Thursday, July 31, 2008

Books and thoughts on books

I got another box of books to review from AuthorLink and I tore right into them, having just finished a box of nine books in three weeks. I need something to read and I just finished Reflections in a Golden Eye by Carson McCullers. I've seen the movie with Elizabeth Taylor, Brian Keith, Julie Harris and Marlon Brando but I wanted to read the book. I always want to read the book. The movie definitely missed some of the subtleties of McCullers' writing and tone and I am glad I read it. It's more of a novella than a novel but it was good all the same.

I have read Ballad of the Sad Cafe, which was adapted for the stage by Edward Albee and was mentioned in Picnic by William Inge and starred Kim Novak and William Holden (Susan Strasberg was reading the book and Rosalind Russell ratted her out to her mother for reading a dirty book). There are other stories and novellas (she didn't write any novels) by McCullers and I think I'm going to have to read them all -- maybe a few times.

Digging into the box, I found several books that look interesting, but I just had to read some of Friends on a Rotten Day: The Astrology of Friendships. Hazel Dixon-Cooper is Cosmo's bedside astrologer and is amazing in her insight. From what I've already read, the book is a must-have for writers to help understand and build characters for their stories and novels. My favorite feature of each astrological sign is the Bitch Factor. I just had to read a few and they accurately described several people I have known over the years and explained why they are they way they are. I haven't read the whole book, but so far it's funny and insightful.

For example: Tactless Terry . . . barrels through life pretending that her rude and insensitive observations are only her "honest" opinions. In her, that thoughtless but innocent trait turns malicious. Terry Knows that blurting out a painful or embarrassing fact at the worst moment will hurt you. She does it on purpose. Terry takes Gemini's love of dishing rumors about people and expands it into a full frontal assault of brutalizing truth, in the presence of her victim. Her comments are dispensed in two ways. She's only joking (it's all in good fun and no one will care so you shouldn't either), or she's reluctant (this is for your own good). In the latter, she tries to get you to confess something, because it not only humiliates you, it might inspire someone else within hearing distance to confess a dark secret, too. This is her most dangerous ploy, as it only serves to give her ammunition to use against your other friends.

And then there's: Broken Record Barb [is] caught in the myth that her life is the only one that's interesting. You can't shut her up. Save yourself and don't answer the phone [or the door]. She really won't notice because, being the egotistical bimb[a] that she is, yours was just the next number on her speed-dial list.

And last (for now) but not least, here's the Tyrant. If micromanaging were an Olympic sport, the Tyrant would win the gold medal hands down. The most possessive Taurus or controlling Scorpio looks a rank amateur up against this one. At work, she's the one who's always standing over everyone's shoulder, making sure that anything she's delegated is done precisely, exactly as she directs. Don't do it and there will be hell to pay. At home, she controls everything from the family diet to who the family can choose as friends to what everyone watches on TV.

Ms. T. usually surrounds herself with a collection of weak-kneed losers who all depend upon her to dictate their miserable lives, which she is only too happy to do. She loves her role and makes sure that everyone knows how everything would fall apart if it weren't for her pulling the strings. She's easy to spot because every conversation the woman has begins with either, "You will do as I say," or "Don't make me have to tell you twice." Don't make
me have to tell you twice to avoid this controlling bimb[a] like the plague she is.

It goes for Barbs, Terrys and Tyrants who keep journals and blogs, too.

I read several of the signs and I really like the easy conversational tone. Dixon-Cooper uses her friends to illustrate all the signs, making the book fun and more real. There is no meanness or bitch factor in her anecdotes and she avoids the narcissistic "it's all about me" and "feel sorry for me" moments that characterize some astrological reference books. The way the book is arranged covers the important points and makes everything easy to find. There is no repetition and I never felt as though she ran out of material. Dixon-Cooper also has sections with Venus and the moon in the signs, as well as a section on the guys. The first thing I thought of was checking out people I know and have known and the second thought was that it was a great way to build and understand fictional characters, a place to start to put flesh on their bones and real emotions in their actions and reactions.

As I was reading the usual suspects on my LJ F-list, I came across one entry that made me proud of the writer and also brought up thoughts of people like the one mentioned. These people refuse to let a relationship die a natural death, lurking in the shadows and never commenting or commenting in offhand ways to other people or on their own or other blogs so that the information gets back to the person they've described. Sometimes the mention is just subtle enough, with just enough facts, that only those in the know understand what is being said so they can promptly run off and tell the subject of the subtle mention and cause trouble. Aah, the drama kings and queens. These situations are not to be confused with other bloggers who talk about general situations or situations that are common to many people but that some frenemy has decided is all about them. It's not the same thing at all.

The first type of person is malicious and cowardly and the second person has a guilty conscience and sees themselves "feelingly portrayed" everywhere they look, especially by people they spend a good part of their time taunting and maligning in not so subtle ways. Yes, kiddies, it is a jungle out there and the animals are always on the loose, so stay alert to the dangers.

That is all. Disperse.

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