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

Monday, December 08, 2008

Remembrance of heartbreaks past and bagpipes present

November 25 to December 27, 1978

Bird Lives, the High Life & Hard Times of Charlie (Yardbird) Parker by Ross Russell
Note from 1978: A tough book for me to read and almost as tough not to read

This note gives me a personal insight, which I'll try to share, even though it highlights what a sad young woman I was in 1978. I sigh to confess that I had a hopeless crush on a jazz musician after a brief affair. Hence the Charlie Parker connection--research I might call it. I carried that torch for an amazing number of years, but fortunately rather than playing it out in life, my heartbreak inspired my first novel--a sensitive story of disillusioned youth. The novel was unreadable, but I learned a lot by writing it. The quaint memory of my youthful misery gives me hope that my current problems will similarly fade once I've come out of the tunnel.

Janus by Arthur Koestler
Note: Only the ch. on wit and humor

The Night Lords by Nicholas Freeling

Emma Hamilton by Norah Lofts

The Thin Game by Edwin Bayrd

The Black Marble by Joseph Wambaugh

Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin

Air Time, the Inside Story of CBS News by Gary Paul Estes

Movie Stars, Real People and Me by Joshua Logan
Joshua Logan

Soul Rush,Odessey of a young woman of the '70s" by Sophia Collier
- note: a Guru Maharaj Ji survivor

I was interested to see that Collier did well later in life.

November 25 to December 27, 2008 I read:

The Saint City Sinners by Lilith Saintcrow
More demons and necromancers

The Little Country
by Charles de Lint

Music and bagpipes in particular play such major role in this book that I went looking for some YouTube examples of bagpipes, etc. This is the one I liked best.

Making Money by Terry Pratchett
It doesn't seem as if I've 30 books by Terry Pratchett, but I have, and I'd happily as many more as he writes and re-read the ones I've already read!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Kyptonite and what women want

Porno, romance and loading the dice
I just read The Devil's Right Hand, the third in a series I enjoy by Lilith Saintcrow. Am I the only person who thinks the cover looks like the bank camera shot of hostage Patricia Hearst robbing the Hibernia Bank?

Patty Hearst

I did have an insight as I read this book into how paranormal romances target women's greatest wish/fear. To give a little background Dante Valentine is necromance who raises the dead and who has formed a relationship with a capital D Demon--the tragic Byronic figure to the tenth power. I don't want to put in much of a spoiler, but when the demon falls for the human, he literally falls....gives her a portion of his power and is inextricably linked to her.

A great deal of the tension in the series so far is Dante's inability to trust this bond. But what struck me was the tension between the Uber-testosterone-laced demonic hero and the way that the heroine has ensnared him.

This reminded me of a conversation with a gay male friend who had just read some women's erotica written by a friend from high school. He had to shake his head at what different fantasies women have. I can't speak with any authority about gay porn, but what little I've read of it leads me to believe that it's similar to heterosexual male porn--with lots of focus on equipment, anatomy and performance. Wait is that a car commercial?

What I've observed about erotica written by women for women is the degree to which power replaces plumbing as the focus. I'm not saying that porn written by women for women doesn't get into serious anatomical exploration. Please feel free to correct me if my baby boom generational thing makes me miss new developments in feminist sensory adventures, but as a general rule I think women often savor the validation involved in arousing desire as a major component of the erotic experience.

In the paranormal romance I see women protagonists loading the dice so that a little sliver of kryptonite pierces the male and renders flight impossible.

There's a similar dynamic of males who breed well in captivity in both of Laurel K. Hamilton popular paranormals series. In each of these the heroine has all the guys to herself and they cannot roam or stray.

And a "Hey Nonny Nonny" to ya'll.

From October 21 to November 24, 1978 I read:

Scribble Scribble by Nora Ephron

The Empty Copper Sea by John D. MacDonald

Confessions of a Compulsive Eater by Diane Broughton
Note: I read this during my dieting days, surprisingly enough when I stopped dieting I no longer had compulsive overeating problems. My own experience has been that the deprivation caused what I will now call "self-starvation related re-feeding."

Copper Gold by Pauline Glen Winslow

Who Really Wrote the Book of Mormon? by Wayne L. owdrey, Howard A Daws and Donald Scales

Will Shakespeare, the Untold Story by John Mortimer

The Duchess of Jermyn Street, the Life and Good Times of Rosa Lewis of the Cavendish Hotel
by Daphne Fielding

Brat Race, Cartoons by Norman Thelwell

Who's Afraid of Elizabeth Taylor?
by Brenda Maddox

Quiet as a Nun by Antonia Fraser

Tell Me Who I Am Before I Die by Christina Peters and Ted Schwartz
Note: Multiple personality

From October 21 to November 24, 2008 I read:

The Devil's Right Hand
by Lilith Saintcrow

The Tomb by F. Paul Wilson
the Repairman Jack series

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Write Stuff in 8 Words from Tony Hillerman

Rest in peace, Tony Hillerman. This NY Times piece by Marilyn Stasio ends with the essential eight words from the man himself.

“The name of the game is telling stories.”

Thursday, October 23, 2008

"Quality" Lit and the Zombie Factor

I should preface this rant with a conversation I had with a friend describing a book she was reading--beautifully written, complex characters, multi-layered relationships, resonant with current affairs and worldview.

"Um, are there any vampires or flesh-eating zombies?"
"Sorry, then I'm probably not going to read it."

It used to be murder that I required in fiction, but now it's a rare book that gets my attention unless it goes beyond death to spin a yarn on the dark side, mapping that undiscovered country.

This brings me to a recent article on the latest trends in the publishing industry (no zombies there, but I'm always curious about the publishing business). Unfortunately the article totally focused on a narrow spectrum at the top New York Magazine.

For every Pretty Young Debut Novelist who snags that seven-figure prize, ten solid literary novelists have seen advances slashed for their third books.

Of course, back in the boom nineties, the corporations themselves were pumping up the expectations of midlist writers.Consider Dale Peck. His first novel, Martin and John, came out in 1993 to excellent reviews, and by his third book, in 1998, he was, by his own account, wildly overpaid. Books, he says, “were like Internet stocks, getting enormous advances without demonstrating any moneymaking whatsoever.” Having rarely sold more than 10,000 copies, he took up with superagent Andrew Wylie, developed a reputation for being a “diva,” and pretty soon couldn’t sell a book to save his life. Until he started specializing in genre fiction—first children’s books, then horror. Last year, Peck sold Body Surfing, a thriller about demons exiting people through sexual release. He’s now splitting $3 million with Heroes writer Tim Kring to produce a trilogy of conspiracy thrillers.

Peck sees an increasingly hostile environment for the kind of books he used to write. “When you get $100,000 for a novel,” he says, “you want $150,000 and then $200,000, so when they pay you $25,000 for the next one, and my rent is $2,500 a month, what do you do? The system works just fine for commercial fiction. But for literary fiction, I think we had a nice run of it in the commercial world.”

The experiences of the "quality lit" authors described in the article don't bear much resemblance to any of the authors I've met in the genre fiction realm. Many of them had larger sales, received tiny advances and were dropped by their publishers. In case you hadn't noticed, there's a class system in literature. Chip on my shoulder, who me? Sour grapes--not exactly. I wouldn't trade my life for anyone else's even though I've taught myself to write by reading and writing, and I seem to be a slow learner! I couldn't live the kind of life one would have to live to build a literary diva career. It's hard to network with a chip on your shoulder and I'm always better off holing up with my words.

At the risk of sounding like the Sour Grapes Wine Tasting tour, I gotta say that the "quality" books they describe sound tedious rather than tempting. It's not so much a gender thing. The books I read these days are mostly written by and aimed at women, but gender is only part of the story. There's a caste system involved that sets off an alarm in the aforementioned chip on my shoulder. (Who knew the chip had a microchip and the microchip had a Caste System Proximity Alert Buzzer?)

The books that do interest me are dismissed as beneath the notice of the elite publishing crew quoted in this article. If you chopped the cash numbers drastically and upped the sales figures, some of the writers' experiences sound like those of authors I've known--all genre authors, mostly female--the ones who lost their contracts for insufficient sales.

The sentence that angers me most is the throwaway statement that "the system works just fine for commercial fiction." They are too contemptuous of commercial authors to even examine how the industry really affects that "lower sort" of fiction. Let's tell the huge percentage of mystery novel writers who have lost their contracts because they didn't meet unrealistic sales goals that "the system works fine." No one is offering them a few million dollars to slum in the horror field. I'm not speaking myself here--I'm not sure I'd be a good collaborator. But I know several very well-qualified, hardworking (non-Diva) authors who would have been happy to collaborate in the sordid commercial field.

Sorry, but the longer I contemplate this, the angrier I get, so enough on THAT topic.

However, the violence of my own reaction to this whole "pity the poor quality author forced to whore in genre fiction" gave me some insight into how living as an invisible person in this society has stirred up dark emotions that require books that feature flesh-eating zombies, blood-sucking vampires and girl exorcists. I shall however avoid Mr. Peck's thriller with the orgasmo-demons. If someone has contempt for what they are writing, I'm not going to argue with them.

My own experience in the publishing industry has been totally and completely in the genre world. I started writing them when I did the math and found that 80% of what I read was mysteries. Now it's fantasy/horror, so I'm writing that.

The second longish quote from an article in
the New York Times spoke to the fact that many of the writers in the horror and horror-ish line are now women.

In recent years, though, women — perhaps emboldened by the success of the florid vampire novels written by the pre-Jesus Anne Rice — have been claiming a much larger share of their genre birthright, even devoting themselves, in many cases, exclusively to horror. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say they’re writing fiction that uses the traditional materials of horror for other purposes, because novels like those of the wildly popular Laurell K. Hamilton or the Y.A. phenomenon Stephenie Meyer don’t appear to be concerned, as true horror should be, with actually frightening the reader. (Rice wasn’t, either.) The publishing industry has even cooked up a new name to brand this sort of horroroid fiction, in which vampires and other untoward creatures so vividly express their natural and unnatural desires: it’s called “paranormal romance.”

Unreadable as most of this stuff is (at least for us males), there’s a certain logic to this turn of pop-cultural events, in that we the reading public no longer share a clear consensus on what constitutes abnormal, or indeed scary, behavior. In the unlamented prefeminist world, women were themselves so routinely marginalized as “different” or “other” that perhaps it’s not such a stretch for them to identify, as many now seem to, with entities once considered monstrous, utterly beyond the pale. And, further, quite a few of these monsters, notably the vampires, are beautiful, worldly and unstoppably strong — which makes them useful vehicles for empowerment fantasies.

A measure of doubt, or at least ambivalence, about what should terrify us isn’t necessarily a bad thing for a writer. Times change, as do the shapes of our fears: it’s probably just as well not to be too sure where the real threats to our bodies and souls are coming from.

"Unreadable" by males????? Okay, I'm not going to examine that topic at all. I've ranted way too much already. Return with us now to those library-obsessed days of yesteryear--

September 21 to October 21, 1978 I read (or at least started to read):

Books I didn't finish--
The Dragons of Eden, Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence by Carl Sagan

The Portable Dorothy Parker, Dorothy Parker
note: Sampled

The Anatomy of Swearing by Ashley Montague

The Women's Room by Marilyn French
- Irritable note (I guess I was crankly 30 years ago in Oct as well!): Poorly written and overpriced at $2.50 paperback. I got about 5 pages into this--what a rotten book. Even now the angst aspect doesn't appeal much to me.

On the other hand I did finish--
Louisa May, A Modern Biography of Louisa May Alcott by Martha Saxton
note: v. good

Inside Las Vegas by Mario Puzo
My recollection was that this was an illustrated book--not a lot of copy but many pictures. My note then: poorly done. Doesn't quite make it to 4th rate, but bettter, I now realize than the novel for which this was the reseeach prologue (Fools Die) that one really sucked.

The Laughing Policeman by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo

Closing Time, the true story of the "Goodbar" murders by Lacey Fosburgh
note: very finely written

September 21 to October 20 2008 I read:

Blood Noir by Laurell K. Hamilton
There's a somewhat interesting plot in this one, particularly if you skip the sex scenes (unless you want to read them for comic relief, I find them cringeworthy without being evocative).

Re-reads this month

Dracula by Bram Stoker
Re-reading the classic reminds me how much more slowly life moved in those days, and to what degree vampires were linked with fear of women's sexuality, and the helplessness of watching loved ones waste away and die (a much more common experience back then). As the NYT article above suggests, vampires have a different meaning in some modern texts.

A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare - 1599 by James Shapiro

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Help me find those parts of myself I thought I'd lost forever...

Perhaps we could start by looking under the sofa.

Sorry, but I heard that line in a television movie trailer. I had to write it down because I could not stop laughing. Turns out I got a few words wrong. If you're masochistic enough to watch to the end of this extended trailer you can hear it for yourself. It's from the new Diane Lane, Richard Gere "middle-aged romance" movie, Nights in Rodanthe. The real quote is "You came along and helped me find those parts of myself I thought I'd lost forever."

Anything that makes me laugh is worth the effort, but this is almost the quintessence of the sort of movie I stay away from. Author of the book the movie is is based on is Nicholas Sparks, who also wrote the megahit The Notebook, and he's definitely hit a nerve with many people.

I was also moved, but to laughter rather than tears.

We now return you 1978.

August 19 to September 19, 1978 I read:

You Need Help, Charlie Brown by Charles Schultz

It's a Dog's Life, Charlie Brown by Charles Schultz

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

Surprise! surprise!: How the lawmen conned the thieves by Ron Shaffer, Kevin Klose & Alfred E Lewis

Cheap Thrills, History of Pulp Fiction by Ron Goulart

The Wolf Children
, by Charles MacLean
Review on feral children.com

Risk by Dick Francis

Scott & Earnest, the Fitzgerald Hemingway Friendship by Matthew J. Bruccoli

The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson

Links by Charles Panati

My Bike & Other Friends, Vol. II of Book of Friends
by Henry Miller

Poetry of the Blues
by Samuel Charters

A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick

Ordinary People by Judith Guest
Another sensitive book that didn't do it for me, my comment: "Whyever did she write this banal book?"

Fear of Flying by Eric Jong (a re-read)

Wit's End, Days & Nights of the Algonquin Round Table by James R. Gaines

Dickens of London by Wolf Mankowitz

The Natural Mind by Andrew Weil

August 19 to September 19, 1978 I read:

Brightness Falls from the Air by James Tiptree, Jr.
Crown of Stars by James Tiptree, Jr.
wiki on James Tiptree,Jr

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula LeGuin

Twelve Sharp by Janet Evanovich

The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong
I have to comment that while this book offered state-of-the art storytelling, it also had a cliffhanger "to be continued" ending, which I found unethical. Particularly because the book is a hardcover marketed to young adults.

The Devil Inside by Jenna Black
Jenna Black

I liked the concept of a free-lance exorcist in a demon-ridden world, but getting to know the characters and even the plot itself was for me at least, undermined by every-other-chapter graphic sex, beginning with phone sex and progressing to BDSM, dungeons and so on. One blurb called it "early Anita Blake" but it's much closer to more recent of Laurell K. Hamilton's novels. Your mileage may vary, some people read these books for the hot scenes. I find that when you don't know the characters before they are merging their stripper-toned bodies, a book becomes more like actual pornography where the characters are not supposed to have depth. Porn characters like the heroines/heroes of conventional romance and thrillers, are stand-ins for the reader, so they don't exist as individuals in the same way as more rounded characters do. An example of such a narrative problem is when the heroine provides plot complications simply by refusing to cooperate with all the other characters even when it makes no sense and puts everyone's life in danger. Those kinds of crankiness need to be strongly motivated or they just look like a case of perpetual PMS.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Where did the summer go?

Wow, I missed more than a month in there. My only excuse is that I've been writing and I've even managed to find some books I enjoyed reading. Well, here goes.

July 2 to August 22, 1988 I read:

The Best Plays of 1975-76
(Otis L. Guernsey, Jr., Ed.)
I especially loved the Alan Ayckbourn's The Norman Conquests. I had seen it on PBS and the tour de force structure fascinated
me. I eventually bought a hardcover copy in order to study it.
wiki on The Norman Conquests

I just found a link with an intro explanation of how Ayckbourne write the triplex of plays. That kind of thing still fascinates me.

Public Trust, Private Lust: Sex, Power & Corruption on Capitol Hill, Marion Clark & Rudy

The Squeal Man, the true story of Mat Bonora, Suburban Homicide Detective by Martin Flusser

Shakespeare & His Playersby Martin Holmes

George Eliot, A Biography
by Rosemary Sprague
Note: has an irritating "for young readers flavor" otherwise okay.

Butley by Simon Gray

Scarlett O'Hara's Younger Sister by Evelyn Keyes

The Other Woman, A Life of Violet TrefusisIncluding Previously Unpublished Correspondence with Vita Sackville-West by Julian Philippe and John Phillips
My note at the time was "Who cares?" I think I'd even forgotten even who this woman was, but I looked her up and this website is kind of interesting.

The Blond Baboon by Jan Willem van de Wetering

The Serial by Cyra McFadden

Recent note - this suburban serial moved across the Golden Gate Bridge when it was continued by Armistead Maupin and became
Tales of the City

The Michigan Murders by Edward Keyes

The Moving Target, from Archer in Hollywood by Ross MacDonald

Children with Emerald Eyes by Mira Rothenberg
note: honest frank and stunningly written, intensely moving

Maigret and the Lover by Simenon

Dickens and Crime by Phillip Collins

Dear Me by Peter Ustinov

The Final Solution, Jack the Ripper by Stephen Knight

Pool of Tears by John Wainwright

The Mask of Merlyn by T.H. White
I can't find this book on the net. Could I have been reading White's The Book of Merlyn that was published in 1977? Probably. Either way, much as I love T.H. White and The Once and Future King, I didn't like and couldn't finish this one.

The Locked Room by Maj Sjöwall & Per Wahlöö

They Went Thataway, a Front Row Kid's Search for His Boyhood Heroes, the Old Time Hollywood Cowboys by James Horowitz

Body Politics, Power, Sex & Nonverbal Communication by Nancy Henley

The West End Horror by Nicholas Meyer

Hunters Point by George Sims

Aupres de Ma Blonde by Nicholas Freeling

A Proper Book of Sexual Folklore by Tristram Potter Coffin

The Redd Foxx Encyclopedia of Black Humor by Redd Foxx & Normal Miller

Cults of Unreason by Dr. Christopher Evans

Scream Quietly or the Neighbors Will Hear by Erin Pizzey

By Persons Unknown, George Jonas & Barbara Miel

July 2 to August 22, 1988 I read:

Witches Grave by Phillip DePoy
Depoy's website with mystery & theater information The Preacher from the Black Lagoon production looks funny.

Queen of Angels by Greg Bear
Greg Bear

Blue Moon (A Night Creature Novel, Book 1) by Lori Handeland
Lori Handeland

The Rule of Four by Ian Caldwell
and Dustin Thomason
DaVinci Code style website
I had to smile a little at the website, maybe the Renaissance code thing was similar, but what I enjoyed about The Rule of Four was its measured pace and not-too-intense plot--"will the guys finish their Princeton senior theses and graduate in time? Will they stay in touch after they graduate? Will the proctors catch them playing laser tag in the steam tunnels and expel them?" It had charm but no homicidal, masochistic monks....

The Yiddish Policeman's Union by Michael Chabon
Article about Chabon, Sitka and The Yiddish Policeman's Union
I've been looking forward to reading this for a long time. Chabon's use of language is a pleasure in and of itself.

Monday, August 04, 2008

San Francisco....for fiction's sake

I'm particularly happy to have a new e-book, The 33 Worst Mistakes Writers Make About San Francisco available at
author Holly Lisle's site
in her "Holly Shop, where the Writing Geeks Shop" (gotta love the slogan). Holly believes in paying it forward with her lessons for writers and I'm proud to have two e-books now as part of her "Worst Mistakes Writers Make..." series.

I wanted to write about San Francisco because I've lived here since 1968. I've used the backdrop myself and had reviewers comment that the city seemed like a character in the book. Like many local residents and visitors, I enjoy reading books set in the city, except when writers fail to check the basic details, that drives us crazy--well, crazier. In The 33 Worst Mistakes Writers Make About San Francisco I provide some essential details to help keep writers from making outsider mistakes.

For example, you'll want to know how the physical layout of streets and hills shape life in the city and even influence the weather and the social climate. I hope this book can help writers both to avoid mistakes and also to pick up some of the "only in San Francisco" flavor of the place. There are lots of useful links to changeable things such as bridges and traffic. Anyone who's lived in this crazy city for awhile will understand why I couldn't resist throwing in some other fun stuff, such as who calls it "Frisco", who never will, and how that one little word can get you arrested.

You can also still get my first "Worst Mistakes" e-book, The 33 Worst Mistakes Writers Make About Courtroom Law.
In that e-book, I tried to cram 35 years of experience working in law offices, transcribing police interrogations, watching the legal system in action, while taking note in my spare moments of twists in the law that I could use to lend reality to plotting mystery novels.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Books, Mountains, Resources

(Wherein the blogger whines or mourns, depending on how you look at it. Uplifting lesson optional.)

I'm thinking a lot about my father's goal for my brother and me. He said "I want you to learn to use yourself as a resource." In World War II, as a bombardier in the Army Air Corps, he was shot down over Germany and held as a prisoner of war by the Nazis. That experience helped form his view that you never know what life will throw at you, and you need to be able to cope with whatever you bring with you.

Those thoughts arose as I reflected on the fact that it's been awhile since I've read a book, even though I've seen a great many I would like to read. Quite simply I can't access them.

The closest I came to reading a book this past month was watching a PBS showing of a 2003 documentary, Touching the Void, based on the book by the same name written by Joe Simpson. It tells the story of his amazing survival as a mountain climber in the Peruvian Andes, thought to be dead by his fellow climber and trapped alone in a crevasse with a badly broken leg. (I have knee problems and I had to briefly turn off the sound while he described his horrific leg break and knee injury)

Touching the Void

Simpson's amazing feat in getting down off that mountain all on his own resonated with me enormously.

My own obstacles are not mountains--well, I have several obstacles but the topic of the day is books--specifically the lack thereof. Mind you, I don't have a shortage of books in my living space--I probably own about 1,000 give or take. I try to winnow down the number when I can. Some I haven't even read, some I've read repeatedly, some I may never read. People in times and places where one book was precious would shake their heads at how keenly I mourn the fact that I can't read what strikes my fancy simply because I can't afford to buy books and I physically can't get to a library to borrow them. But when you can't do what has always comforted you most, it becomes a challenge.

What I miss most is the pure luxury that I had for the first four or five decades of my life of walking into a library and checking out anything that caught my fancy. It was free. I always took home as many books as were allowed, books I could never have afforded to buy.

In the late 1980s and 1990s I worked in the financial district and had less time to go to the library and more money to buy books. So I bought the ones that really interested me (often but not always in paperback) and borrowed books from friends who shared similar tastes.

Now I find myself in a stretch of road where I can't afford to buy books at all and I also can't physically get to a library or even easily go downstairs to the mail boxes in my building to bring up books. The library offers to ship books to the disabled but that program only works for the disabled who can get to their mailbox. I was hopeful when I got an electronic library card, but I had to laugh when I saw that the only e-books they had available were ones I could get online for free at Project Gutenberg. I like books that are out of copyright, but that is a far cry from the freedom to explore the newest books as you wander through a library or bookstore.

For those who hung in hearing my woes, let me say that Joe Simpson's story of survival against incomprehensible odds encouraged me to cope in small increments. That is how he got out of the crevasse, climbing toward the light. That is how he got down off the mountain, sliding through the snow on his butt watching out for the other crevasses in 20 minutes increments. Then at the base of the mountain he hopped on his good leg and an ice axe, often falling painfully on the rocky moraines, until he reached the base camp--a four day journey.

My pain is a mere twinge compared to that, no life-threatening dehydration, blood loss or hypothermia. Not an armed Nazis prison guard in sight.

My own small sadness is that I have to use my own resources, often reading snippets on the web when I would prefer to get lost in a book of my own choosing. I have hopes of getting down off this particular personal mountain, but at the moment I simply keep going, even though I go rather slowly.

From June 4 to July 1, 19788 I read:

The Blue Hammer, Ross MacDonald

Poetry and the Age, Randall Jarrell
Note: very endearing

Call for the Dead, John Le Carré
Looking Glass War, John Le Carré

Big Bad Wolves, Masculinity in the American Film, Joan Mellen

The Sexual Outlaw, a Documentary, John Rechy
Note: not very documentary. Too many exclamation points and artsy "descriptive" passages. Still alive and working and with a website and a my space page at 74.

Shakespeare & the Actors, Ivor Brown

A Guide to Jane Austen, Michael Hardwick

The Rise and Fall of the Well-Made Play, John Russell Taylor

Free to Act, How to Star in Your Own Life, Warren Robertson

Christopher and His Kind 1929-1939, Christopher Isherwood

Vivien Leigh, a Biography, Anne Edwards
Note: Very sad

A Preface to Jane Austen (not sure of the author)

Not above the law: The battles of Watergate prosecutors Cox and Jaworski: a behind-the-scenes account, James Doyle

Jane Austen, Jenkins

Persuasion, Jane Austen

From June 4 to July 1, 2008 no books read.

I did tame some ferocious feral kittens, but that's a different story.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Moving forward slowly, looking back unavoidably

It's been a month when I did a lot of work-related reading of non-books. The most literary thing I did was watch a netflix movie rental, Wonder Boys. I watched it more than once, just as I read the book it was based on more than once.

This adaptation was wonderful in itself and also did justice to the Michael Chabon book. How often does that happen? I did not realize till I watched the Special Features that the Bob Dylan song "Things Have Changed" was written for the movie. Can't get much cooler than that.

In the latter part of the month, I found myself with a taming cage of three feral kittens in my front room. I never said I was sane. I posted a bit about this on the Body Impolitic Blog link at the right.

May 3 to June 3, 1978 I read:

Van Gogh's Letters. [Vincent Van Gogh, a Self Portrait and Dear Theo]
Made little headway, perhaps a biography would help

Sylvia Plath, the Woman and the Work, Ed, with intro by Edward Butscher
Quote p 107 - "Magna est veritas et prevae labit." - "Truth is mighty and will prevail, in a bit."

The Making of the Wizard of Oz, Aljean Harmetz
Note: fascinating
The Making of The Wizard of Oz

Breaking It Up! The Best Routines of the Stand Up Comics, Ross Firestone, Ed.

Straight, Steve Knickmeyer
My note: Convoluted, cardboard but amusing, at least the guy has read The Princess Bride.

Other Other Side of the Rainbow, with Judy Garland on the Dawn Patrol, Mel Torme

Jacks or Better, CTS Matthews

The Life and Crimes of Errol Flynn, Lionel Godfrey
Note: brings back fond memories of the first dirty book that ever crossed my path--Flynn's autobiography, My Wicked, Wicked Ways. Read it serialized in a men's magazine that got left in a hotel room that I got to stay in when my parents and I were leaving Fairbanks, Alaska. There was a nudist magazine there too. We had been living in a two-room cabin for the year or so before that and I think my parents were glad enough to have the privacy of their own room and didn't pay much attention to what I might find in my room. Coincidentally my brother was born about 9 months later.

Condominium, John D. McDonald

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, John LeCarré
Note: spies with depth

Poets on Poetry, 16 Essays from Sir Philip Sidney to Wallace Stevens,
Charles Norman, Ed.
Note: renewing an old friendship, still a fascinating book
Current note: I think I still have a copy of this book

Possession, L. P. Davies
Note - I got very cranky with the author for sloppy details such as a character wearing "pleasantly tight black slacks" that inexplicably turned tweed during the scene, then turned into a tweed skirt a few pages later.

May 3 to June 3, 2008 I read:

The Body Sacred, Dianne Sylvan
Dianne Sylvan blog

Friday, May 02, 2008

I had an opportunity to read The Program, by Charlie Lovett before its May 1 publication date and I can report that it takes a fictional look at just how far women can go to meet the supermodel thin ideal. It also offers a male author's view (through the characters) about just what the majority of men consider sexy. A major plot bombshell detonates on page 25, but obviously I'm sworn to secrecy about just what that is. The Program is available on the Pearlsong web page and the usual online book dealers.

Pearlsong Press has some great resources and I admire founder, Peggy Elam's commitment to publishing body positive fiction and nonfiction. I'm already seriously taken by Pat Ballard's 10 Steps to Loving Your Body (No Matter What Size You Are) and it won't even be published till fall of this year.

We now return you to your irregularly scheduled time warp.

From April 17 to May 2, 1978 I read:

The Poe Papers ["A Tale of Passion"?] N.L. Zaroulis
The brackets and question mark were mine and I noted "very poorly written"

After Claude, Iris Owens

This reminds me how I got a copy of this book to read. I had just finished my first novel in May of '88. My friend, JB, had the kindness and stamina to read through it, essentially at one sitting. (Which is more than I could do when I tried to re-read it a few years later--arggh, it was a sensitive story of disillusioned youth and all that that entails.) I believe we drank brandy and he put his entire collection of ALL the records from the Supremes on the stereo while I waited and he read my book. He must have had some reactions, probably charitably vague, I don't remember much except that after he read my book, he lent me After Claude and told me my book reminded him of it, and perhaps I could get some pointers from it. My note when I concluded reading After Claude was: "quite an insult to be compared to this author--but perhaps my inept 1st novel deserved it."

I can't find anything else by Iris Owens, but JB either didn't know or failed to mention, that Owens, under the name of Harriet Daimler, was a prominent Parisian pornographer for Olympia Press:

Hip young Americans Iris Owens and Marilyn Meeske had never so much as read any pornographic literature before meeting Girodias, but as 'Harriet Daimler', Owens became one of Girodias's most celebrated pornographers, someone who struggled 'against her impossible tendency to write more explicitly than the courts will tolerate'.
Bloomsbury Magazine

Odd Job #101, Ron Goulart
Note: SFSS

From April 17 to May 2, 2008 I read:

Magic Bites, Ilona Andrews
The title made me hesitate, because it looked as if it might be one of those "cutesy" paranormals, reading it was such a wonderful experience that it reminded me how rarely I enjoy a book that much. It turns out to have been written by a husband-wife team, and to have been very, NY Times bestsellerly popular, and deservedly so. I'm looking forward to reading more from them.
their website

Sunday, April 27, 2008

60 Minutes' infomercial on gastric bypass surgery

Laurie Edison and Debbie Notkin over at the Body Impolitic Blog gave me the opportunity to rant a bit about the scarcely researched valentine that 60 Minutes broadcast on April 20th - Gastric Bypass - It’s Not Just for Fat People Anymore, recklessly throwing around terms like "cure for diabetes" and "decreasing incidence of some cancers." The report didn't even touch on the possibility of any of the well-documented side effects. Sigh. Sad to say, 60 Minutes, I used to love you, but it's all over now.

Friday, April 18, 2008

What's Sex Got To Do With It....Jaki's new novel

I met Jaqueline Girdner at a writers' critique group about 20 years ago. We became friends when we found that we consistently made each other laugh with our manuscripts. Over the years we have dealt with finding and losing agents, publishers and mystery series contracts. Now she has a brand new dysfunctional-family-disaster comedy novel coming out in e-book form from Synergebooks.com.

We have also been collaborating on a blog about E-book fiction. It seems to be a format that has potentials in ways we can only begin to imagine.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Outside the Labyrinths, looking in..,

This is only indirectly related to what I read this past week or so, but I thought it was an interesting image of the Grace Cathedral Labyrinth.

The connection being that Grace Cathedral is selling Tim Farrington's The Monk Downstairs as a fundraiser and I liked that book (the Upstairs sequel um, not so much, I will get a bit cranky on that subject later in the blog.) I should say that I have no connection even karmically with Grace Cathedral, Episcopalianism or labyrinth walking. The odd connection I have to labyrinths is that I have had books published by St. Martin's Minotaur in the US and by Argument Verlag, Ariadne Krimi in Germany. Ariadne was the girl who got through the labyrinth and the Minotaur was the monster at the heart of it.
But I'm including the graphic because it's a pretty image and so is the book cover.

Returning to the thrilling reads of yesteryear--April 6 to April 16, 1978 I read:

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
, Maya Angelou

Marlene Dietrich, Sheridan Morley

Swindled! Classic Business Frauds of the 70s, the staff reporters of the Wall Street Journal

The young romantics: Victor Hugo, Sainte-Beuve, Vigny, Dumas, Musset, and George Sand and their friendships, feuds, and loves in the French romantic revolution, Linda Kelly
Didn't like this one. My note was too negative to quote, but included the word "pompous".

Monty, a Biography of Montgomery Clift, Robert LaGuardia
Note: a little difficult to read because he was so sick and sad and tragic, poor bastard
Interesting site with the kind of stuff one collects when one

The Little Sister, Raymond Chandler
Note: The Santa Monica one, v. good
Ah, Raymond Chandler!

Gone, No Forwarding, Joe Gores

April 6 to April 16, 2008 I read:

The Monk Downstairs, Tim Farrington
Interesting that this book is being sold by Grace Cathedral as a fund raiser.

Ironically, I hadn't expected to like the Downstairs book but I heard it was so well-written that I gave it a try, and I liked it. It was a bit like a Nicholas Hornby book with a bunch of religious meditation thrown in. So, I thought I would try Upstairs, the second one, based on the first one and I found it unreadable.

The Monk Upstairs, Tim Farrington

In all fairness I think it's major challenge to write a sequel that starts off with "then they got married." A book that ends with a wedding in the offing is a very different animal than a book about marriage. And Upstairs...sigh...

Downstairs had much less meditation and much more tension between the hero's uncertainty coming out of a 20-year monastery stay and the single mother's gradually learning to trust him and the process of intimacy.

For the purposes of full disclosure I should say that although I practice Buddhism daily, I never got into silent meditation, and reading about someone else's meditation has never been on my list of interesting pastimes. That said, the first book kept a balance between the hero's conflicts about going back into the secular life and his yearning for the divine.

In the second book the hero's going off to meditate is just annoying. He's totally irresponsible, leaving his fragile, old former abbot (who has just had a couple of rounds of chemotherapy and is about ready to fall over) standing at the altar waiting to perform his wedding while he meditates off in the woods, not deigning to appear till his exasperated bride hauls him out of his meditation hut to go to the ceremony. He seems amazingly similar to her stoner, surfer first husband and the heroine's annoyance with the ex-monk's frequent absences do not make entertaining reading for me. In fact, he looks a bit like a jerk.

Downstairs was seen from the point of view of the heroine with the hero's feelings being disclosed in letters to a fellow monk who is still in the monastery. The suspense was whether the two would get together, with the heroine's mother having a stroke that brings the two together dealing with the young kid and life or death hospital stuff.

With Upstairs one of the points of view is the mother-in-law who is not recovering well from a stroke. The suspense item is when, not whether but when she will have another stroke and die. I kid you not. I was rooting for earlier rather than later. The book had as much of the hero's meditation as it did any other thing, and I finally put myself out of my own misery, skimmed the last scene (Yup, I don't want to be a spoiler but I wasn't the only one put out of my misery).

I said I was cranky, right? Sometimes I just enjoy being cranky. This is probably one of those times.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

As the PBS Masterpiece versions of the Jane Austen novels draws to a close I have to applaud the dramatization of Emma.

I thought it gave a much clearer sense of how the friends and relatives of a high- spirited young woman of wealth might worry about the particular dangers her situation would pose for her. I have to confess that Emma is not my favorite Austen novel so maybe I didn't mind quite so much seeing it boiled down to the the essential story. Didn't much warm to the "chicken rustling" scenes...although this dramatization made the income and social rank gaps among the various characters very clear, which made the story easier to understand.

I also very much liked the decision to explore the complexities of Sense and Sensibility with a two-part version that captured all the nuances of a mother and sisters suddenly fallen from a great height by one of those pesky wills that leave impoverished women at the mercy of unsympathetic relatives.

I'm looking forward to the conclusion tonight (Sun. April 6).

Returning to the somewhat-less-distant past of 1978--

From March 2 to April 5, 2008 I read:

Lady Oracle, Margaret Atwood
I clearly recall reading this book because it was the first time I found a novelist who openly discussed some of the repercussions of being a fat little kid. The book made me very uncomfortable though, and her other books have approached women's lives from a point of view that depressed me so much that I have shied away from her books since.

The Trees, Conrad Richter
The Fields, Conrad Richter
The Town, Conrad Richter
My note: Very moving, gorgeous old-timey talk

I saw the three part miniseries with Elizabeth Montgomery (yes, from Bewitched), and Hal Holbrook. It set me off reading the Richter trilogy, which was well worth it.

This site goes into how Pulitzer-Prize-winning Richter researched and intuited how people lived, and thought, and spoke on the Ohio frontier during the pioneering that he wrote about
About Richter

Life after Life, Raymond A. Moody, Jr., M.D.
My note: Foreword by note death groupie, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, M.D.

I don't remember why I was feeling snarky about Kubler-Ross, I did like the book.
Moody's website

Blye, Private Eye, Nicholas Pileggi

The Girl in the Plain Brown Wrapper, John D. McDonald

Laidlaw, William McIlvanney
McIlvanney is still publishing

How to Save Your Own Life, Erica Jong

A Book of Common Prayer, Joan Didion
My note: Quite boring, but at least short

A Family Affair: The Margaret and Tony Story, Roger Hutchinson & Gary Kahn

Valentines and Vitriol, Rex Reed
My note: Good for people with short attention spans. But some amusing lines, e.g. "Japanese Emperor Hirohito, just interviewed on his 50th wedding anniversary, was asked 'what do you regard as your greatest mistake?' His answer: 'World War II.'"

The Woman Warrior, Memoirs of a Girlhood Among the Ghosts, Maxine Hong Kingston
Some interesting and valuable things she has been doing
Kingston on Moyers Journal

From March 2 to April 5, 2008 I read:

House of Whispers, Margaret Lucke
Couldn't put it down, definitely a page turning ghost story (must note that for me it wasn't scary, just suspenseful).Review

Neuromancer, William Gibson
William Gibson

Silicon Noir--Reading this author's groundbreaking 1986 book so long after most people have provides an odd perspective. I can see how much of his work has been borrowed and expanded upon, for example in The Matrix. But the echoes I got from were from noir books that it hearkens back to like Nathaniel West, even Chandler. Hammett, Heinlein, Jim Thompson and William Burroughs..

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

For writers, from a writer...ignorance of the law is no excuse

Where to get a copy

This is pretty exciting for me, so I have to share it. Holly Lisle invited writers to come up with the 33 things that we know about from real life and get exasperated to see other writers getting wrong. I picked courtroom law, because I worked for lawyers for three decades, and it's amazing how many people get their knowledge of the law from novels, TV, and movies.

I have transcribed A LOT of police interrogations and you would be surprised to find out how detectives really use the Miranda warning about incriminating oneself. Almost as important is when they don't use it and the surprising ways that suspects respond when they hear, "You have the right to remain silent..."

Some other areas I have found where writers get into "legal" trouble:

● What is the one basic rule of questioning that all trial lawyers learn?
● Can lawyers who are married to each other represent opposing sides in a lawsuit?
● A wife cannot be forced to testify against her husband--except in these circumstances....

What about a defense lawyer who wants to switch sides? What would happen if a lawyer found such horrifying information that he decided to quit in the middle of a trial--what can he do and what would he never do?

As a writer I believe that getting the small details can give a story an air of truth, while getting them wrong can irritate the reader and throw a monkey wrench into the finely tuned workings of the most beautifully constructed plot.

Fiction writers don't live by crime alone. Even in stories with no murder or criminal element, the law can loom large. Characters filing lawsuits to haul each other into court can spark major plot conflict, but in order to make a situation believable to readers it's important to know the differences between civil and criminal law.

Okay, so much for my obsession with getting back into print. I've got into e-print...tomorrow, well...

"Tomorrow is another day." Thank you Scarlett, I knew that 12-step group for "Southern Belles with Commitment Issues" would help.

I think to jump from writers' mistakes about the law directly to my obsession with the PBS Jane Austen dramatizations is a subject change that might cause a bad case of whiplash, so I'll leave that subject for next time.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Life in the "to be continued..." lane

I'm in the middle of a learning curve--not quite sure what I'm learning, but it involves a lot of reading of unbound materials and writing of the same. I did see a beautifully done farce, gorgeously written by Dean Craig, with superb acting, and direction by Frank Oz.
Death at a Funeral

February 17 to March 10, 1978 I read:

Playing for Keeps in Washington, Laurence Leamer
Note: Modes/methods of power

The Ends of Power
, Joseph Haldeman
My note "for what it's worth, which is little enuf"

Win or Lose, a Social History of Gambling in America, Stephen Longstreet
Note: didn't finish

Haywire, Brooke Hayward
Note: read about half, incredibly depressing
Her movie star mother
But it sounds like Hayward is doing well now--though it might take a genealogy chart to sort out exactly how: Brooke Hayward now

Eastward Ha! S. J. Perelman
And I found this lovely excerptfrom Westward Ha!

It was pikestaff-plain and Doomsday-certain to me, a deep-water sailor since boyhood, that the Marine Flier was little more than a cheesebox on a raft and would momentarily founder with all hands. Even the veriest landlubber could perceive that the man whose duty it was to drive the ship --- the chauffeur or the motorman or whatever you call him --- was behaving with the grossest sort of negligence; more than likely he was asleep at the tiller or tickling the waitress, abandoning the craft to any, caprice of wind or wave.

February 17 to March 10, 2008

The Traveler (Fourth Realm Trilogy, Book 1
, John Twelve Hawks
Not for the paranoid--unless you get off on being paranoid about the surveillance society and lack of personal freedom and privacy! I personally found paranoia more enjoyable when it didn't so closely resemble reality. The book did have an interesting method of turning astral travel into martial arts. I really do have to say that the male lead had a bad case of "Let's go up in the attic, I'm sure the monster's gone by now, and if not, it'll be okay, because, well it just will that's all." I think the author's plot demands were clouding the character's mind.

The author is reclusive, and rumored to be living "off the grid" although it may just be that the mystery of his identity is to add to the book's mystique.

Blood Brothers (Sign of Seven Trilogy, Book 1), Nora Roberts
No paranoia problems here, pretty mainstream, like 1 part Stephen King and 99 parts distilled water. This author has written over 150 novels under several pen names, and spent literally years on the best seller list. I don't feel qualified to comment.

Okay, I will indulge in one comment about both of those "book 1 in a series" books--a little more of an ending wouldn't hurt, would it? When I was a kid they had "Saturday matinee" movie serials for kids at the local movie theater (Okay, it was the 1950s, but the same serials were on TV too--cowboy and space operas) and each one ended with a cliff hanger. We never managed to get closure on ANY of the cliff hangers. Too much time passed between the episodes and the adults putting the kiddy matinees together didn't care. It was like stroboscopic story telling.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

A Book I Know I Won't Read

This is just a quick post. On the NAAFA mailing list someone posted this link to Kim Brittingham appearing on the Today Show to discuss her experiences as a fat woman reading a book entitled Fat Is Contagious. Brittingham made the cover to dramatize some of the experiences she has had as a fat woman riding public transportation in New York. If you can get video on your computer here's the URL--

Brittingham on Today Show

I really like the poise and positive attitude she displays.


One reason no one read this book because it does not exist--except as a cover.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Jane Austen, Amy Winehouse, Life versus Art

One of my guilty pleasures is award shows. My excuse is that I need to keep up with the current films, music and Broadway plays. Last Sunday the pleasures were guiltier than usual when Grammy Awards had the added soap opera of whether singer, Amy Winehouse, who was nominated for six awards, would be able to attend despite visa problems and substance abuse issues. Ironically one of the songs she won an award for was "Rehab" explaining why she wasn’t going to rehab, while one of obstacles she faced in attending was the fact that she actually is now in rehab.

The Grammy awards, however, were scheduled opposite the PBS airing of the first few hours of Pride and Prejudice, the Colin Firth version, so I missed them. I was still curious enough about Winehouse that I checked her out online
Amy Winehouse


She has an amazing voice that is strong enough to hold up against a baritone saxophone and a Phil Specter-style Wall of Sound. The songs on the Back to Black album stand out like dark, twisted jewelry in the glittery "girl group" setting. Layered, ironic, funny, dangerous, magnetic, sensual. Grafting her bad girl persona onto the girl group sound demonstrates a wicked genius. Those songs invariably feature lyrics like: "Nothing you can do can make me untrue to my guy." A major contrast to Winehouse's "You Know I'm No Good." I haven’t been so amused since I heard a gay male group sing "He’s So Fine."

What, you may well ask, did this teach me about Jane Austen?

Well, the public buzz about Winehouse is that she’s a bad role model. (Goodness, a popular musician being a bad role model! Most unusual.) Sorry, my point was that she’s taken a whole raft of personal problems and turned them into gorgeous works of art.

Jane Austen, a lifelong impoverished spinster who struggled with living on the crumbs of family charity, didn’t even see all her novels published in her life. Yet she created a world so seductive that many of us go there repeatedly.

PBS aired a biographical film, Miss Austen Regrets, on February 3rd that I did not post here about it just after I saw it because it was so painful for me to watch. The film tried to scrape up some romance in Austen’s not-very-eventful life. They turned excerpts from her letters to her sister and her niece into dialog. I’ve heard others say that they found these exchanges witty, but they really don’t dramatize well. Nothing in her novels suggests that she would be that cruel and bitter in a social setting. The problem is that, unlike the surgically deft dialog in her novels, the scathing wit in Austen’s letters was never meant to be spoken aloud in social setting. It was very private and meant for intimate correspondents she trusted.

In the last scene of Miss Austen Regrets, after she and Jane agonize about their poverty and Jane dies, the surviving sister, Cassandra, burns most of her letters. Really the only thing I took away from that film was a more complete understanding of why this was necessary. People look at Austen’s life and want her to be one of the heroines of her novels, but she is their creator, and that is so much more. It would take a biographical genius to portray Austen's life in a way that showed the magic of what she created in her fiction.

We want artists to be saints, but they have other work to do. Their task is to built dream vessels to transport us into their own worlds, to share their visions, songs and stories. Then like all other humans, the artists have to return to real life to deal with it as best they can can.

I have been through substance abuse problems both as a participant and an observer, and I can see how Amy Winehouse is walking a narrow path at the edge of a cliff. I hope she can come to safer ground soon. In the meantime it’s not fair to try to force her to also carry the burden of being a role model, just as it’s cruel to jam Jane Austen into the role of disappointed spinster--we don't know her well enough to say that and conversely we know her too well to limit her that way.

February 5 to 16, 1978 I read:

Breakdown, N. S. Sotherland
My note: A psychologist’s personal account of manic depression with some gossipy put-down sketches of the founders of the main schools of psychotherapy.

Love, Honor and Dismay, Elizabeth Harrison

By Force of Will, the Life and Art of Ernest Hemingway, Scott Donaldson
My note: Much better than Hemingway & the Sun Set, which was remarkable only for a picture of Duff

The Professor Game, Richard D. Mandell
My Note: Fairly witty, which is rare, but with that characteristic poverty of joie de vivre one finds among existentialists. So I’ll say witty and gritty.

The Vagabond, Colette
My note: Wow.

Streets, Actions, Alternatives, Raps: A Report on the Decline of the Counterculture, John Stickney
A 1971 view

February 5 to 16, 2008 I read:

The Devil in the Shape of a Woman, Carol Karlsen
Interesting book, originally a dissertation about who was singled out as witches n Colonial New England and why. Many insights into fears of women that are still alive and flourishing.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Happy publication note and low tech freebie

I wanted to let the select few (the happy few I hope!) who read this blog know that I will have a small ebook coming out soon in Holly Lisle's series The 33 Worst Mistakes Writers Make About... My first entry for this series will be The 33 Worst Mistakes Writers Make About the Legal System.

Do you think a better title would be "...About Courthouse Drama" or "...About the Law"? The book will encompass both of those, and I am entertaining suggestions up until the end of February.

Holly Lisle's online shop, where my ebook will be soon!

Okay, now for the freebie! It is a very useful 52-page ebook, in the form of an Adobe PDF file that Holly created from her Create-A-Plot Clinic. I have the Adobe file and permission to send it out free, but I have hit the limit of my expertise in blogger, so I am hoping I can send it to anyone who wants it as file attachment. You can email me at the link on this blog. I won't put you on a mailing list--believe me I don't know how to do THAT yet either--LOL! I hope to learn, but this is just a one-shot request thingie! If someone requests this and it doesn't work I will modify this post and try another strategy. I may be low tech, but I am nothing if not persistent!

Monday, February 04, 2008

Militant self-acceptance & 80% sincerity -one more time!

Apologies if this shows up twice, it posted below a January post, I guess because I started it earlier. So I'm reposting and deleting the earlier one. A bit primitive but it should work.

This week I read David Roche's amazing book called The Church of 80% Sincerity. David was born in 1948 with a facial disfigurement called Cavernous Hemangioma (a benign tumor consisting of blood vessels), and he suffered further trauma through the medical treatments available at the time-- radiation scarring and many surgeries. His candor and wicked sense of humor put the reader at ease, just as he puts the audience at ease as a motivational speaker. David calls his face “a gift from God. He is quick to add that it is one of those gifts where you say, “Gee, you shouldn’t have.” I have a special fondness for books that make me laugh out loud, and I also value books that aim to foster self-esteem in people just as they are. This book has all that and more. David writes, "The church of the title is not a formal organization but a concept – the church of choice for recovering perfectionists."

I reviewed The Church of 80% Sincerity for Irked Magazine and I'll post a link when that review is available. His entire schedule and much more information is on his website, but I've posted his SF Bay Area event schedule Feb 11-20 for anyone who wants to meet this remarkable man.

Anne Lamott observed in her Foreword, "Everyone watching [David] gets happy because he's secretly giving instruction on how this could happen for them, this militant self-acceptance. He lost...the good looking packaging, and the real parts endured."

I highly recommend the book. I highly recommend militant self-acceptance.

Previously, well, roughly 30 years previously--January 27 to February 4, 1978 I read:

The Black Charade, John Burke

Whatever Became of Jane Austen and Other Questions, Kingsley Amis
My note was: Vitriol ordinaire

Betrayal, Lucy Freeman and Julie Roy

January 27 to February 4, 2008 I read:

The Church of 80% Sincerity, David Roche

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Mansfield Park...the chase scenes, the lavender, the dew!

I don't know what to say about the Masterpiece Classic version of Mansfield Park. I've mentioned when talking about the feature movie that the character of heroine, Fanny Price, is a mouse who never roars. Seeing so many elements missing from the dramatization reminded me that the suspense in the novel is whether this painfully shy, unassertive woman will ever get the man she adores and the happiness that she deserves.

The 1999 motion picture resolved the problem of Fanny's passivity by reinventing her as a writer and assertive wit. Gillian Anderson's introduction The Masterpiece PBS version begins by suggesting that witty, hardened Mary Crawford in Mansfield is very much like Jane Austen herself--excuse me? Then she adds a bit regretfully that the actual heroine of Mansfield is Fanny Price, who has been always urged to be grateful.

This version of the story depicts Fanny as a sort of holy fool--with touseled blonde hair and the urge to play childish games on the lawn. This version doesn't go far into the threat hanging over Fanny--who lives with her relatives on sufferance. Fanny's primary persecutor-in-residence is the self-righteous Mrs. Norris, who never misses a chance to belittle Fanny. In this PBS version, Mrs. Norris is basically gutted like a trout--she has just a few lines.

The Masterpiece production perhaps did not have the budget to stage the episode where Fanny is returned to her impoverished family in Portsmouth after years of living a ladylike life with her rich Mansfield Park relatives. I'd better stop here. The primary realization I had watching this show--and missing Mrs. Norris's malevolent threats--was that Mrs. Norris is the name of the watch cat at Hogwarts School in the Harry Potter books. That must be a reference to the character in Mansfield Park.

Okay, okay, one more comment...what IS it with the insertion of a chase scene into Persuasion and now into Mansfield Park, where it seems even more forced--quick propose to her before the dew dries on the lavender!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The mysteries of writing... know some, glad to learn more

Sometime, not tonight, I want to talk about ebooks and how differently people treat them from paper books--when they treat them at all. Okay, reporting back, I read Holly Lisle’s 21 Ways to Get Yourself Writing, which had some practical strategies that were well worth the $9.95 price of admission for an ebook. I was even happier to get the bonus ebook she threw in Mugging the Muse, Writing Fiction for Love and Money, which contained over 200 pages of extremely useful information about the highly dysfunctional publishing industry. There are things there I haven’t seen elsewhere. These are also available as POD (Publish on Demand) editions for those who are interested, but who need the paperback book in hand.

January 13 to 26, 1978 I read:

Shadow Box, George Plimpton
Note: The man sure can write, what a pleasure

All My Sins Remembered, Haldeman
Note: there is no way to keep the characters straight in this book

Blue Skies, No Candy, Gael Greene
My note on this contained four four-letter words — I’m not going to quote it beyond the mildest part. The gist of my conclusion was that in this book, the character did not grow and the work was not profound, my mildest pronouncement was: "cock-deep ain’t too deep.”

Homer’s Daughter, Robert Graves
Note: Wow. I thought Graves was an MCP a la D.H. Lawrence, but this book shows him to be much wiser than I could have imagined. Entertaining too.

Writers at Work, The Paris Review Interviews, 4th Series
, George Plimpton, Ed.
I adored the way they showed a reproduction of an actual edited page by each author interviewed. I'm still a bit of a sucker for "how do they do it?"

Growing (Up) at 37, Jerry Rubin
Note: Honest, but sappy

Wife to Mrs. Milton, Robert Graves

I went on a Robert Graves and George Plimpton kick in January ‘78. On the facing page I listed 10 historical and one contemporary Robert Graves book (from Hercules, My Shipmate to Watch the North Wind Rise) and the contents of George Plimpton’s Writers at Work, The Paris Review Interviews e.g. 1st Series, Ed with intro by Malcolm Cowley, E.M. Foster, etc. to 4th Series, Ed. By George Plimpton, Intro by Wilfred Sheed, Isak Dineson, etc.

I’m not going to inflict copying this list on my hands or this blog.

January 13 to 26, 2008 I read:

21 Ways to Get Yourself Writing When Your Life Just Exploded, Holly Lisle
Mugging the Muse, Writing Fiction for Love and Money, Holly Lisle

Singer from the Sea, Sheri S. Tepper
Locus Interview

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Researching Holly Lisle books on writing...more to come

Holly Lisle's fiction spoke to me so much that I was interested to see her books on writing and I am now checking them out.

Picking up my fluttering manuscript pages from the slow-motion train wreck of my last year...more to come -- oops! Clicking on the cover takes you to a more expensive option, the singular ebook I'm looking at can be reached through this link
21 Ways to Get Yourself Writing

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Northanger Abbey....what happens in Bath..

A happier adaptation last Sunday in PBS's Northanger Abbey. One of the Austen observers at the Republic of Pemberley noted "What happens in Bath, stays in Bath." This version was spiced up with much ado about wild goings on at the resort of Bath. However, this adaptation also managed to make a point I had missed before about the story. On one level it is a satire on the Gothic romance novels of Ann Radcliffe, etc. Yet heroine, Catherine Morland, shows innocence and youthful exuberance that Jane Austen must have shared when she wrote the book at the of age 23. The sinister shadows of the Gothic tales disappear before the sunny optimism of youth. This adaptation certainly clarified how sexuality was masked and released for readers in novels like The Mysteries of Udolpho and Matthew Gregory Lewis's
The Monk
, the Laurell K. Hamiltons of their day.

The old BBC dramatization of the book from the 1980s did give a little more screen time to the amusing character of old Mrs. Allen, with her unshakable conviction that the most important thing in the world is dresses--specifically her own--and the an interesting scene in the baths. But I was quite satisfied with the new version.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Not persuaded...

Just a few words about the Masterpiece Theater's adaptation Persuasion. Sigh. Okay, somehow the confines of the 90-minute length inspired screenwriter Davies to chop the material up in a very odd way. I hear some Austen fans having induced friends or spouses to watch this as a rare treat ended up spending a lot of time explaining what the heck was happening. This is not good, and I hope anyone who saw this Persuasion as an intro to Austen will check out the '95 film--which I've widgeted up in the sidebar. It was totally coherent, heartfelt and made sense!

For those who already know Persuasion, who want to watch this, I'll just say that there were some very odd stagings. Maybe the idea was to "chick-lit-ize" it. I was interested to find that the ardent Austenphiles on the Republic of Pemberley shared my disbelief at the insertion of a "Run to the airport" penultimate scene that has graced so many chick lit flicks. Only in this case, we had Anne Elliot and her invalid(!) friend Mrs. Smith pelting through the streets of Bath, with the camera following, hollering out important plot points. The fact that they were shot from behind did not help. Someone asked why Mrs. Smith needed a nurse to look after her if she was capable of competing in the Bath Marathon.

I don't trust myself to discuss what happened to the pivotal scene where Captain Wentworth is writing a letter and eavesdropping on Anne Elliott. Cutting that scene was like cutting the heart out of Persuasion. The place where Davies put Anne's moving speech about the constancy of women turned it into a throwaway.

And furthermore, the only thing I can say about Rupert Penry-Jones, the actor playing Captain Wentworth, is that he is quite handsome but looks entirely too sheltered to have just worked his way up to captain in the British Navy and made his fortune in booty from the Napoleonic wars. At the very least they might have given him a little scar or a sunburn. But that might just be my fondness for Ciaran Hinds in the '95 version talking. As they say, your mileage may vary.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

I’m liking this year better already!

This past week I read Holly Lisle’s Tayln, which took me just where I needed to go—away, but with fascinating characters in a believable “other” world. It was good enough that I was up till 1:00 a.m. to read the end. I also discovered Holly Lisle's web page with some great stuff for readers and writers!

Then there's heaven on earth starting today for lovers of the works of Jane Austen. PBS is presenting dramatizations of all the Jane Austen novels, beginning tonight, January 13th, with the last, though certainly not the least heartfelt, Persuasion.

The URL above also offers is a great interview with the legendary Andrew Davies, whose 1996 dramatization of Pride and Prejudice is still the gold standard for Austen (and which PBS will air Feb 10, 17 and 24th).

I had to laugh at PBS's Online Dating Profiles for the men of Jane Austen’s books!

January 6 to 12, 1978 I read:

Working, I do It for the Money, Bill Owens, author of Suburbia.
Note from 1978: Actually a photo collection, (Suburbia was also an interesting book—I read it in a bookstore in SF)
Note 2008—what? It’s a photo book I looked at all the pictures, standing up in a bookstore. It’s not like I could have afforded to buy the book, good as it was.

The Far Side of Madness, Perry
Note from 1978: Didn’t finish

Close to Colette, Maurice Goudeket

The Grass is Always Greener over the Septic Tank, Erma Bombeck

Healing Benefits of Acupressure, Acupuncture without Needles
, F. M. Houston
1978 note: Quite useful, Keats Publishing, Inc., must get several copies

January 6 to January 12, 2008 I read:

Tayln, Holly Lisle

Saturday, January 05, 2008

All over the map and on to fantasy land

December 25, 1977 to January 5, 1978 I read:

Good Company, a memoir mostly rhetorical, Irving Drutman

1977 Note: p. 219 - “Goldwyn remained on the Coast during my first two months and I had no opportunity to make his acquaintance and gather my own little bouquet of his malapropisms.In fact I never got to meet him because when I was in town my boss Nathanson didn't introduce us...”

2008 note: I'm kind of with Nathanson on this one.... If this was supposed to make the author appear more impressive, it had the opposite result.

Writers in Love, story of George Eliot & George Henry Lewes, Collette & Maurice Goudeket, Katherine Mansfield & John Middleton Murray, Mary Kathleen Benet

My note: Didn't finish all but most, not bad

Dr. Zismor's Skin Care Book, Zismore, Foreman
My note: I read an earlier version or something

Rex, an Autobiography, Rex Harrison
My note:Quite a shallow and self-serving book

The Carlos Complex, a Study in Terror, Christopher Dobson Ronald Payne

Mitsou, Colette

Super Chic, Brady
My note: Could also be called “Superficial”

Short novels of Colette, Sidonie Gabrielle Colette
Includes: Cheri, The Last of Cheri, the Other One, Duo,The Cat, The Indulgent Husband, Plus a nice little intro written in 1951 by a reverent Glenway Wescott

December 25, 2007 to January 5, 2008 I read:

The Language of the Night, Essays on Fantasy and Science Fiction, Ursula K. LeGuin
A 1979 collection of essays on writing fantasy, revised in 1989. It took even longer for me to get to it, but it still applies and Le Guin is still going strong.