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

Thursday, December 27, 2007

fearful symmetry

From my window I can see the San Francisco Zoo in the foggy distance across the park. Pondering the Christmas day escape, attacks on zoogoers, and execution of Tatiana, the Siberian tiger, I wonder if I am the only person in the city haunted by the William Blake lyric today.

The Tyger

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright,
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire in thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder, and what art?
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand, and what dread feet?

What the hammer? What the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? What dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And watered heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb, make thee?

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright,
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

The web page where I looked up the poem has a tiger drawn by Blake himself, showing what looks like an untigerly, sheepish grin. The words evoke more to my mind and I'm more inclined to follow the example of the stars in the poem and shed tears for all concerned.

No new books, but a magazine with attitude

I had to make a new blog entry to take down the link to my cat essays. It seems my cats are quite content to have me support them and have no interest in seeking gainful employment. I may still write about them but not at that link which has thawed, and resolved into a dew...

I will share a very inspiring link for Fat Girl Magazine, which features some young voices with refreshing attitude. Information courtesy of Lara Frater at Fat Chicks Rule who is no slouch in the attitude department either.

If I don't post another entry before that--Happy New Year!


Monday, December 24, 2007

Flickering fires of nostalgia

I am a Buddhist, not a Christian. There's no particular reason for me to do or not "do" a Christmas celebration. Buddhists are usually mellow about telling one another what to believe or do. One major appeal of Buddhism when I joined nearly 40 years ago was that it offered no commandments or recipes for life, except the strictest of all: Cause and effect. Buddhists celebrate the New Year in the Asian fashion--starting fresh, making good causes for the year to come and so on. However, if I wanted to sing carols and so on, it would not be as they used to say "against my religion."

However, the holiday season sometimes finds me stiffening my resistance to sentimentality, simply in self-defense against overwhelming nostalgia and a sort of Holiday Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Case in point, a line from T.S. Eliot's Journey of the Magi caught me unawares and transported me back to the little theater holiday presentation where I first heard the poem recited--and heard recited many times because I was doing props for the show and attended all rehearsals and performances. It sent a shiver down my spine now as it had when I was 16 instead of 59. The words have a different depth to me now than they did then.

'A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.'

The link below is supposed to have an audio clip of Eliot reading the poem, but I couldn't make it work. It's been one of those weeks. Maybe it will work for you. If not the whole text of the poem is there.
Eliot poem

What keeps occurring to me as I slowly re-read In Cold Blood is the interplay of truth and fiction. The rafts and rafts of observed facts in the book give it more heft and volume than Capote's more slender, totally fictional works. Sometimes reading fiction, you can actually pick out the true episodes (often the ones that don't fit) and sometime a whole forest of shards of glass that the writer picked up from real life and scattered on the page. Honestly, you can very often tell those "real" notes, because they stand up off the page. There's quite a lot of that in In Cold Blood. Odd holiday reading, but it somehow seems like a New Yorker article to me--which is part of its genius. The wealth of factual detail meshes so well with Capote's dreamy flights of lyrical speculation.

December 11 to December 24, 1977 I read:

Blind Ambition, The White House Years, John Dean

Vibrations: Improving your Psychic Environment
, Daniel Logan

December 11 to 24, 2007 I read:

Greywalker, (Greywalker, Book 1)
, Kat Richardson
Kat Richardson

In Cold Blood, Truman Capote
very slowly

Monday, December 10, 2007

Nights in pink satin, days in pink collars

This past week was a sugar-coated fiction week, watching the Pixar/Disney film Ratatouille and reading Stephanie Rowe’s Date Me Baby, One More Time, which could be classified as paranormal chick lit.

The experience set me to thinking about the large quantities of gloss that gets slathered over stories in our era. Disneyfication of fairy tales is a case in point. As a cynical adult, my interest flagged a little in Ratatouille, and I think it was in part because the story was convoluted without being rooted in a reality I could access. You could see the cooking genius rat as an eternal outsider, aiming for an impossible dream. Yet, it was a strain to keep suspending that disbelief.

As my Web Diva, Sue Trowbridge put it in reviewing the film, “Rats, in a kitchen?” I’ve had pet rats, and they are charming little critters, but not shall we say housebroken or extraordinarily clean. A colony of rats living in and around your kitchen and flooding around the neighborhood, pouring into (or out of) a house in great masses evokes a visceral reaction that is hard to sentimentalize. We don't have this problem with Mickey Mouse because he looks and acts very little like the rat you do not want to find in your cupboard and much more like a human despite the ears.

Watching Ratatouille set me to contemplating how much harm has been done by “happily ever after” and yet how ingrained it is. If I were reading a story to a child would I prefer the “happily ever after” fairy tales than those of the Brothers Grimm, which end with "happily until their deaths." But that doesn’t mean the child would prefer the more sanitized version. I know those who fondly recall the bloodthirsty Grimm tales, envisioning the punishments inflicted on some characters as happening to siblings or mean kids on whom they wish vengeance. I think that’s similar to children’s love of dinosaurs—Tyrannosaurus Rex makes great imaginary backup.

“These fairy tales are not senseless stories written for the amusement of the idle; they embody the profound religion of our forefathers,” . . . -- W. S. W. Anson, Asgard and the Gods, p. 21

I’m not sure how much that the above quote relates to anything I read or watched this week, I just liked it when I found it while I was searching for
happily ever after,

The title of Date Me Baby, One More Time is a satire on Britney Spears’ 1999 mega hit song, "Hit Me Baby One More Time." Yikes. I don’t know how serious the sadomasochistic undertones are to the target audience (20-30 somethings). Date Me is filled with violent threats that are thrown out with the same casual tone that is used to contemplate buying pretzels. It's kind of a convention of the genre. The heroine and her love interest are each hoping to cut the other’s head off for complicated magical survival reasons. The characters take it seriously, that is their job after all. But it is not to be taken seriously by the reader who knows that this is a romance. The fragility of the threats dilutes the suspense somewhat, as does the fact that most of the characters are immortal or extremely hard to kill. But the kill-or-be-killed romance would be an extremely dark tale if the reader did imagine that actual murder would ever happen.

The heroine of Date Me, has a convoluted supernatural pedigree, a fire-breathing dragon for a roommate, and a dead mother who keeps returning from purgatory to complain that she is being courted by Satan, who is portrayed as a hopelessly ineffective lounge lizard who only lives to make the heroine’s mother Queen of Hell. The Satan character was at first irksome, but I eventually accepted him as a sort of Wile E. Coyote figure (with the part of the Roadrunner played by the heroine's dead mother--see? I said it was convoluted!)

The story and all of its conventions float on a veritable sea of horniness—I won’t say “hormones” because the characters' lusts seemed as formalized as a minuet, but I have to give it an "A" for inventiveness and I did keep turning the pages. Kind of like Laurell K. Hamilton on laughing gas.

December 3 to 10, 1977 I read:

The Pink Collar Workers, Inside the World of Women’s Work, Louise Kapp Howe

A Time Magazine review:

To assemble her disquieting portrait of the work life of the average woman, Howe interviewed scores of women, met with unions and management and even took a job as a sales clerk. The vast majority of women, she writes, are in "pink collar" occupations: beautician, office worker, sales clerk, waitress. Among the problems contributing to their generally low wages: too many applicants and not enough jobs, indifferent unions, and company policy predicated on "A and P" (attrition and pregnancy) to hold down the office payroll.

Louise Kapp Howe died in 1984, just a year after Stallard, Ehrenreich and Sklar took her work a step further and coined the term "pink collar ghetto."

In 1998 Salon Magazine reported that Public Relations was becoming a new pink collar ghetto

In the 21st century this situation has changed in some ways, and in other ways has not
2004 pink collar update

December 3 to 10, 2007 I read:

Date Me Baby, One More Time, Stephanie Howe
Stephanie Rowe web page/

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Winter hearts, ironic rewards

I watched the film Infamous recently and found that it sent me back both to Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, which I consider one of the best-written books I’ve ever read, but to some other books that surround it—including Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. Last year I saw the film, Capote, which was powerful and dominated by Phillip Lee Hoffman’s tour de force performance. It took about a year for me to be ready to revisit the harsh subject matter of a cold-blooded killing in the American heartland. The intriguing spectacle of the glitteringly, openly gay, Capote charming his way into the hearts and minds of 1960’s small town people of 1959 Kansas has some humor.

Writer/director Douglas McGrath’s Infamous focuses on the damage inflicted by lost love while in Capote writer Dan Futterman and director Bennett Miller zero in more on the damage inflicted by betrayal, some of the improvisation took me out of that film's reality.

The Futterman/Bennett film was primarily based on Gerald Clark’s biography, while Infamous was more based on George Plimpton’s book of interviews Truman Capote: In Which Various Friends, Enemies, Acquaintances and Detractors Recall His Turbulent Career.

For me, Infamous was easier to view, less bleak, I guess. It was surprisingly evocative—not just of its time period, my 1960s were considerably different than either the glittering world of New York or the small town, but of the power of art and the price... Sandra Bullock's gentle words as Nelle Harper Lee about the "blue" at the heart of the the brightest flame was as affecting as some of the more dramatic moments.

November 22 to December 2, 1977. I read:

Literary Women, the Great Writers, Ellen Moers
Note: elusively written, didactic, disorganized. What is the odd feminist obsession with George Sand?

Media Sexploitation, Wilson Bryan Key
Note: a wealth of unsubstantiated statements, and some actual data.

, Octavia E. Butler

J. R. R. Tolkien, Architect of Middle Earth, Daniel Grotta-Kursk
Note: very nice, clean, literate

Loose Changes, Three Women of the 60s, Sarah Davidson
Note: It took about a week to finish this. I did not like it

November 22 to December 2, 2007 I read:

The Ghost, Robert Harris
A thriller, state-of-the-art escape reading!