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, 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.