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, June 29, 2007

Revenge: some like it hot, some like it cold

Someone sent me a link to an Ebay listing with the caption, "How can you tell this picture was taken by a man?" It turned out that the nude photographer had not realized there was a mirror on the wall across from where he stood to photograph the furniture he was selling. His photo, complete with his reflection in the mirror, bore witness that the photographer was indeed male.

Similarly, it’s quite clear when an author writes for revenge or payback. All writers do it, often it's why we started writing to begin with. We have so few fringe benefits, revenge is an important one. But when an author doesn’t let the piece cool off, rework it, and make it part of the story, it becomes a roadblock to enjoying the book. There are increasingly more of these passages in Laurell K. Hamilton, but the first two chapters of Danse Macabre, which I read this past week, are glaring examples. Essentially, the author (as Anita Blake, the 1st person narrator) is saying "you're just jealous" to critics (as embodied by the Ronnie, heroine’s former best human friend). This is so poorly presented that the author goes out of her way to give Ronnie a personality transplant, turning her into a vicious, sniping, bitter woman with severe psychological problems demonstrated by her envy of Anita's harem of adoring long-haired male shape shifters, who moonlight as strippers, do all the housework, and only live to service Anita, never looking at another woman.

Hamilton seems to be saying that anyone who criticizes her work only does so from jealousy of her monumental success.

Hmmmm - I definitely think Hamilton would be justified to say: “Go write your own best selling series and come back and we’ll talk.” But that doesn’t make those payback chapters less annoying, or the characters in them more appealing. Anything so close to authorial ventriloquism is unsettling—and that’s before the author even launches into the first of many sex scenes that make up most of the plot.

That said, I’m still reading whatever Hamilton writes. She gives good cliff-hanger. But I’m skipping more. Reading while rolling one’s eyes to the ceiling is hard work.

From June 7 to June 29, 1977 I read:

The Space Gods Revealed: A Close Look at the Theories of Erich von Daniken, Ronald Story
Interesting interview with Von Daniken on the Monk site

Son of Giant Sea Tortoise, Mary AnnMadden, Ed. NY Magazine competition)
The 1995 column by Marylaine Block (discovered while looking up this title) is about books bought solely because of their titles and it’s great, and I don’t remember any of the tidbits from this book, but I laughed a lot at the essay.

In the Frame, Dick Francis

Intelligent Life in the Universe, Joseph Shklovsky, Carl Sagan
Barely touched the book. Oh, dear, perhaps I don’t qualify!

Dancing Aztecs, Donald E. Westlake

Rumor of War, Philip Caputo

The Fan, Bob Randall

Off Guard: A Paparazzo Look at the Beautiful People, Ron Galella
This is interesting because paparazzi are an important part of the book I’m writing now. I’ve always thought it wasn’t fair that no one looked at it from the point of view of the piranha.

Future Power, Jack Dann & Gardner R. Duzois
Didn’t finish

Final State (Ed Ferman & Maltzberg) encore, taking notes

Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
I think this was the beginning of periodically re-reading Austen’s work, a habit that continues to reward.

Only a Novel: The double life of Jane Austen, Jane Aiken Hodge
Read it in ’76. This time I notice a certain incoherency of prose, in irking lack, of explanation of esoteric or specifically British points. But the synopses of Austen’s works and worthy copying – quite good. (At that point I was teaching myself to write by handwriting out synopses, passages that were beyond what I could do, or that I wanted to study, etc.)

June 7 to June 29, 2007 I read:

For a Few Demons More, Kim Harrison

A paranormal series I like a lot. Harrison has a fresh voice, but I also have to point out that this series is still only 4 or 5 books in--definitely in the single digits, unlike Hamilton's book below which is 14th or 15th in the Anita Blake series.

Danse Macabre, Laurell K. Hamilton
Condoms come to Anita Blake’s ménage.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Feng Shui, a control freak way of knowledge

I’ve been reading Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui, by Karen Kingston, and it’s a slow read, although there are some useful clutter-taming techniques in it, somewhat marred by the author’s bossiness.

Feng Shui, when marketed as a nifty thing for Westerners to do, is similar to Zen in that we know so little about it that you can mix it up with whatever you want and it will seem legitimate. Eastern philosophies in general are slippery to the Western mind. Even if we read the texts these methods are based on, they don’t always make sense to us, so we have only common sense to measure them against.

I knew before picking up Kingston’s book that the author had at least a minor case of the Dieters Disease because I first heard of it through flylady.com. It was pretty clear that Ms. Flylady (I’m forgetting her name, halfway on purpose) got her “body clutter” phrase that snapped her into full-scale (pun optional) diet dementia and diet book profiteering. So I was prepared to just skip any of Kingston’s Feng Shui material that pushed diets.

Kingston’s mild diet obsession, however, pales before some of her other rule-making. She tells the reader how often to change his/her sheets and not to store dirty laundry in the bedroom (perhaps those in small apartments should be keeping it out in the hallway, or dangle their laundry bag out the window)? I found myself frequently exclaiming “What b.s.!” aloud. That’s when I reached the chapter on Colon Clutter—complete with diagrams and instructions. Yes, folks, the author is telling readers when to poop, providing graphic descriptions of how to analyzing said poop, and suggestions for “Feng Shui-ing” one’s end product. Not your usual home decorating/reorganizing book.

It may sound like I’m dissing this book, I’m really exercising the famous “take what you want and leave the rest” method here.

Now a few words in defense of clutter. My favorite room is Henry Higgins’ library in the movie My Fair Lady—I want to live there--so much easier to maintain order with a full domestic staff too. My cats don't do more than cover the occasional hairball on the carpet with whatever they can find nearby such as slippers. But next to that library I like Merlyn’s cottage in T.H. White’sThe Sword in the Stone:

It was the most marvelous room that he had ever been in.

There was a real corkindrill hanging from the rafters, very life-like and horrible with glass eyes and scaly tail stretched out behind it. When its master came into the room it winked one eye in salutation, although it was stuffed. There were thousands of brown books in leather bindings, some chained to the book-shelves and others propped against each other as if they had had too much to drink and did not really trust themselves. These gave out a smell of must and solid brownness which was most secure. Then there were stuffed birds, popinjays and maggotpies and kingfishers and peacocks with all their feathers but two, and tiny birds like beetles, and a reputed phoenix which smelt of incense and cinnamon. It could not have been a real phoenix, because there is only one of these at a time. Over by the mantelpiece there was a fox’s mask, with GRAFTON, BUCKINHAM TO DAVENTRY, 2 HRS 20 MINS written under it, and also a forty-pound salmon, with AWE, 43 MIN., BULLDOG written under it, and a very life-like basilisk with CROWHURST OTTER HOUNDS in Roman print. There were several boars’ tusks and the claws of tigers and libbards mounted in symmetrical patterns, and a big head of Orvis Poli, six live grass snakes in a kind of aquarium, some nests of the solitary wasp nicely set up an a glass cylinder, an ordinary beehive whose inhabitants went in and out of the window unmolested, two young hedgehogs in cotton wool, a pair of badgers which immediately began to cry Yik-Yik-Yik in loud voices as soon as the magician appeared, twenty boxes which contained stick caterpillars and sixths of the puss-moth, and even an oleander that was worth sixpence—all feeding on the appropriate leaves—a guncase with all sorts of weapons which would not be invented for half a thousand years, a rod-box ditto, a chest of drawers full of salmon flies which had been tied by Merlyn himself, another chest whose drawers were labeled Mandragora, Mandrake, and Old Man’s Beard, etc., a bunch of turkey feathers and goose-quills for making pens, an astrolabe, twelve pairs of boots, a dozen purse-nets, three dozen rabbit wires, twelve corkscrews, some ants’ nests between two glass plates, ink bottles of every possible colour from red to violet, darning-needles, a gold medal for being the best scholar at Winchester, four or five recorders, a nest of field mice all alive-o, two skulls, plenty of cut glass, Venetian glass, Bristol glass and a bottle of Mastic varnish, some Satsuma china and some cloisonné, the fourteenth edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica (marred as it was by the sensationalism of the popular plates), two paint-boxes (one oil, one water colour), three globes of the known geographical world, a few fossils, the stuffed head of a cameleopard, six pismires, some glass retorts with cauldrons, Bunsen burners, etc., and a complete set of cigarette cards depicting water fowl by Peter Scott.
The Once and Future King The Sword in the Stone, p. 30-31

My other favorite book by White is
The Goshawk, but I digress.

May 29 to June 6, 1977, I read:

Paddy Chaefsky, John M. Clum
Note: read most
When I moved to LA from SF for a few years in 1977, the first little mom and pop store I went to in Culver City had a sign by the cash register, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.” I hadn’t heard about much less seen Network at that point, so I thought, “Wow, people really are on edge here.” What they actually were was very tuned in to the latest movie in-thing—before people in other places, and with more enthusiasm.Chaefsky

Bittersweet, Teri Schultz
Note: surviving and growing from loneliness

Science Fiction Handbook, de Camp
Note: both ’53 and ’75 editions

Heartland, Mort Sahl
Note: poor man. Don't remember why that was my reaction.

Slapstick, Kurt Vonnegut

The Definitive Biography of P.D.Q. Bach, Peter Schickele
Note: Nice
A more aesthetic friend took me to task for preferring the Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo and PDQ Bach, to the Royal Ballet and J.S. Bach. I like a lot of serious culture and a lot of parody/satire. But I love to laugh more than anything, so I will always seek out something that might make that happen

Calling Dr. Horowitz, Steve Horowitz, M.D., and Neil Offen

To Abolish Children and Other Essays, Karl Shapiro
I like Karl Shapiro’s poems, but evidently his essays didn’t do it for me. My note was: read most, rather tedious

May 29 to June 6, 2007, I read:

Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui, Karen Kingston