Man’s Best Friends

I’m not sure
A vintage Ken Colgan cartoon:

A man’s best friends are his wife, his back, and his dog. The back, however, has a reputation of not being as faithful as his other two friends.

Well, at least women were considered faithful — even if they were compared to dogs and “things that work for men.”

Care Of The Back, Industrial Edition, William K. Ishmael, M.D., F.A.C.P. and Howard B. Shorbe, M.D., F.A.C.S., Distributed by Safety Department with Approval of Abbott Skinner, M.D., Chief Medical Officer, Great Northern Railway Company. Cartoons by Ken Colgan, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

A Chilling Cold War Reminder Of The Freedom Of Media

Making Democracy Work & Grow: Practical Suggestions For Students, Teachers, Administrators, and Other Community Leaders, from the Federal Security Agency, Office of Education, Bulletin 1948 No 10, Oscar R. Ewing, Administrator, John W. Studebaker, Commissioner.

A more subtle Cold War publication, preaching that we must do more than “learn the values & working habits of democracy,” we must “live it” to “strengthen national security and to win the peace.” “We must also work together — to keep democracy free and make it strong and positive.” On the last page, advice on “cooperating” with the Motion Picture Council to “encourage the showing and reshowing of movies that stimulate an understanding and appreciation of American democracy” in your own community. Other media is included in this vintage propaganda booklet; but the film section rather covers it all — the seemingly benign advocacy setting darker things in motion…

Police At The Funeral: Vintage Book Review

I’ll admit I was drawn to this vintage paperback because of the cover. Spotting the sad little sweater girl, I thought to myself, “Why so glum, chum? What can happen to a pinup wearing a pink sweater? …Aside from the cruel misogyny of the world, that is.” But Police at the Funeral is a vintage murder mystery book, so there are larger crimes to come. (That’s why there’s a limp bound wrist illustrated on the cover; it’s not a BDSM book. *wink*)

Oh, and when I flipped through the book, I found this little goofy thing:

Who can resist a murder mystery with a sideways smiley face, of sorts, supposedly as a clue?

Since I was lured in by the pulp-esque cover, I had no clue as to the work or the author, Margery Allingham; as I typically do when I have no clue about the book, I scanned the covers and the copyright page for more clues. My copy is the second printing (April 1967) of the Macfadden publication (MB book #60-280). However, the work was originally published and copyrighted in 1931 and 1932, by Doubleday; which, I later discovered, was a later US publication of the original work put out in the UK in 1931 by Heinemann. So basically, what I have is a later reissue with a more “mod” retro pulp packaging, designed to lure new readers to an old (by now cheap) story. A tradition long upheld in publishing — one that obviously still works, as I’m a modern example.

Aside from being of interest to book collectors, fanciers of the book publishing industry, and the odd duck who cares about my behaviors, the dates of the work are important in terms of the review. For the book has that “formal” tone one oft equates with “old mysteries” — both from the British author and the time period standpoint; i.e. the book reads much like those of Agatha Christie, who was Allingham’s contemporary in what is now called the Golden Age of detective fiction.

The basic non-spoiler story is this: Albert Campion is called in by a friend to investigate the disappearance of a man. The man is found — dead. And so Campion winds up investigating by staying at the victim’s family home, the very “Gothic” Socrates Close, in Cambridge. Socrates Close, and the Farraday family it houses, are relics of Victorian times and mores. (The book’s title, Police At The Funeral, is a reference to the deep embarrassment felt by the scandal of murder; similar social rules regarding gender and race are also present.) More mystery, mayhem, and murder ensues until Campion solves the case. Here’s the back of the book for a full cast of characters:

Usually, I have the “who” in whodunit figured out quickly; one of the many reasons I’m not a huge reader of mysteries. But I’ll admit that I didn’t see this one a-comin’. Perhaps this is because, as Inspector Stanislaus said of the culprit and the culprit’s deeds on page 203, the book has “the right mixture of cleverness and lunacy — an elaborate, ingenious scheme.” However…

While not deducing the murderer (early on or at all) is one of the delights of reading a murder mystery novel, I found myself not caring so much.

Firstly, I found myself not caring so much because, formal tone and style of the work or not, I found the characters cold — cold enough that I didn’t particularly like any of them. So even though my morality demands that the criminal be caught, I didn’t so much worry who it was, why they did it, or what the effects of discovery might mean. And those, for me, are required parts for enjoyment of reading such novels. For even if I do figure it all out on page three, I still (hope to) enjoy the character driven consequences of discovery. In this book, this was absent — save for the unique personal gift Campion receives for a job well done: an antique (even then!) gaff taxidermy mermaid skeleton.

Secondly, I found the most interesting and engaging mystery to be that surrounding Albert Campion himself. There are subtle references, most often from the wealthy Great Aunt Caroline Farraday, that Campion’s real name and identity will be kept — even though there are a few clues here and there… Right up to the end of the book, where Great Aunt Caroline mentions that his grandmother is “dear Emily.” This was the mystery I was more concerned with! And it turns out, fans of the author and her works are too. Now that I’ve read the book, I did a little detective work of my own (research) and learned that not only was Police At The Funeral Allingham’s fourth novel with Albert Campion, but the character would eventually go on to feature in a total of 17 novels and over 20 short stories — and at no point is Campion’s true identity given! Now there’s the mystery worth solving! Perhaps 16 more novels and all those short stories later, I could piece a thing or two together…

Thanks to Allingham’s decent writing, I might consider such an endeavor — if only time were infinite. For I have sagging bookshelves awaiting me…

Speaking of sagging bookshelves, I’m willing to divest myself of this one now.  You can buy it from me using the button below for just $6, including US shipping. Or you can try eBay or Amazon.

Since I’ve now finished the book, I’ve allowed myself the opportunity to look up the author, and found that she was cheekily self-aware enough to say that she had “a figure designed for great endurance at a desk.” I sincerely take that to heart. For more on the author, see The Margery Allingham Society.

Make Your Children Feel Pretty By Making Fun Of Presidents (Or I’m Giving Away Atomic Religous Beauty?)

Perhaps today’s right-win conservative evangelists are only following the advice of Dorothy C. Haskin in God In My Kitchen: Fifty-Two Thoughts For Homemakers (copyright 1958, Warner Press, Anderson, Indiana)…

In chapter three, Beauty, we find the following:

Sheer physical good looks do not necessarily go together with excelling character or outstanding achievement. Our most handsome presidents were perhaps Warren G. Harding, James Buchanan, Franklin Pierce, and Chester A. Arthur. None of these are rated by historians as among our top national leaders. The presidents most praised by historians were not handsome men. George Washington was pock-marked. Abraham Lincoln’s rugged features are well-known and Theodore Roosevelt was bristling in appearance. Parent will do well to mention these things, because many children worry about their looks.

So I guess, by the laws of logic one should be voting for “ugly” candidate?

But that depends upon your definition of beauty; thankfully, Haskin helps with that.

Beauty is something which every girl can have. A young girl was praised for her beauty. Privately her father told her, “People are not praising your beauty, but your youth. You can take no credit at all for beauty at sixteen. But if you are beautiful at sixty, you can be proud of it, for it will be your character which has made you beautiful.”

Way to connect with your daughter, dad. Yeah, there’s some truth in that, but talking about her future old crone status is sure to help her in high school — because you know every high school kid thinks they’ll be dead before they reach the old age of 30. Sixty? What the hell is that?!

But I’ve shown poor character and interrupted Haskin again.

True beauty shows when your face is in repose. The natural expression reflects character. It may be fretty, quarrelsome, or reveal a spirit at rest with God. Another time that true beauty may be seen is when you greet someone. If you are self-centered, your greeting is without feeling and does not light your face. But if you are genuinely friendly, your greeting of others will bring a radiance to your face.

A Quaker woman’s recipe for beauty was:

“Use for the lips, truth… for the voice, prayer… for the eyes, pity… for the hands, charity… for the figure, uprightness… and for the heart, love.”

Because everyone talks about how beautiful Quaker women were! Seriously, I’m not a religious person (shocker!), but most of that sounds pretty nice and pretty sane to me — get it, pretty nice? Pretty sane? lol

Anyway, because I’m not religious — and because I’ve had my fun’s worth of this book, I’m giving it away.

There are many ways to enter; options. But you need only do one, if that’s all the effort you wish to put into winning… And no, I don’t care if you want this vintage homemaker’s book for ugly or pretty reasons. Just enjoy it!

To Enter:

* Follow me on Twitter: @DPopTart. (Please leave your Twitter username in your comment so I can check.)

and/or

* Tweet the following:

I entered @DPopTart’s contest to win a FREE copy of God In My Kitchen http://bit.ly/n7fIhz

(Remember to come back here and leave a comment with your tweet for me to verify.)

You may tweet your entry once a day.

and/or

* Friend me on Face Book: Deanna Dahlsad. (When making the request, note that you are entering the contest.)

and/or

* Post about this contest at your blog or website — if you do this you must include in your post to this contest post or Kitsch Slapped in general.

(Please include the link to your blog post in the comments section so that I can find your post.)

and/or

* Post your entry as a comment — if you do this, please make sure I’ve got your email address, because if you’re the winner I’ll need your email address to contact you regarding your shipping information.

Here’s the giveaway fine print:

* Giveaway is open to US residents only
* Be sure that you leave your email so that I can contact you
* Contest ends October 10, 2011; entries must be made on or before midnight, central time, October 9, 2011. Winner will be contacted by October 11, 2011, and has 48 hours to respond; otherwise, I’ll draw another name.

New Vintage Reviews #8

New Vintage Reviews Carnival

Welcome to the long overdue New Vintage Reviews Carnival, edition #8.

In this blog carnival, we review everything from classic film to vintage vinyl, from out-of-print books to games found in the basement — we hope to make the old seem shiny and new again!

If you’d like your review (or one you’ve read) to be included in the next edition, please submit it!  If you’d like to host, just contact me (Deanna.Pop.Tart@gmail.com) and put “New Vintage Reviews Host” in the subject line.

Books:

At A Penguin A Week, Karyn reviews The Go-Between by L.P. Hartley.

At { feuilleton }, a review of Joseph Balthazar Silvestre’s Alphabet-album, circa 1843, by John Coulthart.

My review of 1962’s Royal Canadian Air Force Exercise Plans For Physical Fitness, here at Kitsch Slapped.

Film:

At Immortal Ephemera, a review of 1950’s Bright Leaf, starring Gary Cooper, Lauren Bacall, and Patricia Neal.

At Out Of The Past, a review of Garbo’s Ninotchka (1939).

Games:

At Steamboat Arabia, an illustrated review of The Game of Life aka Checkered Game of Life by Milton Brady — first sold in 1860.

Music:

At Scratch, Pop & Hiss, a review of James Luther Dickinson’s Dixie Fried (1972).

At Kitschy Kitschy Coo, my review of Toni Basil’s self-titled album.

At Silent Porn Star (obviously NWS), a review of the 1957 LP My Pussy Belongs To Daddy, which is silly and risque.

At The World’s Worst Records, Darryl W Bullock reviews A Soldier’s Plea by Bishop J M Smith and the Evangelist Choir.

My review of MTV’s High Priority, here at Kitsch Slapped.

And… This last one isn’t truly a review… But in the spirit of living with “old stuff,” surely the story of Phil Cirocco’s full restoration of a Novochord dating from 1940 fits in.  (Via Scratch, Pop & Hiss.)

Sexism In The Royal Canadian Air Force Fitness Plans?

Here’s a little gem: the Royal Canadian Air Force Exercise Plans for Physical Fitness booklet.

This edition is the forty-third printing of the revised U.S. edition of the official RCAF fitness plan, published in 1962. It’s two books in one, as it contains both XBX (Ten Basic Exercises), the twelve minute a day plan for women, and 5BX (Five Basic Exercises), the eleven minute a day plan for men, which were previously published separately. (Note, the “X” in XBX does not refer to the two x-chromosomes of women.)

The plans enable you, the common folk, to get fit just as the fancy airline folk do — by yourself, at home, in your spare time, at your own rate, without any equipment.

I can’t speak to the effectiveness of the fitness plan; however, the exercises, created by Canada’s “pioneer” of physical fitness, William A. R. Orban, look like the general movements, tasks, and poses I’ve found in so many publications over the years (none as bad as beating your fat against a wall). But I can and will speak to the quirky fact that the two fitness plans differ greatly in terms of how the exercises are depicted by gender.

The women’s exercises are shown with step-by-step photographs of women in leotards:

While the men’s are shown with cool, graphic, iconic, illustrations:

While it’s true that the men’s fitness plan predates the women’s by a couple of years, I still find the differences striking… Was one gender thought to be confused by less-than realistic images? Is the female form just more acceptable, if not titillating, when shown in photographs? Or was continuity broken because greyscale printing became cheaper or otherwise de rigueur?

Before you decide, let me just show you one more thing…

While the men get a great phallic graphic, we women are sans a powerful ovarian homage.

 

Bombshell Manual Of Style Giveaway!

Used Book Contest Copy

I’ve decided to part with my copy of The Bombshell Manual of Style, by Laren Stover (Ruben Toledo, Illustrator). This hardcover with dust jacket is in like-new shape, and sex kittens, vamps, etc. will enjoy it.

In a previous review, I wrote this of the book:

A fast fun romp through the lives of bombshells. No so much on the ‘how tos’ of makeup or fashion, but a funny & fresh look at what makes a girl glam! Covers excuses, words to live by and how to throw a tantrum – you know, the stuff you really want to know. A great book for reading as you soak in a champagne bubble bath!

There are many ways to enter…

To Enter:

* Follow me on Twitter: @DPopTart. (Please leave your Twitter username in your comment so I can check.)

and/or

* Tweet the following:

I entered @DPopTart’s contest to win a FREE copy of The Bombshell Manual Of Style http://t.co/vJp33Va

(Remember to come back here and leave a comment with your tweet for me to verify.)

You may tweet your entry once a day.

and/or

* Friend me on Face Book: Deanna Dahlsad. (When making the request, note that you are entering the contest.)

and/or

* Post about this contest at your blog or website — if you do this you must include in your post to this contest post or Kitsch Slapped in general.

(Please include the link to your blog post in the comments section so that I can find your post.)

and/or

* Post your entry as a comment — if you do this, please make sure I’ve got your email address, because if you’re the winner I’ll need your email address to contact you regarding your shipping information.

Here’s the giveaway fine print:

* Giveaway is open to US residents only
* Be sure that you leave your email so that I can contact you
* Contest ends September 15, 2011; entries must be made on or before midnight, central time, September 14, 2011. Winner will be announced/contacted on September 16, 2011. Winner has 48 hours to respond; otherwise, I’ll draw another name.

Kitsch Slapped Link Round Up, Slappin’ It Feminist Style

Katharine, Marion and Peg Hepburn, August 1939

Let’s walk — and read — shoulder to shoulder, my sisters…

The first two posts that rather address a backwards feminism post at HuffPo: One at BUST and the other at A Slip Of A Girl.  Why should I add anything when they’ve both done so well?

At Silent Porn Star (yup, that means this next link is NSFW), my fellow “nutty Egyptologist” pal discusses brotherly and sisterly love — in terms of etymology, fictive kinship, marriage of kin, and DNA evidence — in ancient Egypt. Interesting food for thought for this armchair anthropologist.

In No Sex, Please, We’re Literary!, author Karen Essex discusses the double-standard which goes past the roles and experiences of the characters, to the limitations of the authors. Here’s a quick snippet; but please go read the rest.

The point of my books is to give voice to otherwise voiceless females from history and myth; to unlock what has been secreted away in women’s hearts and minds for thousands of years; to express what has been unutterable. Historically, women have either been reduced to nothing but their sexuality, or stripped of it entirely; the Madonna or the whore. Are those two options not more degrading to a female character than allowing her the full range of human experience?

Karen Essex has also just earned a permanent link on the blogroll for that post; but she’s an achiever. You should also read Women: Is it our own fault? — which is in response to her earlier post, Take Back The Tit, which also rather addresses the icky HuffPo post too. See? Now we’ve come full circle!

Image credits: Katharine, Marion and Peg Hepburn photo taken by Martin Munkacsi, August 1939, via.

Pan Historia

Pan Historia is:

[A] community for collaborative fiction and role play writing. Whether you just want to browse and read, or whether you want to write one or many different stories from the point of view of your characters this is the place for you. In addition to the stories there are fun discussions, games, contests, and many opportunities to make new friends. Inside you can find all your favorite genres: science fiction, fantasy, horror, history, and more. You can explore over one hundred different collaborative novels, join in, create your own home pages for your characters, learn from others on how to design great homes, create fabulous graphics, or just hone your creative writing skills with others of like interests.

Pan Historia is run by librarians and researchers, rumor has it.

And Pan Historia is blowing my mind.

But Pan Historia is also a bit too intimidating for a girl like me. I’m down with the ; I’m just not a fiction writer or a gamer, so I don’t think I can . Unless my character is a Medieval fish out of water in a post apocalyptic desert. And possibly mute.

Or maybe I’ll wait for the board game version.

Of George Eliot & Marilyn Monroe

George Eliot

I am absolutely fascinated by Adair Jones‘s debate on the following question: “Was George Eliot’s late marriage a resignation from being a strong-minded woman?”

I haven’t read the works under discussion and, embarrassingly, my knowledge of George Eliot wouldn’t fill a thimble — but that doesn’t put an end to my opining. For it’s not the “did she or didn’t she” of the argument which has me most fascinated, but the “how” of it all…

Once there was a school of thought that held that autobiographies were superior to biographies; a person is the only one who really knows their own life, no amount of research can replace that. Along the way, the sub-genre of memoirs was created in order for a person to be able to tell a smaller story, the story of only a chapter or two in their lives as opposed to the whole story. Memoirs were greatly discredited in the whole Oprah-Frey fiasco. None of that memoirs stuff is of importance here; but memory is.

You see, I don’t remember things by dates. I have a linear concept of time, but dates are not my thing. And time itself passes unevenly for me — for most of us. My children, for example, grew up overnight despite those sleepless nights which I thought would never end. Time waiting for a child in a counseling appointment without a book vs. the same one hour appointment with a book, well, you know how that goes. And then there’s the matter of memory…

What I remember and what my husband remembers about things we’ve done, conversations held, etc. clearly exposes problems with perceptions. What I consider significant, he may not; and vice versa. And I, like many people I am told, often walk to the kitchen only to wonder why I went there.

Memory is a twisty thing.

So how reliable am I in terms of writing my autobiography?

I’m guessing not good at all.

So would the biographer be better?

I swore I wrote about (some of) this before, but I write so many places that if I did, I couldn’t find it; if I do find it, I’ll update with a link. [Note to self: you’re loosing your mind.]

But that is, in part, precisely what I’m talking about. If I were writing my own biography or memoir, I might just reference something I believed I wrote. And even upon being unable to produce it, would swear it was misplaced (or, if I’d grow even more paranoid, claim it was stolen). I’m that convinced I did it. Even if I hadn’t included that tidbit in my autobiography, some researcher pouring through my personal effects, correspondence I’d written over the years, etc. might just find that I’d penned a letter in which I swore that I had written on the subject. Perhaps I’d even accuse a person of the theft of it. This poor researcher / author would then have proof of my presumption, but not what actually happened.

And this is only one example which is far more cut and dried than other realities… The article or written work exists or it doesn’t; my faulty memory may be found out due to evidence one way or another. But what of my motivations?

What if I insisted I wrote something, knowing I did not, but wished to claim the work of someone else? What if I hated someone so much I convinced myself the story was true, could even pass a lie detector test because I, in fact, believed what I was saying? Maybe I did believe it so much because I was unable to be truthful with myself about my own actions?

We all tell ourselves lies everyday. Just to get through the day. Most of them aren’t so big and bad as accusing someone of theft. We usually don’t lie to hurt others but rather to protect ourselves. We lie to ourselves about the deeper things we cannot face, little and big vanities alike.

Whatever George Eliot aka Mary Ann Evans aka Mary Anne Cross writes to her friends she is also writing to herself. She has her reasons as much as her denials to motivate her. And so, even a historian with access to public and private works, letters and diaries, is still limited by the memories and motivations of their subject.

Did Eliot consider her last marriage an act of dependence? An independent or vain act that would ensure her legacy? Was it just easier to count on someone in her old age, easier to tell people that, or what?

Who knows.

It’s intellectual fun to pluck at the strings left behind, like clues leading to the the ball of yarn that is a hero’s psyche. But we don’t know. We cannot read their soul.

Marilyn Monroe

This is why we have so many biographies. Even after the memoirs and autobiographies (with and without the help of others), even after hundreds of other biographies, there’s still room for more.

Some people who count such things say there are 600 books on Marilyn Monroe alone — with new releases each year. Because she continues to fascinate me us. Forget the suicide-or-murder debate; forget the motivations, cover-ups, bungles, etc. of other people; we can never know what went on in Marilyn’s head or heart because no one, not even her contemporaries and confidants, knew that.

Marilyn and Mary Anne, and all the others, will continue to fascinate us because we will never ever know. We will never be truly sated by any “definitive” book on a person because we can never ever have the definitive answers.

Whatever the subjects of biographies and autobiographies leave for us, whatever they tell us, remains forever between the memory gaps, what they believed, the stories they’ve told themselves, what they believed they needed to protect when they told others their stories…

That is unsettling.

It’s a realization that we cannot ever really know anyone.

And so we continue to read, investigate, interpret, what we can. …Still hoping we will find The Truth.

If You Believe “Good Guys Finish Last…”

It’s easy to be pessimistic today, especially when it comes to business. Those of us not in the upper two percent, those of us with little in our pockets but our sweaty palms, those of us who don’t just feel beaten-up by big business but have the financial and even physical marks to prove it, those of us who are the “other” under the heels of the “us” that is Corporate America, we can easily draw the conclusion that the only time virtue comes up is when the fat cats greedily giggle over their “there’s no virtue in business besides money” mantra.

These feelings infiltrate, or, if you prefer “trickle down” (the only time the principal actually appears to work) into every aspect of our world, at every level. From realized fears of neglect and victimization in our political system to the mentalities of school bullies, controlling abusers, and national “pro-life” terrorists., it seems we are increasingly forced to live in a black & white world of virtue — and to consider which side we are on… Should we remain the down-trodden good guy who will finish last, if at all? Or should we give in to the dark side, just to survive?

I hear this echoed in discussions everywhere.  Activists wondering if they should adopt the same tactics their opponents successfully use.  Entrepreneurs who cringe at identifying themselves as such because of what “being in business” implies. Parents wondering how they can continue to teach their children to be “good,” “fair,” and “generous,” when their children see what the rich and ruthless reap.

It seems hopeless.

Enter hope. Or rather enchantment.

Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions, by Guy Kawasaki is primarily touted as a business book — a small-business or entrepreneurial manifesto. And sure, it works for that. But more than that, Kawasaki’s book explores the power of enchantment.

Enchantment can occur in villages, stores, dealerships, offices, boardrooms, and on the Internet. It causes voluntary change of hearts and minds and therefore actions. It is more than manipulating people to help you to get your way. Enchantment transforms situations and relationships. It converts hostility into civility. It reshapes civility into affinity. It changes skeptics and cynics into believers.

Firstly, Enchantment is a breath of fresh, good, air; it’s an affirmation that good guys and gals don’t have to finish last. And there are real stories, real cases, of real good people who are examples.

Secondly, Kawasaki outlines the principals of enchantment — sound psychological principals and insights into human behavior that are easy to read and even easier to comprehend.

Thirdly, the book inspires action.  Heart lightened with the affirmation and validation that Good is indeed good, heart warmed by the examples of Good successful people, and armed with the knowledge of how it all works, you, the reader, are inspired to live enchantingly.

It’s good that you are inspired because the author is now going to offer you opportunities to implement the strategies.

Kawasaki provides a checklist of things to consider and opportunities to explore, rather like self-help books do. (In the book’s Coverphon, there’s evidence neither the author nor the publisher would like this “soft” self-help comparison; but I think the work is to be commended for it’s uplifting, affirming, readily understood, easy to incorporate strategies as well as it’s “hard” business acumen.)

And, yes, the author includes plenty of tips and methods for businesses and entrepreneurs to put to work online (i.e. push and pull technologies such as email, Twitter, Facebook, websites and blogs, etc.).

While nearly all stories, prompts and checklists are business related (including chapters on how to enchant your boss, resist enchantment, etc.), there’s no reason the information couldn’t be applied to any facet of your life, including parenting. Where else does one need to model integrity more?

(There are even concrete stories for you to counter wise-ass remarks from kids who dare you to prove that greed and might are the only ways to get ahead — in fact, stories and examples that suggest that life ought not to be viewed as a race in which one must “get ahead,” but rather how to work for the betterment of many.)

In short, Enchantment is just the breath of fresh air that good guys and gals need to reaffirm their vows to be a person of delightful integrity. It gives us the tips to enchant — and the permission to be enchanted with ourselves.

PS If you do buy a copy of Enchantment, you might want to know about this enchanting offer from Guy:

When people anywhere in the world buy a copy of Enchantment in any form (paper, recording, or ebook), they can get a free copy of Garr’s book called Presentation Zen.

Presentation Zen is one of the best books ever written about making great presentations. Seth Godin said this about it: “Please don’t buy this book! Once people start making better presentations, mine won’t look so good.”

Disclaimer: I was given a free review copy of this book. While the free copy was appreciated and enjoyed, the fact that it was free has no bearing on this review or the contents of this post — other than the legal requirement to make such a statement.

Being Of Sound Mind & Body

The Archive Series by the David Garcia Studio are art installation pieces, experimental architectural platforms, specifically “investigations on space and books, aiming to blur the borders between art and design. Clearly non functional, they aim to appeal to the senses.” However, this second installation does have a function — serving as a hamster wheel for readers, or, if you prefer, an alternative to the exercise bike, treadmill, and other gym equipment that the bored read upon. The Archive Series is available for sale in custom made pieces too.

Found via this post at the Bookshelf blog.

Mississippi Paper Burning (Hot Vintage Magazine Blog!)

I’ve fallen in love with a newly discovered blog: Visual Arts Library Picture & Periodicals Collections, part of New York’s School of Visual Arts. And not just because David Pemberton, the Periodical/Reference Librarian who runs the blog, linked to my (obsessively detailed) post on The Mentor magazine, either. (Though I am a sucker for librarians and curators — and links don’t exactly hurt.) No, I’m in love with this new-to-me blog because of it’s content.

Sure, the visuals are great — as you’d expect from a visual arts school library. But it’s more than that. It’s the writing. Not just the historical context I crave, but the frank tone I adore. Such as the delightful description of National Lampoon Magazine as having “heaping sides of boob and toilet humor.” (I know I’m a fan of heaping boobs and even side-boob *wink* I’ve even succumb to toilet humor plenty of times.)

But the best part is the mix of selected offerings. Again using the National Lampoon post, look at this gem from the August 1975 issue:

Many of the magazines have embedded publications in them that parody other actual publications, such as this one that is supposed to have been put out by the state of Mississippi Bar Association featuring articles on “Closing Those Loopholes in Mississippi Lynch Law” and “No-Fault Rape–New Concepts to Protect Our Menfolk:”

I’m absolutely dying to read that! I bet most of the satirical messages are still relevant today. But then I love to read what I collect. …How else can I obsessively research it, over-analyze it, blog about it?

Once Upon A Time… Mail Order Girlfriends

Found at Chateau Thombeau, a lovely look at these pages from Photo Album No. 11, apparently a vintage dating help publication featuring “lonely maidens, widows and divorcees searching for love, romance, happiness and marriage.”

(And don’t those little numbers remind you of criminal booking photos?)

Without seeing the actual publication, it’s hard to say for certain, but it looks as if the “happiness at your fingertips” is based solely on the male reader’s reaction to a photo.

I don’t mean to be cruel or sexist, but if that’s the case, some of these women would only find happiness at their own fingertips; those grimaces are extremely unfortunate. But if they knew how to physically pleasure themselves, they probably wouldn’t have those frowns in the first place. Or probably care to be a mail order girlfriend or bride.

Yes, chemistry is important; but even Playboy has the model’s bio bit. Seems personality was even less important in this vintage mail order girlfriend magazine than in the fantasy fodder pages of men’s mags. Guessing from the photos, this wasn’t that long before Playboy would hit the stands.

I’m surprised head-shots alone were used. Even for the younger gals. How was a guy supposed to check out her breeding hips?

I suppose we should be thankful that this edition is “exclusively for unattached gentlemen.” …But then real gentlemen aren’t the ones to worry about.

And “this edition” is exclusive? That sort of begs the question about other issues…

Ranch Romances & Adventures

Ranch Romances & Adventures, May, 1971.

Ranch Romances & Adventures

Contrary to what Jack Martin/Gary Dobbs says, I do not see Ranch Romance (& Adventures) magazines as primarily for women.

Jack/Gary says they must be “aimed at young women since all of the stories have a romantic element to them.” But come on now, dude, I know this may be difficult for a man who loves Westerns to admit but the whole genre – from books to films — is nothing but male romance novels and dick flicks. Sure, there’s some action in there; but the guns and body counts are there to win the damsel, the dame — the 500 miles he would walk just to fall down at her door.

Stop living in denial.

You men are just as much suckers for romance as we women are. You want to read about a good chaste kiss, a ravishing bodice ripping — and this publication proves it.

Or does it… Perhaps I am biased more than a bit by my feminine experiences and feminist equality-seeking nature. For over at Laurie’s Wild West, Laurie Powers shares the story behind the pulp magazine, using the publication founder’s own words. Harold Hersey claimed full credit for launching Ranch Romances in September 1924 (The “Adventures” joined the “Ranch Romances” in 1969) in his biography, Pulpwood Editor. Hersey writes:

My home run was Ranch Romances. I conceived of the idea of combining the Western and the love themes in a single magazine under the title of Western Love Stories. Our distributors considered it too close an imitation of the Street & Smith titles. We were told to think up another. The result was Ranch Romances and it was an almost instantaneous hit with women readers. Instead of the cowboy hero, we offered the cowgirl heroine. Bina Flynn, the editor we chose to handle the fresh idea, built the magazine into a huge success.

While I think combining Westerns and Romances is redundant, either I’m wrong — or Hersey’s another one of these men afraid to admit the romantic truth about men. Maybe, just maybe, the truth of Ranch Romances‘ success lies in the complicated truth of this simple line: “Instead of the cowboy hero, we offered the cowgirl heroine.”

Vintage Ranch Romances Magazine

Women likely responded to dreaming the possible dream of a strong female heroine who was still desired by men. Men likely felt reciprocally reassured that even today’s ballsy woman still could be wooed and won by a macho male. (However, as always, the stories end before the truly difficult part of meshing roles and living happily ever after begins; like dirty dishes in the sink, no one wants to get to that part.)

Laurie Powers touches on some of this modernized gender stuff in her post too, so read that as Exhibit A. And as further proof of the male adoption of this publication I’ll let you know that the previous owner of my May 1971 issue was male. And check out the sexist ad on the back cover.

Anyway, this Ranch Romances & Adventures I have makes me sad. (It probably made others sad too as it was the publication’s last year.)

Ranch Romances may have been more of a pulp publication, prior to the mid-1960s at least, with fantastic graphics and fantasy fiction, but by this point the magazine was more personals ads digest than pulpy delight.

Of course, I may be biased. Again. I prefer the vintage styles more than the retro ones, and my “like” barometer is built upon that grading system. But from what I’ve seen and read, Rance Romances & Adventures is a desperate combination of personal pleas and ads designed to make money off those in despair.

(I’ll be sharing more of scans from this particular issue here and over at Kitschy Kitschy Coo as Valentine’s Day approaches.)

Working Mothers Working From Home, 1962

“Working Mothers Needn’t Leave Home,” by Bettijane Eisenpreis, as published in My Baby, June 1962, isn’t terribly earth-shattering per se — other than, perhaps, our notions of the time period. This is how the article begins:

The working mother has long been part of the American scene. Still, many career women feel saddened at leaving their children, Their solution: be housewife, mother and part-time career woman by working in your own home.

What can you do at home? Just about anything. Shoes are designed, books translated, rugs woven, advertising campaigns created, research done, and parties planned from home. This article was written at home.

Honestly, it reads like many WAHM sites and books. (You can click the scans below to read the article in full.) But one thing sort of nags at me a bit…

The name Bettijane Eisenpreis isn’t common, so I believe she is the author of many magazine articles and a few books, including Coping with Scoliosis (1998) — which makes me wonder if Bettijane didn’t work from home because of her health situation. …Not that I do (or would) feel the same about her authoring Coping: A Young Woman’s Guide to Breast Cancer Prevention. So what does that say about me?

Old Corny Aggie Jokes

I’ll admit I knew nothing about this retro joke book when I snagged it at an antique shop; all I needed to pick it up was a stork on the front, and the $1 price penciled inside allowed me to bring it home.

(Son Of A Son Of… 101 Aggie Jokes, Vol. 3, copyright 1969, Gigem Press (my copy is a First Printing, September, 1969) was created to be a postal piece.)

The front cover birth control gag goes like this:

Do you know what Aggies do with birth control pills?

They feed them to storks.

And that should be enough to satisfy a dollar purchase — but I’m obsessive, remember?

First I had to learn what an “Aggie” was or is: students (current and former) at Texas A&M University are called Aggies after the school’s agricultural roots. Then Barry Popik had to educate me on what turns out to be a rather fascinating bit of history about these very books:

Aggie jokes became legendary because of two events in 1963 and 1965. In 1963, Texas A&M started to admit women. The University of Texas (already co-ed) and others saw humor in this situation. In 1965, the book 101 Aggie Jokes was published. The book would go through several reprintings and new editions.

And so it seems this little joke book was destined to find its way into my feminism collection. Even if the book isn’t all about gender or the sexes, it fits the bill; here’s Exhibit B:

Did you hear about the Aggie who thought a sanitary belt was the first drink out of the bottle?

Ba-dum-dum!

I’ll couch my estimation of this kitschy book’s value with the publishers sentiments on the title page:

This collection of jokes has been assembled from general public sources. It is not the intention of the publishers to ridicule or degrade any institution or individual. The purpose is to chronicle an important chapter in American humor.

To cover my own ass, I’ll also include “gender” along with institutions and individuals. *wink*

FYI, the publishers name is based on another Aggie reference, the Gig ’em greeting.

Marjorie Hellen: “Identification Girl” The Ultimate Objectification Or Not?

Featured on the cover of People Today, September 22, 1954, was “Marjorie Hellen… TV’s Golden Girl.”

Her story begins on page 55, filed under “People In TV,” Hellen’s story is titled She’s ‘Compatible’ Marjorie Hellen Is Strawberry Blond Trade-Mark on Color TV.

If that’s not intriguing enough, check out the caption under the photo: “Marjorie And Her Rival Black-And-White Test Pattern (rear)”.

From the article:

Millions of NBC-TV viewers are getting slightly frustrated whenever the smiling image of lovely Marjorie Hellen flashes on their black-and-white screens with her quiet announcement: “The following program…will be broadcast in color …” The reason: Around 10,000 TV sets in the U.S., costing between $495 and $1,100, are showing the same girl as she appears on PEOPLE TODAY’S cover–gray-eyed, strawberry blond.

Marjorie, who doubles as a live test pattern for sensitive color cameras, is the “identification girl” for NBC Color TV, which has scheduled 39 90-minute “spectaculars” for its compatible system (the shows can also be received in black-and-white) during 1954-1955.

The article credits “an attack of anemia” for Hellen getting the gig — not specifically for her coloring (though only her doctor knows for sure), but for her availability:

It kept her from going to school, made her available when Claude Traverse, manager of NBC’s color unit, selected her from photos as having the “ideal flesh tone” for lining up color cameras.

Hellen may be more familiar to you as Leslie Parrish; she changed her name in 1959.

The Dark Side Of Medicine

For those of you who question my concerns regarding ethics in medical studies — most heatedly debated in my discussion regarding the “science” of “deadly corsets” (the heat there surprised me greatly; I expected it regarding the flack to come regarding feminist use of the corset), I urge you to read Susan Perry’s Too many clinical trials still exploit the poor and other vulnerable people, says U of M bioethics professor:

Are there enough protections in place?

No, says Dr. Carl Elliott, a professor of bioethics at the University of Minnesota and author of the just-published “White Coat, Black Hat: Adventures on the Dark Side of Medicine.” (Last month, Elliott also published a Mother Jones article that focused on the 2004 suicide of a young mentally ill man who was enrolled at the time in a U of M industry-funded clinical trial of the antipsychotic drug Seroquel.)

Clinical trials can still exploit study subjects, only the exploitation has taken a different form, Elliott told me in a phone interview earlier this week. Medical researchers may no longer be going out and intentionally making people sick, as they did in the Guatemala study (and in the infamous Tuskegee syphilis study), but they still can — and do — recruit vulnerable people (the uninsured, the poor) and often fail to give them adequate treatment while the subjects are in the trial.

“In a lot of ways, what’s going on now is even worse,” said Elliott.

You know I’m getting this book.

I’m putting it on my wish list right after I puke; it’s not so satisfying being right when the issue is so horribly wrong.

British Ladies Cat Fight With American Women, 1832

Since I love old beauty tips and their cultural context, I was intrigued by A Slip of a Girl’s posts sharing clippings from the March 1831 issue of Atkinson’s Casket (aka The Casket).  In that same issue, found via Google Books, I found this great article on painting on glass — but I wanted more.

In another issue, from 1832, this incredible review of Frances Trollope‘s Domestic Manners of the Americans (1832):

Mrs. Trollope has treated America with the same liberality, and her success in depicting the character of our people, has been nearly as great as captain Hall’s. An unsuccessful speculation in Cincinnati, awakened, it appears, the indignation of Madame T. and she forthwith—with the assistance of the notorious Fanny Wright, with whom she travelled, and whose abominable doctrines she appears to have imbibed—resolved to glut her revenge by writing a book. No doubt she is now satisfied, for she has the pleasure of seeing it stated in print, sanctioned by her name, that the Americana are the most illnatured, ungenerous, wicked, illiterate and vulgar people on the face of the earth ; that their moral sentiment is less elevated than that of the savages, and that the half-horse and half-alligator population of the Mississippi Valley, are as uncouth and as barbarous as a nation of Ourangutangs.

Mrs. Trollope, however, certainly unwittingly, pays American ladies, a very high compliment. Having fixed upon the society of Almacks as the criterion by which to examine the character of our ladies, she finds that they are all utterly destitute of polish; of that easy, lady like deportment, by which English ladies are distinguished throughput the world, and entirely ignorant of those amiable accomplishments in maneuvering, &c. which give her own countrywomen so strong an influence over their husbands. Our ladies are too modest in their behaviour and dress, to meet the views of Mrs. T. ; in company they want loquacity ; they seldom visit theatres; they arc respectful to their husbands, and indefatigable in instructing their children ; they are but indifferent dancers, and speak Italian shockingly incorrect ; and finally they are not carried away with foolish and ridiculous fashions. All these are serious faults in the opinion of the immaculate Trollope, and she vents her spleen at them in no measured terms.

Trollope’s sentiments seem very much to echo those of this article from 1907 — so much so, that I double-checked that Trollope was indeed deceased in 1863. However, as this article, titled British Cockney Writers, shows, this apparently was quite the trend during this period.

Included in this issue of Atkinson’s Casket are some excerpts or “extracts” — of which I found the following quite amusing:

The ladies have strange ways of adding to their charms. They powder themselves immoderately, face, neck, and arms, with pulverised starch; the effect is indescribably disagreeable by daylight, and not very favorable at any time. They are also most unhappily partial to false hair,which they wear in surprising quantities; this is the more to be lamented, as they generally have very fine hair of their own. I suspect this fashion to arise from an indolent mode of making their toilette, and from accomplished ladies’ maids not being very abundant; it is less trouble to append a bunch of waving curls here, there and every where, than to keep their native tresses in perfect order.

Though the expense of the ladies’ dress greatly exceeds, in proportion to their generalstyle of living, that of the ladies of Europe, it is very far (excepting in Philadelphia) from being |n good taste. They do not consult the seasons in tne colors, or in the style of their costume; 1 have often shivered at seeing a young beauty picking her way through the snow with a pale rose-colored bonnet, set on the very top of her head: I knew one young lady whose pretty little ear was actually frost-bitten from being thus exposed.— They never wear muffs or boots, and appear extremely shocked at the sight of comfortaole walking shoes, and cotton stockings, even when they have to step to their sleighs over ice and snow.

They walk in the middle of winter with their poor little toes pinched into a miniature slipper, incapable of excluding as much moisture as might bedew a primrose. I must say in their excuse, however, that they have, almost universally, extremely pretty feet. They do not walk well, nor, in fact, do they ever appear to advantage when in movement. I know not why this should be, for they have abundance of French dancing masters among them, but somehow or other it is the fact. I fancied I could often trace a mixture of affectation and of shyness in their little mincing unsteady step, and the ever changing position of the hands. They do not dance well; perhaps 1 should rather say, they do not look well when dancing; lovely as their faces arc, they cannot, in a position that exhibits the whole person, atone for the want of tournun-. and for the universal defect in the formation of the bust, which is rarely full, or gracefully formed.

PS Apparently this had all been previously published in The Saturday Evening Post; the connections between and history of The Casket and The Saturday Evening Post are well documented here.

Book Review Blog Carnival #36

Welcome to the 36th Book Review Blog Carnival — and welcome to my weirdly organized little library.

Why a “weirdly organized little library?” Well…

Doing these carnivals is always a lot of work — fun, but work. It’s not just the volume of submissions, but the sorting through them… You have to categorize them, and I find that “by subject” is nearly as subjective as a book review itself. And, as a reader, it’s hard not to “buy subjects” aka find books which will make your wish list, if not your to-be-read pile. Which is a completely personal thing.

So, this carnival is broken down into rather arbitrary classifications. Other than the first set (intrigued enough to buy), they are in no particular order; and they are in no particular order within the categories either.

Intrigued Enough By The Reviews To Put Them On My Wish List:

Nicole Langan of Tribute Book Reviews says that Silent Girl, a collection of short stories by Tricia Dower, is “a tour de force from an author employing Shakespearean characters as a springboard for illustrating the condition of modern women.” (Sounds completely yummy!)

Sparky Bates got the old synapses firing reading Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar, by Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein over at Accidental Reads.

Cold SnapDragon reviews Plains Song, regrettably said to be the only book by Wright Morris still in print.

Frequent Shoppers & Brown-Nosers:

At Mysteries in Paradise, KerrieS has been busy. She reviewed The Brass Verdict, a legal thriller set in Los Angeles by Michael Connelly; Consequences Of Sin, crime fiction by Clare Langley-Hawthorne set in Edwardian London; Blood Of The Wicked, crime fiction by Leighton Gage set in Brazil involving the assassination of a bishop; and Stephen King’s latest release for Kindle, UR. (When does she eat?!)

Dimes2Vines has been reading well, and presumably snacking less, reviewing Red Light, Green Light, Eat Right, a book designed to help parents teach their children about healthy habits, and Prime-Time Health, by Dr. William Sears with his wife, Martha Sear, RN.

Bernadette reviews Mistress of the Art of Death, historical crime fiction that’s “loaded with wit,” and The Rule Book, “brilliant debut crime fiction novel” by Rob Kitchin, over at Reactions to Reading.

Brown-Nosers Who Made Me Put Two Books On My Wish List:

At The Truth About Lies, Jim Murdoch sinks his teeth into The Mimic Men by V S Naipaul, a novel about British rule and dependency — which really really whets my appetite. He also reviews the latest volume of The Paris Review Interviews.

Over at Home Biz Notes, Mary Emma Allen got snuggly under the covers with some strange bedfellows… She’s posted reviews of Building Brand Value the Playboy Way and This I Accomplish: Harriet Powers’ Bible Quilt and Other Pieces.

Kids, Parents & Home:

Dave Roller, Home School Dad, was researching poets for a poetry teaching unit when he found Poems for Children Nowhere Near Old Enough to Vote, a book of children’s poetry by Carl Sandburg published posthumously. He says the book is “fantastic!” (This might yet make my wish list…)

Shaunta Alburger dishes on Gluten-Free Baking Classics by Annailse G. Roberts over at Live Once Juicy.

Amanda CMJ names and reviews her Favorite Book in 2009: Nurtureshock over at Yield to Pedestrian.

Fraidy-Cat:

Terence Gillespie (understandably) gets whipped into a frenzy reading One Nation, Under Surveillance — Privacy From the Watchful Eye over at Your Optimal.

Tim, A Progressive on the Prairie, reviews The Last Train from Hiroshima by Charles Pellegrino. (Which reminds me, it’s always strange to say you love a book about such horrific real-life things, isn’t it?)

Erm, ditto my sentiments for Anne Frank: Her Life in Words and Pictures, reviewed by Alyce at At Home With Books (which could have gone in the kids/parenting section too, I suppose — but it’s horrific too, right?)

OK, maybe it’s not much better when it’s fiction which plays on real fears… Meg reviews The Lovely Bones (now a much-advertised film) over at Simpson’s Paradox.

Speaking of real fears, over at at I’ll Never Forget the Day I Read a Book!, Clark Bjorke read Going Rogue, so we don’t have to. Though I do think you’ll want to read the review *wink*

Awesome Idea For A Book Club:

At Be the Change Bookclub, Meg presents Small is Possible: Life in a Local Economy, a collection of stories about the successes and failures of attempts to build a sustainable economy and thriving community.

Fiction:

At Incurable Disease of Writing, Missy Frye says Listen by Rene Gutteridge is “a superbly crafted treatise on taking responsibility for our words as it lays bare the damage they can do.” Proof that truth lives in fiction.

Ms. Smarty Pants reviews Potato Branch by Joe Richard Morgan — a series of short stories by her high school English teacher about his childhood. (That had to be weird, huh?)

Robert Hall can’t contain himself — he must talk about Just After Sunset, Duma Key, and Under The Dome over at All Things Stephen King.

Money Matters:

At Blueprint for Financial Prosperity, Jim recommends that we all Get Financially Naked. (What else can seduce – err, induce you to go read it besides the title?!)

At RabbitFunds.com Adam Williams was pleasantly surprised by inspirational author Richard Paul Evans’ The 5 Lessons a Millionaire Taught Me.

The Smarter Wallet reviews The Smart Cookies’ Guide To Making More Dough — with a foreword by Jean Chatzky.

Christian:

Glenda A. Bixler reviews A Slow Burn, the second book in the Defiance, Texas Trilogy Christian fiction series over at Book Reader’s Heaven.

Sandie of Bumples Family First offers up another helping of Chicken Soup For the Soul: Count Your Blessings.

At Sue’s Book Reviews, Sue reviews A Smile on the Face of God, by Adrian Plass. She says it’s worth hunting down.

Free?!

Andy Hayes of Travel Online Partners (TOP) submitted his brief review of Seth Godin’s new ebook, What Matters Now saying, “Just because it’s an eBook doesn’t mean it can’t change your life.” I can’t argue with that — or a free download. *wink*

Thanks to all who submitted — I found a lot of cool books and blogs too!

Got book reviews? Submit them to the carnival! Love books? Visit the carnival home page for past & future editions of the carnival.

Gifts For Mystery Lovers

Need a gift for the bibliophiles who dig mysteries? Or someone with a twisted sense of humor? How about gifts (mugs, t-shirts, posters, ties, etc.) featuring prints of an altered art piece titled That Nosey Miss Marple:

If you live near Miss Marple — or another nosy neighbor — don’t give her easy clues by cleaning out your refrigerator of dismembered body parts outside.

There Are Flowers In The Attic

flowers-in-the-attic-original-paperback-coverWhen V.C. Andrews’ Flowers In The Attic was published in 1979, it became all the rage for a teenage girl to read it — and by ‘the rage’ you can presume not only the inclusion of the outrage of those who prefer to censor for all rather than interact with their children as well as the rebellion of teens who wanted to flaunt their right to inflame. And I was one of them.

I can’t imagine there’s anyone who doesn’t, 30 years later, know the story of the four Dollanganger children locked in an attic. But if you don’t…

A) you can find reviews via the comments and ‘links to this post’ at The V.C. Andrews Movement / Reading Challenge

and 2) you might want to stop reading this post now — because while I’m not going give a classic book review, I will be discussing the reading of this book and my reactions to it, which certainly will contain spoilers.

I don’t recall buying the book (I believe my younger sister, ever much-hipper and popular than I, got it and I feasted on her literary leftovers), but in any case, I definitely recall reading Flowers In The Attic as a teen. (It was the paperback version, so that would have been when I was about 16.) In fact, it was an incredibly vivid book, which left its marks (marks — not scars) on me. It haunted me so that I had planned to name my son Cory, after that ill-fated twin, in some sort of sentimental attempt to wipe away the sins or offer retribution via resurrection. But before I would come to that decision I would have to find redemption for myself and my reading habits.

I was horrified reading Flowers In The Attic. I’d read Gothic novels before; I’d read so-called smut before. But nothing disturbed me like this V.C. Andrews novel had — and the rumors that it was based in truth did not help my ambiguity at all.

I was repelled by what I was reading — yet compelled to continue reading it. I couldn’t put it down and walk away from it… Why was I reading this creepy story about a cruelty and performed on children by family members? Especially as I’d elected to neither watch Sybil nor read the book just a few years before simply because it was too horrifying. How was I now reading this book — and sympathizing with incest and rape?! And, heaven help me, I was itching to get the next book in the series. It was scary and confusing and it made me question my own morality.

I could have gone to my parents with my feelings; they were open and easy to talk with, as I’ve described before. But I figured whatever I was going to have to articulate to them, I ought to be able to articulate to myself — and so figure it out for myself from there. And let’s be honest, there was a significant about of shame which kept me from admitting what I was thinking and feeling to anyone else.

So I endeavored to struggle through it on my own.

Eventually I learned that my fascination was simply that of a reader drawn to a compelling story, into the lives and emotions of characters. The creepy and horrifying things were supposed to be creepy and horrifying — I was supposed to cringe and feel crazed for those characters (and despise others). And if I allowed (or was willing to have) the author manipulate and suspend my disbelief into feeling for these characters to the extent that I sympathized (or even romanticized in the Gothic sense) the matters of sibling sex and rape (if not classic violent rape, that scene certainly raises questions of ability to consent), I was not some lewd damaged being caught up in some literary Stockholm syndrome-esque relationship with the author — the very fact that I was bothered enough to be forced to sort through so many shades of grey (and pure evil) proved that. If I was engrossed enough in the characters to want to cheer them on through darkness to some sort of victory and happiness, I was simply human.

By the time the sequel, Petals on the Wind, was released in paperback, I had no qualms about reading it. I would go on, with a clear conscious, to read the entire series (save for the prequel), but I never did name anyone Cory. I got over it.

Being reminded of this book recently, I wondered if it would still have such a powerful effect on me; so I decided to get a copy and read it again.

I titled this post There Are Flowers In The Attic for two reasons. The first one is that in rereading the book, I was again moved. Yes, it’s lighter fiction than I am used to reading (perhaps not young adult reading per se, but light in literary terms), but the dark subject matter still moves. I did spot continuity errors (in two places, Andrews confuses the two twins with one another, which made for bumpy & annoying rereading), but it’s still a solidly creepy, horrific novel.

The second reason the flowers remain in the attic refers to a parenting opportunity.

flowers-in-the-attic-vc-andrewsWhen the 13 year old spotted the ‘scary cover’ of the book, she hinted (she’s forever hinting, not asking) that she’d like to read it. Being that there is a strong sibling effect, I knew the oldest daughter would then want to read what ‘we’ were reading.

Both are pretty strong readers, but the eldest, 20, is an Auspie, so she might have additional confusion reading this book, and the 13 year old has abandonment and other issues resulting from her mentally ill, neglectful biological mother. Suffice it to say, I had concerns how either of them would process the book’s subject matter. So I sat them both down to talk about the book and its content.

I told them that I had no problems with either of them reading the book, but that I wanted them to know that the book was scary — and at was at this point that they interrupted me, laughing about how they watch and enjoy scarier movies than I do. Which is true, but, as I explained to them, Flowers In The Attic was far scarier because it wasn’t about vampires, zombies or other fictional monsters; people did the horrible things.

Mothers and grandmothers abused their own children (the girls’ faces fell) — and as a result, the children themselves did things which would, I supposed based on my own reaction to the book, make the girls uncomfortable.

“What things?” they asked.

“There’s some inappropriate sex,” I replied, not wanting to completely spoil the book for them.

There was a pause; no laughing now.

I told them that the book had made me feel creepy and I was ashamed I continued to read it — so much so, that I was too embarrassed to talk to my parents (their benevolent grandparents) about it. So if they wanted to read it, and they felt uncomfortable, they should feel free to quit reading it, talk to someone about how they felt, or both. (This is a general ‘rule’ we teach the kids; but I felt the need to be specific about it with this book.)

The girls looked at each other and then at me, sitting there with my eyebrows arched into question marks. The 13 year old passed on reading it (I suspect it was the ‘sex’ part; she’s quite the prude). The eldest took a look at the book, read the back of it, and said she’d look for more books by the author at the library the next time she was there.

On one hand, I fear I may have not only ruined a potential good read for them but removed their individual opportunity to struggle with their own morality… My intent was not to censor or turn them off of the book.

But on the other hand, I was honest about the book, the subject matter and issues which might arise, and left it to them to decide for themselves what they could handle and/or were interested in reading; and that, in my opinion, is what parents should do.

Even if I denied them the chance to bloom as readers with this specific book, there will be others — there are always others. I hope our continuing discussions about books, and my respect for them as readers, is simply more seed sowing.

FYI, The Complete V.C. Andrews has a contest to win a copy of the newly released Flowers in the Attic/Petals on the Wind bind-up (two books in one) edition to give away.

The Very Best From Hallmark: Greeting Cards Through The Years

the-very-best-from-hallmark-book-coverThe Very Best from Hallmark: Greeting Cards Through the Years, by Ellen Stern, is not a collector’s guide, really; there are no prices or discussion of the secondary market at all. However, savvy collectors and historians who view the world through pop culture vision glasses can learn much from this out of print book published in 1988, which is approaching collectibility itself.

Collectors who are lucky enough to find their cards represented here may ascertain their card’s publication date. Or identify potentially rare cards, such as those which were pulled as failures — like the time Hallmark inadvertently used an X-ray of human bowels rather than the intended heart X-ray for its “heart’s in the right place” card. (Pulled cards would mean fewer in circulation and even rarer finds for collectors — worthy of higher prices, certainly.) But mainly, collectors will gain more insight into greeting cards — in general, and, especially, the Hallmark variety.

(Clearly The Very Best from Hallmark is a corporate sanctioned publication, but I don’t think anyone can challenge Hallmark’s market share superiority or the company’s longevity — both of which speak to the book’s genuine insight into a culture that buys so many greeting cards.)

Ellen Stern’s introduction to the book gives a very brief history of the greeting card along with a rather erratic telling of the story of Joyce C. Hall, Hallmark’s founder. I realize Stern’s job of taking centuries of greeting card history and stuffing it — along with greater detail of the Hallmark company specifically — into a mere 12 pages (including space for images) is no small task; but something’s wrong when I have to re-read paragraphs over again to understand what she’s saying. However, when Stern gets into the aspects about the workings of Hallmark, from art department design to product marketing, she shines.

Here are a few gems:

On a trip to New York in the 1940s, accompanied by Hallmark’s head of corporate design and a couple of artists, [J.C. Hall] would visit Lord & Taylor, Bloomingdale’s, and Bonwit Teller — and there be ushered out because the group was taking too many notes on colors, styles, and windows displays. Everywhere he roamed he analyzed, assessed, and appreciated the wares and wonders…

I do this myself; but as I do my note-taking without entourage, I’ve never been escorted out.

In the 1940s and fifties, in department stores and card shops, Hallmark clerks adhered to a dress code — wearing only black, brown, navy, or charcoal gray — so as not to compete with the merchandise.

As a person who’s served a long retail sentence, I find that fascinating — and wonder why they changed the policy.

Dean Walley was a journalism major at the University of Missouri before joining Hallmark. Now one of the senior writers, he’s also the man who offers a marvelous course in American manners — and manners of speaking — to the artists and writers. Projecting slides of old cards from Hallmark’s archives on a small screen, he will rhapsodize on a colloquialism here, chuckle at an antiquated idea there, applaud an adjective, blast a dialect. He loves the high-falutin’ use of the word “grand,” the bravado of “staunch,” the evasiveness of “To a certain cheerful someone.” His sentimental olio embraces cards of every era, every province: a bluebird of the twenties chirping “Please Hurry Back,” a Dutch girl saying “To mine friend,” a tippler saying “Happy Birschday to You,” greetings to the dentist, a quack from Donald Duck. The point is that Hallmark writers must keep up with the language as it changes.

If you collect or read any vintage printed matter &/or antique publications, you know how true — and puzzling — this is; language is often as ephemeral as old paper itself. (Oh, how I’d love to dish with Dean Walley!)

And that’s all before we get to the over 750 images of vintage Hallmark cards.

Looking at the images, I reaffirm my love of vintage illustration. But it’s not all charming — or at least not all simply charming. There are things to note about our culture here.

vintage-hallmark-birthday-cardsSome of these things are noted by the author, like on page 45 where among the images of vintage greeting cards (birthday cards from the 1930s, shown at left) the author observes, “You couldn’t get a drink, but you could still say ‘Hell’ on a greeting card. By the fifties, it would be just the opposite.”

There have been many changes in deed; and our general history has been documented in this specific form of ephemera. In the forward, Stern has this to say:

The ups and downs of our economy, our hemlines, and our mood: such is the grist for the Hallmark mill. The days of our lives, as you will see on the following pages, are reflected in the cards of our days. Prohibition, fitness, the income tax, Vietnam, the G-man, the G.O.P., women’s suffrage, women’s lib, the radio, the jukebox, the computer, talkies, hula hoops, the Atom bomb, the gray flannel suit, the mini skirt, My Fair Lady, Huey Long, Mickey Mouse, the TV quiz show, the fireside chat, the Duchess of Windsor, Miss Piggy, Sputnik, the beatnik, Charlie Brown, Charles Lindbergh, canasta, Mussolini, rationing, cowboys, hippies, hillbillies, bobby soxers, flappers, the Dionne Quints, Valley Girls, the airplane, the blackout, the Crash. The seasons come, the seasons go, and Hallmark is up to the minute.

“Actually, says Bill Johnson [head of Hallmark’s public relations from 1966 to 1985], most cards reflect more everyday life than national events. And a national event does not in itself bring about a card. Most are ignored by the greeting card industry. It would be a folly to pretend that by looking at cards from 1920 to 1935, say, you’d get a full idea of what was going on in America.” But you get a pretty good one.

I think that’s true. Especially what Johnson says. But it’s here that we learn some things which are (rather miraculously) not noted by the author.

As you critical thinkers probably have noticed, there’s not a damn mention of civil rights. I didn’t not present them; they are not in the book (even though Beatniks garner two pages worth of attention).

vintage-hallmark-cards-with-kidsOK, I’ll admit a “civil rights” themed greeting card is probably not too likely to become a best seller, but where are the persons of color? In the over 750 images of “Hallmark’s best greeting cards, spanning seven crowded decades of American life,” I found exactly two cards of what I’ll call non-white people — that weren’t Mussolini or other rather racist depiction of foreign public political figures. I’m sure too that Hallmark made many more racist cards once upon a time — which they were too ashamed of to share in the book — but to not address the whole issue of race is odd… At least show more than two cards with black folks, right?

Whether or not Hallmark does or doesn’t make cards which are more reflective of our society is research I’ll leave for others; but we don’t see much represented here.

Then again, perhaps that’s a problem best explained by the context of the time at which this book was published.

This 1980s book makes clear choices to mention and display the G.O.P. several times (yet I found no clear representations of the Democratic Party) and the republicans of the 80’s certainly weren’t building their platform on civil rights; ultraconservative republicans disliked Affirmative Action and, in a backlash against it, President Ronald Reagan cut funding for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the civil rights division of the Justice Department. Of course, I could be connecting some dots based on those missing dots, creating an image that doesn’t really exist, but I don’t think so. I think the G.O.P. populist pride slant is part of the book’s construction.

But that doesn’t necessarily detract from the book either. At least not if you are a critical thinker. This book may have intended to document our American history through the social connection of greeting card commerce up to its then present day of 1988, but it also documents, through its selections and omissions, a view of that once present day of 1988 which is now a part of our history.

If this is the sort of stuff that fascinates you half as much as it does me, get a copy. (The book is not as common as you might think for a 1988 title; however, it’s not as rare as the Amazon listings might indicate, so check for it at eBay.) If you’re not sure yet, stick around; I’ll be discussing some more from this book during the next few weeks. (If I make the posts really long, I know you won’t read all of it!)