexander
Evidently Ms. Goodman was alive and well in 2004, interesting about her difficulties with Jack Paar, etc…amazing how blatant, and unconscious, the sexism was then.
Slan, A. E. Van Vogt
The Joy of Money, Paula Nelson
Note: Couldn’t relate to it, only looked through it (Note to self, 30 years later, this explains a lot, no?)
The New Apocrypha, John Sladek,
Note: sampled its encyclopedia offerings
Casebook of a Crime Psychiatrist, James A. Brussel, M.D.
Controversy, William Manchester
Note: Read some essays, not all. The pace of his prose is irritating. (I think I meant slow & measured!)

May 22 to May 28, 2007, I read:
Tea with the Black Dragon, R. A. MacAvoy
web page
I’m glad to see this reissued in an Ereads paperback and ebook. Considering that the author was in her 30s when she wrote it (as I was when I read it), I now notice and find intriguing that the heroine is a free-spirited 50-year-old with gray hair who finds romance with a mysterious Chinese man, who may in fact be an ancient dragon. Not your usual paranormal romantic suspense novel—beautifully written!

Descent to the Goddess, A Way of Initiation for Women, Sylvia Brinton Perera
Another book I read in the 80s. I still remember discovering it at the SF Public Library, and the usual feeling of having mysteries revealed when I read it. I still have pertinent photocopied pages in my files. Then a friend was pruning her library and offered me anything I liked from the discards, and this small paperback was among them!

On reading again, these sentences stood up for me in red letters of fire:

We also feel unseen because there are no images alive to reflect our wholeness and variety. But where shall we look for symbols to suggest the full mystery and potency of the feminine and to provide images as models for personal life?
Descent to the Goddess
, p. 12.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Eeeeeeeeeeeebook adventures

“A” book by any other name might be “E” book? Hmmm. I’m not sure what an ebook is, except that I just wrote one, or Jaki Girdner and I did….kinda. I’m calling it an “E for Experimental”-book because the next ebook I have in mind involves sex and may actually have some hope of selling a few copies. The current one is also E for Exploring the ebook world.

Jaki Girdner and I put together Writer-to-Writer Reminders, Tickles, Tips and Tricks. Between us, we’ve had a total of 22 books published—16 for her, 6 for me. We should know some things worth sharing. The tips take place as a dialog between two writers: Ms. Reminder, who is extraordinarily organized, with tickle files for events planned years in advance, and Ms. Amnesia….well, she has a little problem with authority, outlines and planning ahead. We had a good time writing 52 tips, one a week for a year and an extra one to finish.

With a little help from a graphically sophisticated friend, this was translated into an Adobe PDF, and officially put out as an ebook.

As Hamlet says, "the rest is silence." Silent meditation? Actually last weekend it was silent medication because my back went out the minute the book was all Eeee-ed up, and introduced to Paypal.

Coincidence? I think not.

Of course any novelist is capable of functioning with zero feedback and encouragement. It goes with the territory. Most of the fiction being published even by large presses as such a minimal promotion budget that authors learn quickly to use any publicity idea they can manage to get the word out about their books. Like many authors, I’ve become obsessed with this subject. Not particularly expert, just obsessed.

But how to promote an ebook? Bookstores wouldn't be involved. Hmmm. Repeated internet searches yielded predatory websites that had more in common with “work at home” and multi-level marketing scams than they did with anything remotely applicable to promotion of entertaining material that someone might want to read.

Obviously never telling anyone about the book isn't going to work either.

So, now that my back is better, mentioning Writer-to-Writer Reminders on this blog is the next baby step into the Mountains of E-Madness. You can probably tell I've been re-reading H.P. Lovecraft--but that was this past week--30 years ago I was hitting the library like a locust infestation.

May 4 to May 20, 1977 I read, in whole or in part:

SnowBlind, A Brief Career in the Cocaine Trade, Robert Sabhag

The Fight, Norman Mailer

The Omnivorous Ape, Lyall Watson

The Sound of Two Hands Clapping, Essays by Kenneth Tynan
Sigh, theatrical criticism, Olivier playing all the great classic roles in the 1940's and 50's, I have a weakness for theatrical critical essays, and Tynan was such a superb writer.

Three Tales, Paul Bowles
Note: Esoteric almost to the point of nonexistence

Tiny Tim: An Unauthorized Biography, Harry Stein
Tiny Tim

Intent on Laughter, John Bailey
Couldn’t find much on this, out of print. But when I looked for it, I found and loved, this website.

About Those Roses, Frank D. Gilroy

A Burnt Out Case, Graham Greene
For me the anticipation of reading Greene is always more fun than the actual reading. He just can't seem to make me savor his world-weary depression.
Ya gotta grant him the prize for angst, though.

How the Comedy Writers Create Laughter, Larry Wilde
Turns out this guy is still around, and he invented National Humor Month (April, I missed it, who knew?) I like his good-humored web site.

The Plays of Ferenc Molnar (1929, intro only)
I still have the quote I got from Molnar, slightly paraphrased, on the wall above my writing desk: “Shakespeare was a genius. The rest of us must simply strive to be honest.”

Translation, Stephen Marlowe
Note: very disturbing cover art. Poorly written story

May 4 to May 20, 2007 I read:

The Orchid Thief,Susan Orlean
I also watched the film Adaptation wherein screenwriter suffers so much turning The Orchid Thief into a script, that he takes that struggle as the film's subject matter. Reading the book after watching the film, I could see his problem. The book was essentially a magazine article on intercut with lots of background and information. Interesting but not essentially a story. The movie also had one of my favorite writing teachers, Robert McKee, teaching his seminar on Story. Very cool.

Blood Bound, (Mercy Thompson Series, Book 2): Books: Patricia Briggs
Moving slowly back into the tamer paranormal novels I like so much

At the Mountains of Madness, H.P. Lovecraft
An old favorite, a paperback that must be nearly 40 years old. I’ll talk about obscene vegetation another time.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Secret teachings, the power of positive denial

I slowly eased reading books that are not by Jane Austen (my comfort reads for the past few months!) with a transitional period listening to 4-hour(!) audio DVD of The Secret, which a friend lent me.

The hook that gets people “into the tent” for this product, whether in video, book, or audio, is the pitch that this is a life-transforming "Secret." Yet the underlying principles, whether called The Laws of Attraction, the Power of Positive Thinking are familiar to even the most casual student of self-help books.

I like positive thinkers and New Age presentation people. As Douglas Adams said of the planet earth, they are “mostly harmless” and occasionally helpful. But the kindest thing I can say of The Secret is that it is partial—as in a fragmentary or limited. In its truncated fashion, it explains how, with single-minded thought, a person can affect his or her environment. There are some useful ideas in The Secret, presented with the maximum of smoke and sizzle and very little insight or responsibility.

I will consider using any mental or physical tool that doesn’t clash with my Buddhist practice. (I won’t channel, don’t ask me.) So I’ve encountered (and enjoyed studying) some of these New Age Usual Suspects. I didn’t like the metaphor of ordering your reality from a catalog. That one was too aggressively shallow for me. Also as a world view, the idea that you create the entire universe with your thoughts strikes me as childish at best and delusional at its worst.

I do like the metaphor of “change the frequency of your thought vibrations, like changing the radio channel.” I can almost hear an echo of an explanation of Buddhism as it was presented to Americans in the 1960s and ‘70’s (and it may have been a direct steal—such metaphors do get around). One of the unlooked for side-effects of a Buddhist practice is learning how to become aware of and move out of negative life conditions (as an exercise that must be repeated by the way, it’s not a one-time thing!)

The latter half of the DVD set made me a bit queasy with its exhortations to “believe” when doubt attacks. That sort of talk always induces deep mistrust in me--and an urge to head for the nearest Exit sign.

I’m not going to get into the “negative thinking caused the Holocaust” thread (my brother hit the nail on head when he said, “So, the Holocaust victims were all thinking negatively and the Nazis were thinking really positively?”) This is not the first time such views have been brought forth, but that doesn't make them less offensive.

For me it’s a sure-fire indicator of a con game when the salesperson plays the weight loss card. The weight loss issue draws con men like an overripe banana draws fruit flies. it's such a gold mine that few can resist. Such a large percentage of Americans are freaked out about their weight that playing on the hopes of a magical solution causes many to instantly reach for their wallets.

As a fat person, listening to their spiel, I was pleased at the suggestion not to dwell on your body’s flaws, that’s always more constructive. But I was wryly amused to hear the suggestion that followers "achieve their perfect weight" ("losing” is one of those banned, negative words)by looking away when fat people appear and instead envisioning their internal perfect body. I guess if I walk down the street and see people bumping into lampposts rather than look at me, “la, la, la, you don’t exiiiiiist…la, la, la, I’m thinking of my own perfect body…” I’ll know that it’s a Secretarian. Or will I?

Actually, invisibility in social situations is one of the side effects of getting old and/or fat. All of which The Secret assures me do not have to happen.

When I first started listening to the DVDs I wondered if there was any correlation at all between actual secret teachings in mystical tradition, and the positive thinking stuff they are invoking as the secret of the ages. A friend who is into the Western alchemical/metaphysical tradition pointed out that the concept of secret teachings can be to protect a student from getting in too deep too soon. My own experience in Buddhism has been that even when a secret teaching is revealed it is usually so simple that an untrained mind can’t see any profound meaning at all there. It can take decades of practice to realize how deep something so simple can be.

I suggested to a friend who was about to listen to the DVDs is “take what you need and leave the rest.”

April 16 to May 3, 1977 I read:

1876, Gore Vidal

English Humour, J.B. Priestly
Note: v. fine, also beautifully illustrated. (didn’t finish though)

Stop the Presses, I Want to Get Off, [MORE Magazine] R. Pollak [Ed]

The Man with the Candy, the Story of the Houston Mass Murders, J. Olsen
Read most of it

The American Tradition, A Gallery of Rogues, John Greenaway

Patchwork Mouse, Joseph Hixson

Darker Than Amber, John D. MacDonald

Gateway, Frederick Pohl

Scoundrel Time, Lillian Hellman
I first encountered Hellman in her preface to some of Dashiell Hammett’s posthumously published work. She was a glamorous figure, not the least because of her life with the magnetic Hammett. Who wouldn’t want to be with Hammett? Many were called and briefly chosen, but Hellman was the one who lasted. The fact that he told her she was the model for Nora, of Nick and Nora in The Thin Man made her even more interesting. Nick and Nora Charles have always been the ideal fun couple for more than one generation. Early in their marriage my parents named their dog Asta in honor of the Charles’ memorable terrier. I’ve read all of Hammett several times, but never have read any of Hellman’s non-memoir work, although I did see the movie The Little Foxes, and was startled by how over-the-top melodramatic it was.

From April 16 to May 3, 2007

Aside from listening to The Secret DVD, in the past few weeks I re-read:

Scoundrel Time, Lillian Hellman.

I remember noting what a thin book it was when I first read it, sitting on a bench at a bus stop in 1977. The edition I read recently has it collected along with Hellman’s other memoirs, An Unfinished Woman and Pentimento. Scoundrel Time only takes up 123 pages—with wide margins.

I think nowadays Hellman would be called “high maintenance.” She savors and shares her emotions the way some people share fine cuisine. This is part of her charm, and yet one can’t help but mistrust it.

One of the anecdotes she tells is of an old friend, unsuccessful Progressive candidate for President, Henry Wallace, who presented her with a large bag of manure on the occasion of her selling her farm due to financial disaster after she and Hammett were blacklisted and unable to find work. Hellman mildly complains that this was not a gift she could use in the New York apartment she was moving to, and puts it down to Wallace’s total cluelessness—and she gives several other persuasive examples of this. But something about the gift made me wonder if there weren’t others who might have wished to give her such a gift, but just didn’t have it handy when the occasion presented itself.