Okay, so this is a bit unusual for me to review, but I picked it out for my mom and thought it was really sweet. The author got remarried in her late 60's, which inspired this book in which she traveled all over the country asking older couples who have fallen in love semi-recently or all over again what it was like. She covers dating and meeting, where people live, sex, love in the nursing home, relatives objecting (or not), and how to handle beginnings and endings. This is interspersed with her own experiences of dating and marrying her husband Sam. And uh, even though you will guess long before it's revealed in the plot how things went, it's a sweet memoir. It does cover gay as well as straight couples, ambulatory and in a nursing home, with and without kids to deal with, and folks live all over the country. I was amused to actually see references to a few slightly famous people, such as the philanthropist Shrems and Dr. Elmo of "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer" fame.
I enjoyed it. If you know someone who's over sixty and ready to mingle, they'll probably enjoy this. Four stars.
This is a slice of life (covering several months, I think) for Minnesota veterinarian Kristen Nelson. I'm guessing the woman must have taken a LOT of notes during the time period she's writing about, but when did she find the time? Seriously, WHEN, the woman barely has time to wolf a sandwich down and she's scarily sleep deprived after taking care of a cat hourly overnight for three nights in a row. Anyway, this book tells about the various cases she's dealing with, some of them on a recurring basis.
Despite the title, the aforementioned blind cat--Radar, the one on the cover-- doesn't really become old enough to be a character in the book until after the 200 page mark. He's born without eyeballs and the breeder who owned him asked to euthanize him (note: this is not something you want to say to a vet about a healthy animal that isn't near death)--but Kris was all, "no, I'll take him! He'll be a clinic cat!" When Radar is finally old enough to be picked up, Kris goes to the breeder's house, which reeks of cat pee because she lets her four toms roam around for six hours each, peeing all over the basement. (The breeder is all, "Can't imagine why my son's wife won't come here, she's such a snob." Meanwhile Kris is tearing the hell up from the smell.) Anyway, once little Radar is bathed and goes through quarantine, he turns out to be quite adorable and live up to his name in more ways than one, somehow knowing which people in the clinic are the most upset and need snuggling. Awwwww.
The funniest story in the book is Ivan the Doberman, who ah....well, they need to get a semen sample from him. How's that going to happen, Rich the owner asks? Kris ignores the question over the phone, but we find out it involves.... yup, manual stimulation on the part of the vet. Repeatedly. Into an artificial vagina, hopefully. Except poor Ivan may be unneutered, but he still has no idea how to do something that's normally a no-no at home. He'll someday love coming to the clinic, eh? HAR HAR HAR. Except several tries later, he's still not getting there and Rich trains Ivan to bring the vet flowers. HAHAHAHAH. Then the vet gets the idea to bring a girl dog around. The first dog (a Rottweiler) is a no-go, but Sadie the cocker spaniel, with rhinestone collar and purple bows on her ears, turns out to be Ivan's type. Rich is all "You've got to be kidding me," but gamely, awkwardly asks Sadie's owner for....y'know, assistance in butt-sniffing. Sadie's owner Paula awkwardly caves in, and everyone makes sure Sadie is fine--and Ivan finally does his duty. And Rich buys Sadie some treats.
There's a lot of recurring animal characters, and you learn lessons about how you really need to make sure your iguana is WARM in Minnesota and you really, really, really need to spay and neuter your pets. (Oh, the poor dogs that died from prostate issues....) There's some miracle saves, including one LITERAL miracle when one lady prays to St. Francis to save her dog. It's very sweet. And there's a few pet owners that just give you the creeps, like the SUPER macho dude with a giant Great Dane that is of course named Butch. Kris warns the guy that his dog really should be neutered and get some obedience training, but Mr. Macho won't do THAT. We don't find out what happens to him, but you really feel for Lilah, the poor dog whose owner Kay supposedly super loves her, but Kay pretty much only listens to the incredibly dubious breeder she got Lilah from, AND when some of Lilah's puppies don't come out to breeder snuff....well, maybe more sensitive folks to animal death shouldn't be reading this book anyway.
Overall, I enjoyed the book and would recommend it. Four stars.
You've been told in enough writing classes that nobody should ever write in second person. That it just comes off as weird. Normally, you'd concur with them. However, Neil Patrick Harris (and/or David Jaberbaum, who is credited with "unshredding and pasting the book back together," whatever that means), turn/s out to be a master/s at the craft. Go figure.
Clearly, Neil is a tricksy guy, and you aren't just referring to his presidency of the Magic Castle either. He liked Choose Your Own Adventure books enough to pattern his own story after int. The plot is generally straightforward with the periodic detour of fantasy in which he never left working at Schlotsky's Deli or got eaten by something, but for the most part one can just read on without skipping around too much, which is what you did because you were lazy. Also, you used to lose track of where you were diverging plotwise and kept going back and forth on the original books until you lost your mind, so you kinda skipped doing that this time. Anyway, you get to join Neil on the ride of his life, falling in love with theater at a young age, going to the summer camp that got him his big break in a movie, and that led to his even bigger break as Doogie Howser, M.D. You were also amused to hear as you were reading this book that Dustin Diamond, Neil's onetime costar in the Purple People Eater movie, has stabbed somebody for Christmas. Neil says that Screech went out of his way to pretty much offend everyone he came across and claimed in his book that Neil was boffing his straight best friend. What a guy
After guest starring in a mix of roles and doing QUITE a mix of theater roles (including the time he was all snobby at an unprepared Kelsey Grammar, then had the tables turned on him by Patti LuPone), that pilot he did not really expecting it to go anywhere took off, so he ended up in another hit show for almost a decade, and later did some awesome hosting gigs. You particularly liked reading about how the award show songs were put together, especially the one where Neil "oops" insisted on using the word "sodomy" instead of "same sex" on the air because hey, it was a song about being gay. You also read along how Neil slowly figured out his sexuality and how he wasn't all that closeted after awhile so much as just quiet about stuff until one day his publicist claimed otherwise, starting a minor brouhaha that ended up blowing over into No Big Deal, and the arrangements he and his husband went through to get their twins, and the blowout vacations they had from time to time.
There are also plenty of bonus extras throughout the book. Neil got many of his famous friends to write a page or two, and even Perez Hilton, playing a not-so-great part of Neil's life at one point, writes a nice letter of apology for the time he wanted to out Neil. There's also some magic tricks here and there you can try on your own time (and if your mother bought her copy at Target, it comes with a bonus magic trick, which is....a cut up fake dollar bill. Probably not enough of a Target bonus this time to recommend specifically buying it there, you must say. So go to any retailer you like.)
While you read, you like to occasionally bookmark "the good quotes" from books and put them into your reviews to entice people. However, you were unable to do that with this book because you would have been bookmarking pretty much every page. So hey, why don't you just flip to a page at random to find some quotes today, eh?
"A cordon of police cars follow behind you. Ahead, a highway overpass rapidly fills with people waving and holding possers like STAY STRONG, BARNEY and RUN, NPH, RUN! A half-dozen helicopters circle above you, shooting real-time footage telecast live around the world to over 500 million people. And all the while, you sit in the passenger seat of the white Ford Bronco that David is driving." --That's a little alternate history for ya....
"And suddenly he begins repeating this mantra: "What's up with the West Side, yo? What's up with the West Side, yo? What's up with the West Side, yo?" You are terrified and confused. Is this some sort of rap lyric? Children's book verse? Government code for an incursion into Gaza? None of the above: it turns out that Scott is in "The West Side Crazies." Is this a real gang? You're not sure." --from the Infamous Scott Caan Incident.
"So you approach Glenn at dress rehearsal and innocently ask, "If I accidentally say 'sodomy' instead of 'same-sex love," what would happen?"
"Let that be a lesson, you homophobes, you think proudly. You wanna try to bully me? Prepare to get calmly notified the shit out of."
You give it four stars and recommend it to all as a good laugh, in many ways.
Anne Helen Petersen's Scandals of Classic Hollywood series (and otherwritingsonfame) have been wowing the entire Internet for awhile now. Now she's finally come out with a book of essays on the same subject. Some of the subjects havehadwriteupsonlinebefore, others appear to be new for the book and not covered online yet. She has them grouped thematically. There are romances (Pickford and Fairbanks and how they handled getting divorces and remarrying in early Hollywood, Gable and Lombard, Bogie and Bacall), falls (Fatty Arbuckle, Wallace Reid, Judy Garland, Dorothy Dandridge, Montgomery Clift, Marlon Brando), short-lived idols (Rudolph Valentino, Clara Bow, James Dean, Jean Harlow), and the awesomeness of Mae West. We should all learn from Mae West.
The author compares how celebrity is currently handled to how it was in the studio era, when teams of people were dedicated to covering up and conspiring about the portrayal of the famous. (If Mel Gibson was older, he'd still have a career.) "In the golden age of Hollywood, scandal was a roadblock, but rarely an endgame." She also points out that the bigger the star, the more meaningful they become to the public--and thus more likely to be scandalous when truth emerges. Scandal comes from violating the status quo in some way--and things have changed in how one violates status quo. But if you do something that goes against your image, that's really where things get vicious. If the star repents, they could perhaps be redeemed and restored--and that's what the author is discussing: history lessons of what it meant to be those people at those times. And of course, they're addictive page-turners that just happened to really exist. She discusses stars you think you know and those that have been mostly lost to time (who was Wallace Reid, anyway?).
Way back in the day, when Mary Pickford was getting a divorce from her first abusive husband, she claimed that she thought her divorce was "of no interest to anyone but myself" and that while the public was interested in her career, they shouldn't be so interested in her personal life. But "I have learned now that I do not belong to myself." True dat. Pickford and Fairbanks are an example of an affair where the parties involved were so likeable that their fans would forgive them. On the other hand, stars who violated the norms such as well, being fat like Fatty Arbuckle...well, people wanted to believe the worst of him even when he was proven to not be a drunken rapist and murderer.
My favorite, I think, is Mae West, who based her image on being herself, and always being herself, ribald and sexy. (And yet, still managing to portray herself as vague on details and relatively "clean" in her personal life despite her talk.) She didn't quite act like her characters IRL and avoided the Hollywood scene, and it worked. Even when the Hays Code limited her films, she went back to the stage and is one of the few relatively happy endings/characters in here. So yay for Mae. Clark Gable had a similar sort of thing going on, portraying a "masculine" image of a guy who was out wood chopping and not so much flirting with the ladies. O RLY? His wife Carole Lombard was known as an wesome fun prankster girl, which won hearts all over.
Some folks pretty much lived in the moment, conscious-wise. Valentino stood out in the moment, but probably would have faded from popularity in the way that Clara Bow did had he lived on. Images of celebrities need to be able to change with the times, which some people could do and some couldn't. And some people had more allowances or less depending on the times they lived in. Dorothy Dandridge's career in particular was hampered by that.
Honestly, it's great analysis. Anne Helen Petersen is an amazing writer and you should not only get the book, you should go read all of the links I posted along with this. She has so much research and thought into how images are constructed AND she keeps it interesting and dishy and juicy--god knows no sociology book I ever read did that. Long may her career go on.
This is a collection of (a) Kinsey Millhone short stories and (b) a series of "stories" that are thinly veiled slightly fictional versions of Sue Grafton's early adulthood dealing with her alcoholic mother. There's an essay in the middle about mystery writing.
Hoo boy, is this kind of hard to review given the differing content. I don't even really know how to handle this, but here I go anyway. (Note the confused category tagging on this one.)
The first half of the book are short stories taking place primarily in the early years of Kinsey Millhone's fictional life. They're short and snappy--perhaps a bit too short for my preference, to be honest, I felt like I missed the depth that the author usually takes with stories. I felt like a good chunk of them had to end specifically to fit a word count or something. But then again, I'm not usually a fan of short story collections for that reason except for the occasional story that nails it. Okay, so these pretty much do nail it, but.... overall, they felt too short and it bothered me. They are otherwise good, but I felt like I'd only gotten to eat a few potato chips and then someone took my bag away. Maybe that's just me, though.
The Kinsey stories are (all lower case titled, for the record):
between the sheets: A kinda weird client wanders in saying that she found her boyfriend dead in her child's bed. When Kinsey goes over to the house, the corpse has disappeared and turns up in the empty apartment nearby. Kinsey quickly deduces what happened once she finds out someone's occupation. She also has a bit of an odd bonding moment with the client's daughter.
long gone: Kinsey is hired by a frazzled dad with too many jerky young sons to find his missing wife. It's pretty quickly determined that his wife was having an affair, stealing money and fleeing the country--wouldn't you want to be long gone from the guy who wants more kids? Hmmmm.... This was one of the better ones to me, somehow. One of those "heh heh, crucial detail you didn't know" plots.
the parker shotgun: A pregnant wife hires Kinsey to investigate the death of her former drug dealer husband. (He quit because of the baby.) Oddly enough, his murder has more to do with a very rare shotgun and the fishy actions of a pissed-off wife, her druggie son, and her jerkass stroke victim husband.
non sung smoke: Kinsey is so bored she takes a decidedly fishy case--a party girl wants to track down the guy she "balled" last night. Kinsey does it and then the dude turns up dead days later. Kinsey does a wacky 1980's airport trackdown of her client to find out what's what. This was kind of one of those cases where it felt too short--other interesting things were set up and then abandoned once the murderer turned up. I'm still wondering about the wife, darn it.
falling off the roof: Kinsey is hired to investigate the murder of a guy shoved off a roof. She agrees with her client off the bat that the wife is super fishy, and joins a mystery book club and tries to pretend to be a suburban sort while she's there. But people who like mysteries can investigate too. This premise cracked me up a bit--it may be a bit too looney for the usual Kinsey book, but I liked it--but again, this one ended too short and it bothered me.
a poison that leaves no trace: Kinsey investigates a daughter who just came into money after her mother's death at the request of her ticked-off aunt. Kinsey trails the daughter around as she spends money, but there's something wrong with this one. A little weird and creepy, but not bad.
full circle: Kinsey witnesses a car accident/murder and is hired by the victim's mom to investigate the murder. Kinsey feels a lot of sympathy for her client, who seemed young and nice. The only people who didn't seem to like her were her roommate and the mysterious guy stalking her. That last bit is where you should pay attention....Again, I felt like I was missing a few details here and there and the author just wanted me to fill in the blanks. Which is annoying me, but oh well.
a little missionary work: This one might be the best of the lot. A bank bigwig that Kinsey knows from the gym secretly recruits her to help a famous actress deal with the kidnapping and ransom of her husband. Even a bank bigwig can't get that much money together, so Kinsey goes to an "old friend"/perennial criminal she knows named Henry to get the money in time. After doing the dropoff herself...Well, there's two twists to this one, and the second one just cracked my shit up. I am a little sad that "old friend" Harry Hovey never made it into the regular novels, he's kind of a hoot.
the lying game: I don't get this story. It's pretty much this logic problem, straight up. I was expecting there to be an ending in which Kinsey is all "ta-da, this is a thought exercise and not real life in any sense of the imagination," but it was not. Huh?
entr'acte: An Eye For an I: Justice, Morality, the Nature of the Hard-boiled Private Investigator, and All That Existential Stuff. This is a short but nice nice writeup about Sue's introduction to detective fiction and how she got into the idea of the hard-boiled PI.
The second half of the book are stories about "Kit Blue," which as far as I can tell are pretty much exactly what happened to Sue Grafton as a young woman except with the names changed. I'm not going to review each one separately. I feel very awkward reviewing them at all because they're so brutally bare and painful. I feel very sorry for what the author went through, and reading these stories were brutal. (Especially that her mother killed herself on her daughter's birthday. GOOD GOD.) And then her stepmother "Mildred" is one of those daddy-stealing pieces of work--the story about the lady who left her money to her dog and then Mildred had the dog killed within a week of the owner's death, holy shit. I can't review these or reread them again, they're agony. Not badly written, they're very sharp, but....ouch. I also have never quite gotten the point of the thinly veiled "fictional" story--I just keep thinking that claiming it's Not Real isn't doing anyone any favors and why didn't you just write it as nonfiction, then?
Yeah, this is a totally random review, right here. I picked this up on the spur of the moment. It doesn't even have a real named author, which is kind of a shame because for what it is, it's ridiculously entertaining in a cut-to-the-chase kinda way. I'm out of school and I'm not even the sort of person who might "need" a book like this--I mean, I've been edumacated on Shakepeare some. But even beyond that, this book tells it like it is. Why is Shakespeare considered to be so great? What do we actually KNOW about him and what do we take guesses on? How come he's so admired? Some of that is being in the right place, at the right time, with the right education. And apparently he was very good at using terminology from hard, specialized professions like being a lawyer. Not to mention that he liked to use puns and words with 3-4 different meanings. And lots of dirty jokes, sooooo many dirty jokes. The book also discusses the mysteries of Shakespeare's life, like did he hate his wife (seems likely under the circumstances) and what the hell was he doing during his twenties, poaching deer? There's a brief rundown of the presumed candidates for writing Shakespeare plays and why they probably didn't do it, for reasons like being dead and the like. There's a bit on Shakespeare's favorite sources for plots and how theater performances and royal patronage worked back in the day (hint, write to the king's interests about Scotland and witchcraft!).
There are brief rundowns on the plays, grouped by the top ten everyone should know, the plays that show you're well read (i.e. the other popular ones put on most of the time), and the ones that will impress your teacher and the hardcore Shakespeare nerds because nobody likes them much. There's a synopsis and a rundown of what to remember about each play, pointed out in specific context. Like for example, the adults in Romeo and Juliet actually start out being reasonable and start losing it later--specifically after Mercutio dies because he's the moderate voice of reason around here. And whoever wrote this book points out that there's both a "short" and "long" timeline going on in Othello--the main events of the play take place within a day or two, but characters make minor remarks indicating longer passings of time. Hmmmmmmm..... Bianca from Taming of the Shrew is called out as a skilled manipulator who gets what she wants by pretending to be docile, heh heh heh. Viola deals with her grief by basically becoming her brother in Twelfth Night--and why is it named that, anyway? Nobody really knows, must have been a timing thing? And what sold me on the book was reading the rundown of Much Ado About Nothing and how while B&B are the more interesting and romantic characters, they're also considered second-rate citizens in that world. Even the ah, less popular/more freaking disturbing plays can have some interesting discussion here and there, albeit brief because after awhile you will want to be skimming too. The anonymous writer even covers the sonnets.
Anyway, I found it to be pretty entertaining beyond its purpose, so what the hell, I gave it a review. Three and a half stars.
This is one of the juiciest oral histories/autobiographies/biography (whatever this is called) that I've ever read. Please do not mix it up with the turdalicious children's novel by James Patterson with a similar title that I could not finish. I was pondering buying this book and borrowed it from someone, and I think I'll have to get my own copy to save, because it's gooooooood.
I should probably say before I get farther into this that this is not a book for the general population--you won't have heard of these folks unless you're a pagan sort and most of the people who read this blog casually (whoever you are) rather than finding this review via search engine will not be into the subject matter. But I found it to be entertaining in the extreme. I was interested in it because I've met a few of the folks interviewed in the book, including the main subjects of it, a few times. However, I assure you they could not identify me in a police lineup, so there's no real personal bias going on here other than "I liked those people, they seemed cool" on my part.
Oberon (a.k.a Tim Zell, Otter Zell, Oberon Zell, Oberon Zell-Ravenheart--dude likes changing his name) is a Big Name Pagan. While I'm generally not into ancient pagan history, this book covers the 1960's, back before paganism became more well known in America. (This review goes into a bit more detail about the situation.) At the time of young Tim's entry into college, it was pretty well out of vogue. But when Tim started reading Heinlein, well...he got inspired to get more involved, and he has been one of the big movers and shakers of neopaganism and polyamory. He founded the Church of All Worlds, has off and on published a pagan magazine called Green Egg, and more recently founded the online Grey School of Wizardry as an American equivalent to Hogwarts (dude's a nerd!). He eventually met his future wife, Morning Glory, and they were together for forty dang years. (She died a few months ago, sigh.) This is amazing given what they've been through AND the fact that according to both of them, they fought a lot! Morning Glory also became a big name in the pagan community, teaching about Goddess history and lore and coming up with the term polyamory. Both of them have been/were polyamorous all of their lives and the book goes into detail about a lot of the folks they dated and partnered with for years. If you're interested in/curious about any of this, this is an excellent book to read about all of what they went through.
This book chronicles pretty much everything. The author did it as an oral history, compiling tons and tons of interviews from a lot of people that were involved in the lives of the Z's, from good friends to ex-boyfriends and girlfriends to the occasional enemy. I'm impressed that Sulak (the book's narrator) got as many folks as he did under the circumstances at times. Because hoo boy, do these folks ever LET IT HANG OUT.
"I did a lot of soul-searching before I made the decision to rake over these old coals in this book; and though I have made my peace with many of the people who disowned me at the time, I felt that there were lessons I learned from these experiences that needed to be shared lest others make the same mistakes."--Morning Glory.
They are not shy about talking about the things they did in life, even the bad stuff. Like for example, the time when after a giant Beltane orgy, twenty-three people came down with an STD and the medication they were all on made them all very irritable and paranoid beyond the usual--and Oberon ended up slapping his girlfriend and breaking her nose when she insulted another lover of his. Not something most of us would mention, though he has been horrified and sad that he did that ever since. There's also plenty of talking about infighting and betrayals throughout the years with the CAW organization, which booted the Zells out at one point entirely. And the Zells tended to befriend a lot of folks, including a few guys who turned out to be skeezy creepers and even one guy who later became a serial killer! Oops.
Other things they've done involved creating unicorn goats (you can move the nodes in their skin right after birth to adjust the horn placement), starting a sculpture company, and creating polyamorous families with their lovers, most notoriously the Ravenheart family in the 1990's. (Which, for the record, is when I heard most of them speaking about their relationships at an event at Harbin Hot Springs. I got up to interesting things in college once in a while.) At the time I was pretty impressed that they were making it work, but the book reveals that there were a lot more dramas--or more specifically certain people not getting along--than I had heard about. Oberon and Morning Glory freely admit their mistakes in handling relationships and raising their kids, but it sounds like they have done their best to make up for it later in life, and as the other review I linked mentioned, it kinda makes you like them for it. They cover the good points and the bad points and the questionable points, all in the name of honesty.
Overall, the book is one long, strange trip of interesting things to read about. You can't say that life was dull with them, I suspect. There's also an afterword by their editor saying that the first draft of this was over a thousand pages long(!), as well as a timeline and helpful cast of characters list in the back, which you may want to consult as you read.
"They moved to the woods because they thought it was going to be all groovy and harmonious, and all they did was try to kill each other."--Gail Salvador, Morning Glory's daughter, on them living out on farmland.
"Actually, much to Oberon's disappointment, the world did not change itself instantly on the reappearance of Unicorns. Realism has never been his strong suit, let me put it that way."--Alison Harlow, former friend/landlady.
"I am not sure what it is about him that inspires women to madness, but if I had to guess, I would say the talent for holding an irrational position unswervingly under any and all circumstances."--Liza Gabriel, Oberon's former partner and a member of the Ravenheart family.
"He was never happier than when he was running hell-bent-for-leather five feet away from the lynch mob. In short, he was what we call a "Weenie Wagger."--Morning Glory on one of the aforementioned creepers she dated.
"There were complete genealogies of Oberon and Morning Glory's families and a recounting of every summer job either of them had had. There was a reincarnated cat, a cat who liked to ride on the roof of the car, and at least three sad cat burials.....There were three stories that had to do with people being naked and getting poison ivy. There were pages and pages of drug trips."--Elysia Gallo, senior acquisitions editor at Llewellyn Worldwide, the book's publisher.
In short, this is epic good juicy fun to read. I think I'm gonna give it five stars.
This is a short but fun book featuring the author's research into the topic of mail-order brides and pen-paling across the country, back in the days of the Wild Wild West when all the women were on the East Coast and all the men were on the West. She has plenty of short snippets of ads for you to read, along with historical context, old photos, and various stories of love gone right and wrong. My favorite ad was the lady who wanted, "if mutually agreeable, become friends with proclivities tending ultimately to the great ambition of women." FRIENDS WITH PROCLIVITIES. BWAHAHAHAH, THAT'S SO PRECOCIOUS. I hope she got some.
On the side of matches gone wrong, there's plenty of folks who bailed on first sight, or took the money to take the train in that never showed up. (And one poor lady who almost missed her husband because she got her shoelace caught on her seat.). My favorite was the story of the Widow Jones whose potential husband didn't show up, and she said she'd go home, stand on a stump on the front yard and blow the dinner horn, and get fifteen different men to show up. "That's me, and that's my way, and if any of you want to kiss the bride, now's your golden opportunity." There's the fellow who thought he'd found the perfect woman and she turned out to be his aunt. There's plenty of short-lived marriages because a guy was too attached to his mother or decided to become a hoarder to drive wife #5 out of the house. There's guys who ran off with the bride's sister or cousin (or money). There's the lady who poisoned her husband three days after the wedding.
There's plenty of marital bigamy going on-- the most memorable is the story of the supposedly single matrimonial agent who falls in love, showers the bride with gifts--then keeps putting off the wedding date and banging on her door for sex every night, which she won't do until he marries her. Of course he's already secretly married--with three previous wives and seven illegitimate children with six different women!
As for the ladies who wanted to go West but remain single, they had a hard time doing so--some women discovered that they were being fixed up without their knowledge. "Out of fear of being killed by the suitors, most women went along with the arrangement." YIKES.
On the happier side, there's a few profiles of long-married couples. Asa Mercer put together a group of perspective brides, not thinking that he'd acquire his own--along with eight kids and a lot of moves and job changes. And at one point she hit a guy with a spitoon for beating her husband into unconsciousness. Tough lady. There's the couple who were friends at one point and then the guy moved away and got married and she started an art career. After his wife died, he put out an ad looking for her, which she didn't see until someone pointed it out to her. There's the hypochondriac whose doctor suggests he get married, but the fellow's not interested in "courting." The lady he writes to says he "thinks himself ill, but isn't," and within two months of marriage he'd perked up nicely.
It's a fun, short read. It could have been organized a bit better--the subject matter tends to hop around--and the descriptions of the relationships are pretty brief and summarized. However, I would guess that it's pretty hard to make the relationship descriptions vivid when you're working with limited coverage from the 1800's, so maybe that's not entirely fixable in that regard. So overall, I'm giving it three and a half stars.
Yes, that's the author's real (married) name. Aptronym,much, given the subject matter? Heh.
Patience Bloom (nee Smith) is one of those, well...late bloomers, I suppose. This is the story of her romantic relationships, all of which failed until one didn't (TM Dan Savage), mixed in with her lifelong interest in romance novels and comparing real life to what happened in them. Eventually after stints in Paris, Cleveland, and New Mexico, she moves to NYC and gets a job working as an editor at Harlequin--hence the title.
You might be wondering why the hell I'm reading another dating memoir when I don't generally seem to be into them themtoo much lately. To which I say, good point, you! So what makes this different? Well, there's "happy ending" guaranteed right there on the cover, so you know it ends in a less depressing way than real life frequently does (like say, this book). And this book tends to move breezily along, not dwelling too long or hard on any one dude who you know isn't going to work out. Patience's life isn't super crazy soap opera eventful most of the time (we'll talk about that sort of thing later, as she does), but it's a pleasant read. She tends to mix in talking about her life and dating with comparisons to romance novels. She makes up fictional romance characters to talk about--first calling them "Faun and Devlin" because the book starts in the 80s', later progressing to talking about "Jake and Cassie." She snarks that what those couples would get up to isn't quite how her life goes. And she nicely covers in a fast and funny way the experience of dating in NYC by comparing those guys to the romance heroes she reads about all day. The tone of it is inherently fun and mostly fluffy and enjoyable. The chapter titles are great (examples: "High School Dances Don't End Like Romance Novels (Except Maybe If There's A Pregnancy), "If He Says He Doesn't Reciprocate Your Feelings, Believe Him and Run."), especially with the honesty.
Patience may be looking for love for most of the book (though she takes time off here and there), but she generally has a good attitude about it the longer things go on. She mellows out and grows up--I've seen some reviews online saying that they find her love-obsessed behavior in Part One to be off-putting, but it didn't bother me or seem like it was "too much" compared to other things I've read because it went so fast. And come on, most ladies have dated someone like her bad boy college boyfriend Craig, so we know what it's like when you're 20. As she grows up, she focuses on the things she likes about life, and she doesn't stress too much as to whether or not she can ever have a kid (if it happens, it happens, but she doesn't have control over that). And she has an attitude we should all co-opt about not pining over dudes and remembering that romance novels are great escapes, but they're not how real life goes. I would have enjoyed hearing a bit more about working at Harlequin, but it sounds like she has a good time working with authors, one named Marie in particular who writes a book a month! Marie even uses the names of Patience and her relatives in her romance novels, no less. "It's kind of hilarious that I'm a heroine in a romance novel--a veterinarian--and that Marie has me hooking up with a hero named Brady."
The book starts out with Patience at a high school dance, having asked out her crush despite him barely knowing she's alive. And he accepted! However, the date itself turned out to be quite awkward. Then she's asked to dance by Sam, the school class clown who she had no idea even knew she existed. It's memorable to her, even if nothing really progresses beyond that point...AT THE TIME. (And the photo she provides of them after their dance is just great. She's totally gaping in shock.) Decades later, she gets a Facebook request from Sam, who's divorced and teaching in Israel. He contacts her, it's great, he kinda does a flake and bail at first...but Patience (hah) has gotten used to guys pulling that kind of shit and then returning, so she takes the attitude of "I'm enjoying this while it lasts, I'm not getting my hopes up." There's a fair amount of commentary on "Vanishers" and "Returners" that a lot of us will relate to there. Anyway, keeping on with her life and not dwelling works because he pulls his head out of whatever, they're chatting online all the time, and eventually he moves to NYC to move in with her and (look, I already spoiled it) get married. D'awww!
If there's anything that's a bit awkward in this book, it's Patience's delayed explanations of the bad things in life that happened to her. She had one bad thing happen to her when she was living in Cleveland--well, you can probably guess what it was--but she doesn't explain exactly what happened until nearly two hundred pages in the book, throwing off the chronology of the story. You know she went through a bad/depressed phase for awhile, but reading about that without much explanation behind it is...pretty weird. Likewise, Patience is estranged from her dad, but it takes even longer and slower to really get into why (i.e. her stepmother seems to inexplicably hate her and dad picked the stepmom's side) or explain why she feels the way she does about him. It's like she doesn't work up the nerve to explain any of that until Sam comes into her life, somehow. I found that to be a little strange in the storytelling. But hey, most romance heroines have a dark side (as she says), things happen, and she recovered and moved on.
Overall, I enjoyed this book very much. It's a fun read and I'm happy for her. Four stars.
"In my nine years at Burning Man I've been a roulette dealer, a bass guitarist in a casino house band, star of a confessional TV show, sod-layer, ditch digger, fireman, pyromaniac, gunman, reporter, furniture mover, painter, welder, driller, holde- digger, rigger. In my life outside Black Rock, I'm a few of these things sometimes, most of them never. Burning Man's hold on me is centered in all the possibilities it has opened--the chances it has given me to pull off fascinating stunts in merry fellowship with amazingly accomplished people. It promises a chance to be more than you've known." --Brian Doherty.
This book chronicles the history of Burning Man from its initial inception on a Bay Area beach to the wilds of 2003. There's interviews with many of the early luminaries that got involved with the event early on, talking about how it went from a small thing to a freewheeling small community of crazy people to when things started to get ugly in 1996 and suddenly rules had to be put into effect. It sounds like it was crazy fun before the numbers grew, especially when folks could go out to the shooting range and hot springs (now forbidden during Burning Man--if you want to check them up, go there the rest of the year!). People could do whatever they wanted before the government started noticing them and paying attention.
"I consider this the ultimate metaphor for the nature of the early days of Burning Man: We'd go out ot the middle of the playa after we knew no one was out there and just drive. As far as we could. Flying on mushrooms. Drinking wine out of a bottle. Wit hthe lights out, only the moon and Milky Way lighting the way. And Vanessa and I would be fucking and shooting guns out the window at the same time, Jane's Addiction blasting from the stereo. I consider that my peak American experience." --John Law.
I'm not sure what to make of Larry Harvey (the originator of the idea), and I'm not sure if the author knows what to make of him either. He comes off as kind of a vague, sorta dubious character with a sad family history. He had a great idea and he's riding it, for what that's worth. I was intrigued by the Cacophony Society, a gorup roaming around SF in the 1980's who also happily hopped onto the Burning Man idea and rode it for all they could. There's short profiles of the various wacky characters involved with the group early on, such as the other two original "owners" of Burning Man, Michael Michael/"Danger Ranger," and John Law, who was one of the Big Three before he got fed up and quit entirely in 1996. There's also mention of a performance artist guy named Chicken John, a guy called Flash who moved to Gerlach (the nearest town to the desert) and caused all sorts of trouble before finally getting shot at, the infamous Dr. Megavolt... I wish there was more on the women involved in Burning Man, though a few are mentioned here and there.
1996 was the pivotal year in this history--it was the first year someone died at Burning Man in a Darwin-esque manner, it was the year Larry Harvey repeatedly(?) remarked that they didn't have blood on their hands because of it, which really ticked off several people, and it was the year John Law hit his limit. People's visions of how to handle the event changed, and management (such as it was) was getting out of control. One anonymous participant remarks that it was clearly an unsustainable event at this point and things were going wrong. This led to changing management so that it was an LLC rather than "The Temple of the Three Guys," and the nearby government agencies started paying more attention to them. Things had to change and conform more. The nearby locals of Gerlach had to learn to deal with the random hippies wandering through once a year, and there's some good discussion of how the town functioned and how they dealt with the changing situation.
The history of Burning Man is covered up until about 1998 (which kind of bummed me out because I went in 1999) and then after that the focus switches to talking more about the art projects rather than the emotional dramas. What do you do with a lot of destroyed pianos? How do you put on a Tesla coil lightning show? How good of an idea is it to have a sex-themed camp? And you really feel sorry for the law officials who have to deal with the whole thing.
The final section is profiles of people whose lives were changed and minds were blown by Burning Man. I was particularly interested in the story of Dark Angel (a.k.a. D.A.), a fellow in New Jersey who felt some kind of call to go to Burning Man after seeing an article on in in Wired.
"I kept seeing in my mind this arrow blinking into the pictures saying 'You are here! You are here!' And I heard this voice inside myself--I know this sounds a little hokey-pokey, especially coming from New Jersey--but I heard this voice that sounded really familiar, but I hadn't heard it since who knows when, saying 'You must do this! I could have answered any number of ways, like maybe, I don't know, I can't afford it, I don't know anything about the desert, that looks kind of weird. But I said yes. I said yes. I closed my eyes in a firm yes. I listened to this part of me and trusted it and said, I am going."
He bought a pair of dark wings he couldn't afford to bring along, he ditched his previous identity, and gained a new one. Of course he's now moved to the West Coast and joined the clean-up crew.
Reading it in 2014, I can't help but wish there'd be a round two or an update of this one. At the end of it, there's commentary on the developing "regional burns" that are starting to crop up, and I can't help but think of how that has super grown since then. I have a friend who's a Ranger and god knows Burning Man is most of her social life and her volunteer job and it's pretty omnipresent--for her and everyone else in that community as far as I can tell. It is taking over, which I'm sure Larry Harvey is thrilled about.
I'm going to quote Chicken John on the event. In great detail and at great length.
"If you have only three seconds to explain it, the most you can say is, it is literally saving people's lives.
If you have a few minutes, you can go into how it's saving people's lives and how it's the most fun thing on the planet you could ever do with your time.
If you have twenty minutes, you could add how it's single-handedly responsible for changing the face of the earth and history as we know it.
But if you have thirty-five minutes, it becomes like the most disgusting, awful fuck-in-the-ass without a reacharound bastardization and the exclamation point at the end of the word sellout and a disgusting experiment in how far people will go to debase and disgrace themselves in pathetic social climbing.
And if you have two hours, well, then--it must be stopped! The impact on the environment and on this small town and these people following it with this blind faith, a cult, disgusting, sucking money out of a healthy art scene and leaving it awful, and spreading disease and danger, and it's a miracle hundreds aren't burned to death....
But when you can explain it for two or three days, write an entire book about it, you can show the negative in comedic context while still postulating the positive."
The author follows this up by commenting that a lot of people go to Burning Man and decide to do things like quit their jobs and move away and leave their husbands. Marian Goodell, one of the few women that gets focus in the book, said that this freaked her out so much--that she was "actually ruining people's lives by opening their minds up to this colorful existence"--that she felt the only way to heal herself was to go work in a cubicle for Visa. Oookay then. I wonder how that worked out.
"You saw a possibility ofr yourself, a choice that you might not have seen before. And you took it. The world is wider." --Brian Doherty.
In general, I think the author does a very good job of covering the Burning Man experience. I think it could use a little more female focus because it does feel like he's chronicling a sausagefest most of the time, and I do have to say that what this book is very, very short on is PICTURES. Seriously, there's hardly any in here and what there is is black and white. Of all the things to not put in a book about the history of this event....it just felt cheaped out on to not have more to look at than eight pages of pics.
Overall, I'm giving it three and a half stars. If you want to know what this is about, it's a pretty good primer. I may even loan it to my mom, who is still baffled at the concept even after I went the one time.