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

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.