Feminist, Fictionista, Foodie, Francophile

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

U is for Ulin, David

David Ulin is a writer, a book critic and an editor. He edited one of my favorite books about Los Angeles, Writing Los Angeles, which brings together writers as disparate as Chester Himes, Simone de Beauvoir, and Christopher Isherwood. (And of course, Raymond Chandler.) The book has an elegant cover too, clean and graphically simple and yet evocative. 

David Ulin's book The Lost Art of Reading ("Why Books Matter in a Distracted Time") is based on this essay he wrote for the L.A. Times. Ulin used to be the Times' book editor and then became a critic in order to focus on his own fiction.)  I've never read any of Ulin's fiction, but I have several of the books he's edited on my shelves. This is a man who celebrates the act of reading. This is aman whose name writers should know.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

T is for Troubled...

I am troubled.
I came of age during the last gasp of printed news so I saw the rise of both local "happy news" and the birth of CNN.  From the very first, i was a fan of CNN because they seemed to value substance over style, and their anchors seemed chosen more for their skills than their appearance. I still got most of my news from newspapers, though, until about the middle of the first decade of this millennium when I cancelled my L.A. Times subscription in a cost-cutting measure because the WGA strike had cut my income considerably.

I get most of my news online now and mostly I turn to CNN.com. That means that along with reading the news, I have a choice of video content. And lately, some of the choices they've made for that content have been troubling to me. Today (it's Tuesday 4/22) there are two multi-media stories on offer that go beyond what I think of as the scope of a news story and into the realm of ,,,pandering to prurient interst. One is a video of a poison gas attack.  I'm not sure what the purpose of the story is--to act as evidence against the perpetrator of the crime? To show what happens when poison gas is used? To get more people clicking through?

The second story troubled me more though. It was a story about the people who called for help when the Korean ferry started to sink. "Audio reveals panic as ship sank."  How many people will click in hopes of hearing some of that audio? And what purpose will that serve? Here in L.A. it's long been news policy to release as many juicy details about celebrity deaths as possible, including 911 calls. Even if you're not looking for that kind of news, it's almost unavoidable. But inviting strangers to listen to calls made in what might be the last moments of a person's life....It's not news. And I'm not going to click.

T is for Tomlinson

I think a lot about my last name. Not so much because I'm egotistical, or just because my name is basically "my brand." But I was aware from an early age that the Tomlinson branch of our family tree was goning to die out if my brother Rob did not have, as they used to say, "issue."

My father was one of three brothers. My uncle Hubert died when I was three years old, not long after he earned his medical degree. He was my father's baby brother, and my father would have been only 33 at the time. His and Hubert's mother had died when they were children and his father died the year before Hubert did, leaving my father an orphan in his early 30s. My father's half-brother, Jim, worked the family farm and died a bachelor. His middle name was Lee, which is also my brother's middle name, a name they both inherited from our grandfather.  My father's younger half-sister is only eight years older than I am and she has a son, but of course, his name isn't Tomlinson.

Tomlinson isn't that uncommon a name. There's an English actor named David Tomlinson who was in Mary Poppins.  There's football player LaDanian Tomlinson who used to play for the San Diego Chargers, whch enlivened the football season for me. (Basketball is my game.)  there's the writer H.M. Tomlinson and when I was a kid, I bought a couple of his novels just because it tickled me to see the name "Tomlinson" on my bookshelves.  I'm not related to any of them. Nor am I related to Ray Tomlinson, who created teh @ separator that makes email possible.

There are 43 different Tomlinsons with a Wikipedia entry, and that doesn't count Tomlinson Holman, an American film theorist and audio engineer who developed the world's first 10.2 sound system. I don't actually know what that is, but I'm always impressed by people who invent the "first" of something and I can only hope Tomlinson did not get beat up because of his unusual first name.  (My father's friends called him "Tommy" which would probably have been a good nickname for Holman.)

Monday, April 21, 2014

S is for Shakespeare, who was born in April

They aren't really sure when William Shakespeare was born. He was baptized on April 26th in 1564, which makes next Saturday his birthday. It is known that he also died in April (April 23, 1616, which made him a man whose life spanned two centuries). That death date, 1616, sounds like a long time ago, but it was actually the 17th century, which somehow does not seem so distant. In his last play, The Tempest, there are references to the place that will become North America ("O Brave New World") and and the preiod known as the Renaissance was already coming to an end. (I was always taught that it ended around 1637.)

Here are some things they already knew in Shakespeare's time:

The earth revolves around the sun (1543)

the earth has a magnetic field (1600)

Galileo was already making detailed astronomical observations although he had not yet formuulated the law of falling bodies.  Johannes Kepler had discovered the first two laws of planetary motion. Shakespeare would have been aware of these studies in the same way that an educated person today is aware of important scientific discoveries. His plays are full of poetic references to stars and one speech from Romeo & Juliet is considered a test of how well an actor can handle the playwright's language.

“When he shall die,
Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night
And pay no worship to the garish sun.”

So Happy Birthday Will!

The illustration is from the Wiki quotes site. Don't know who created it, but it tickles me. Shakespeare would have fit right into the 21st century.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

R is for Ellen Raskin

One of my favorite books is Ellen Raskin's The Westing Game. It's a kid's book. Middle-grade, I supposed, but I read it as an adult and was totally charmed. It's a mystery of sorts. An eccentric rich man (Westing) invites a group of people to play a game. The winner will become Westing's heir, but what unfolds is a lovely, character-driven story about love and family and expectations and choices and chances.  Raskin died too young and I take that personally. she wrote several other books, many of them revolving around wordplay like The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon (I Mean Noel).

Between the Letters--The new sub-genres of romance

Used to be, there were just a couple of kinds of romance novels. There were contemporary romances, like the ones I devoured from Harlequin. And there were the historical romances that always seemed to star pirates, Vikings, or Scottish highland rogues which I didn't like as much. (Still, the best-looking man I ever saw in my life--and bear in mind I live in Los Angeles--was a kilt-wearing Scot in Glasgow.)  Paranormal romance wasn't yet a "thing" and what was then termed "spicy" was not yet what I call "clinical." (I'm not a prude, I'm really not. I've written things I would NEVER have wanted  my mother to read. (Although bless her heart, my retired Methodist minister aunt reads everything I write and is VERY supportive.) But I'm not a huge fan of what's called "New Adult,.  I really don't find all the intense description of the parts all that romantic. For me, romance novels were always more like fairy tals than anything else. You got your prince and you lived happily ever after (HEA).  But now you don't necessarily even get HEA, there's HFN (happily for now).  This is not news to longtime romance novel fans, but I was out of the loop for quite awhile and now that I'm back--I hardly recognize the genre. There are three trends that baffle me--
Alien Tentacle Sex.
Sasquatch Sex.
Forced Birthing Sex.

I'm curious enough about all three sub-genres that I'm going to have to check out at least one book in each category (because unlike some trolls who post on Amazon without actually, you know, reading the books they're reviewing, I like to know what I'm talking about.

I've also discovered that werewolf/shape-shifters and BBW books are a big thing in the paranormal
romance world too. Who knew? I celebrate that trend because it has always annoyed me that so many romance heroines were gorgeous girls (who mostly don't think they're pretty because their shiny brown hair isn't a dramatic raven color).  Real women aren't perfect and real women need the fairy tale too.

I'll keep you posted on the Sasquatch love.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Q is for Question

On August 7, 2011, I posted a story called "Stoway" on the blog. It was a story I'd written to submit to an anthology of stories inspired by Edgar Allan Poe tales. It was my sci fi version of "Masque of the Red Death." So here it is, more than three years later and yesterday andtoday, people have suddenly been visiting that page and reading that story. It's way, way too many people to have just stumbled across the story by accident. Is there a link somewhere I don't know about? If you've found the story, I'd love to know how you got here. 

Thanks and Happy Easter!