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text 2018-02-28 17:02
Reading progress update: I've read 59%.
Memo from the Story Department: Secrets of Structure and Character - David McKenna,Christopher Vogler

This is a re-read for me. 


Disclosure:  I purchased the Kindle edition of this book at full retail price.  I have met one of the authors, Christopher Vogler, once, in 1995 when he was a speaker at a conference I chaired in Los Angeles.  I do not know David McKenna.  I am an author of historical romances, contemporary gothic romances, and miscellaneous non-fiction.


I wasn't going to post a status on this reread, but then decided last night that it might be a good idea.


Memo from the Story Department is a follow-up to Vogler's The Writer's Journey. Although Memo reprises a lot of the information in TWJ, I strongly recommend reading TWJ first.


There is a great deal more information in Memo regarding story and mythic structure, but in fact there's so much more that it becomes almost confusing for someone who's not familiar with Vogler's take on the (somewhat) original Joseph Campbell theories.


The back-and-forth style of Memo - parts are written by McKenna and then Vogler adds commentary, other parts are vice versa - can also be a bit confusing. 


Reading this, however, has prompted me to wish I had both Joseph Campbell's The Hero with a Thousand Faces and Bruno Bettelheim's The Uses of Enchantment.  Maybe I need a trip to the library.



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text 2018-02-21 20:46
Modeling agencies
A Natural History of the Romance Novel - Pamela Regis

I could do this as a "currently reading" title with periodic updates, but too much is going on, so I'm just going to leave a few notes here and there.  You can follow, or not, as you choose.



Regis bases her analysis of the content of romance novels on the literary theories of mid-20th century critic Northrop Frye.  She seems, therefore, to be trying to fit the popular fiction form of the romance novel into the academic model of "literature," as though the two were almost entirely distinct.  Any prose narrative that has already been accepted as "literature" by the credentialed academic community -- such as Pride and Prejudice or Jane Eyre -- has been granted respect.  Regis seems to be attempting to squeeze romance novels into the same mold while at the same time insisting they are so different from literature that they cannot be considered literature, but if they can be seen to share some characteristics, then they might be worthy of some respect.


Yes, it's contorted logic.  But Regis never comes out and admits romance novels -- as they are written, published, read, and enjoyed today -- are essentially no different in content or form from "literature."  That would be academic sacrilege.  A kind of "separate, but sort of equal" compromise that would allow her to sell her book without losing her academic standing.


Jane Austen didn't write "literature."  Neither did Charles Dickens.  Neither did Wilkie Collins or Victor Hugo.  Maybe it's time to look at more than a few samples from "literature," samples which already have the stamp of "romance novel," and look at more than a few samples of real romance novels from the late 20th and early 21st centuries, and compare them to a more neutral standard, and perhaps a more universal standard.  Then see how both of them stand up.

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text 2018-02-21 00:24
Planning to read -- How do you feel?
A Natural History of the Romance Novel - Pamela Regis

When I wrote my undergraduate honors thesis about romance novels in 2000, this book was still three years in the future. Though I had an academic publisher interested in a book-length version of Half Heaven, Half Heartache, I never followed up on it and ultimately saw the Regis book as what mine would/might have been.  So my "book" sat on the shelf.


A few years ago, however, an odd set of circumstances brought my attention back to A Natural History, and so I bought a copy.  The opening pages took me aback.


Rather than "a natural history," the Regis book opened like just another post-modern analysis of a varied genre that the author didn't really know, understand, or care about.The University of Pennsylvania imprint, of course, hinted that the tone would be academic rather than popular, in rather stark contrast to UPenn's 1994 anthology of essays by actual romance novelists, Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women.


Romance novels don't write themselves; they are written by people -- usually women -- who have read other romance novels and other romantic novels and other novels written by other people.  The Happy Ever After (HEA) ending continues to be disparaged even as it's deemed absolutely essential to the genre, and even while readers and writers proclaim novels without HEA are still romances.


It's not enough to subject a few selected novels to a Procrustean post-modern literary analysis and declare that to be the natural history of an entire genre.


I'm not sure how many romance novels I've read.  More than a few hundred certainly.  I've written (through to the HEA) a dozen or so; the unfinished starts are uncountable.  There are great romance novels and there are horrible ones.  Some are well-written, some are not.  They are short, they are long.  They are contemporary, they are historical, they are futuristic.  They are sweet, they are sexy, they are erotic.


Romance novels, however, still don't get respect.  Pamela Regis's book was supposed to give the genre the respect it deserved.  As far as I can see, it fails rather miserably.


I didn't want that to be the case.  I wanted A Natural History of the Romance Novel to succeed.  I wanted to see my favorite books and authors given pride of place in a serious, detailed analysis of the good points and bad points.  That's not what this book is.


So, it all comes back to my little thesis.  I guess I have some major reading to do.





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text 2018-02-20 18:24
Back in the news
Shattered Dreams: The Story of Charlotte Fedders - Charlotte Fedders,Laura Malone Elliott



Charlotte Fedders is back in the news.




Last night -- Monday, 19 February 2018 -- Rachel Maddow featured a follow-up story on Rob Porter, the White House Staff Secretary who was forced to resign when it was revealed that he had abused his ex-wives.


Porter was not the first in the current administration to run afoul of his own shameful (?) past.  Andy Puzder had been nominated for Labor Secretary, but was forced to withdraw when similar allegations against him were made.  Puzder's ex-wife had claimed she was a guest (in disguise) on the Oprah Winfrey show years ago and detailed the abuse she had suffered. 


A search for the tape turned up pretty much nothing, until  . . .




A link to my review of Shattered Dreams from a couple weeks ago.




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review 2018-02-09 17:36
Nightmares revisited
Shattered Dreams - Charlotte Fedders

UPDATE 19 February 2018 at the end of the review



Link to my original online review here.  It's also included at the end if you want to keep reading and not get off on tangents and too many windows.


I'm also including some contemporary (late 1980s) accounts of what happened to Charlotte Fedders in the immediate aftermath of her divorce and the publication of Shattered Dreams.  The first may enrage you; just keep reading.  Take a blood pressure pill if you have to.






Charlotte Fedders (née O'Donnell) had everything a nice Catholic girl could dream of: a magnificent home, a wealthy husband, five sons.  She also had every woman's nightmare: a violently abusive husband.  Reading the book she wrote (with Laura Elliott, a Wall Street Journal reporter), I had limited sympathy for Charlotte's plight for two specific reasons.


The first was that she had the means to leave him.  She had an education and could work as a nurse, making at least a reasonable income to support herself and her children.  Many women in abusive relationships do not have the financial means to leave their abusers.


The second, and somewhat related, was that she admitted in the book that she liked the luxurious life John's income gave her.  The private Catholic school for the boys.  The country club.  The big house.  The status.


It's been 30 years now since she left him and filed for divorce and the whole tale of his violence was made public.  John was forced to resign from his high level government job and eventually went to jail for his abuse.  Charlotte was reduced to bankruptcy and working in a flower shop.  I still have difficulty getting past her admission that she stayed because the material benefits made at least some of the abuse bearable.


But that first reason came back to mind in recent days with the revelations about White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter and the abuse he (allegedly) inflicted upon his now-ex wives and perhaps other women.  As Lawrence O'Donnell has recounted with the news, there are so many women who have endured physical abuse and who have been told year after year after year after year that it is their fault, that they need to go back to their husbands and make the marriage work, that it's a sin to leave a marriage, and on and on and on.  Catholic, Mormon, it doesn't matter.


Rob Porter's wives did leave him, at least eventually.  One of his romantic partners reported his abuse.  But we still have people -- and I use the term rather loosely -- like John Kelly, the president's Chief of Staff, who support the abusers, who blame the women, who either lie about the facts in order to preserve their own position or who are so deluded by out-of-date religiosity (Kelly's claims that he was raised to believe women are "sacred") that they perpetuate the abuse and deny any protection to the victims.


Charlotte Fedders was one of those women raised in the church to believe in women's innate inferiority.  To believe marriage to a man was a woman's sacred duty, her vows unbreakable regardless what he did to her.  We ignore the power of upbringing, of religious and/or social indoctrination far too often, and we allow our own indoctrination to perpetuate the system.


It was that kind of indoctrination that brought Charlotte Fedders to the point of placing material comforts over her own or her children's safety.  Her devout Catholic upbringing led her to put such a value on a Catholic private school education for her children that she could not walk away from abuse because it would mean giving up that benefit.


We look at the unshakable beliefs of the christian fundamentalists who know nothing else and we wonder how they can deny the contra-indicating evidence in front of them.  It's easy to forget that many of us have similar beliefs that, though they do not shape all of our thinking and all of our actions, still have an incredibly strong influence on certain aspects of our lives.  If nothing happens to shake them, we go on believing.


Charlotte O'Donnell grew up in a staunch Irish Catholic family.  That's all she knew.  Catholic teaching and Catholic beliefs infused virtually every aspect of her life.  And thus those beliefs formed a strong part of the overall structure that put that overwhelming value on a Catholic education for her boys, so overwhelming that she used it to rationalize staying in that viciously abusive marriage to John Fedders.


If John Kelly had one tenth the shame that John Fedders had, he would resign immediately.  (We won't even talk about Kelly's boss.)  But John Kelly, who is no doubt as Irish Catholic as Charlotte Fedders's family -- or Lawrence O'Donnell's -- has no shame, no morals, no integrity.


A TV movie was made of Shattered Dreams in 1990 or so, starring Lindsay Wagner.  I don't recall if I ever saw it or not.  Charlotte's comments, after she had started to put her life back together -- she returned to nursing -- are enlightening.




This week, Charlotte Fedders is scheduled to testify on the Hill, explaining the effect such violence has on children.


"My theory is that if by some wild chance they never hear it, which is impossible, or never see it, which is a little easier, but still pretty much impossible, or never have it directed towards them -- most of the time if he's abusive toward the wife, he'll be abusive toward the children, which was my case -- even if they never see any of this, my theory is the woman is not in condition to parent as well as she should. So that is a subtle form of child abuse. And it affects them at school, it affects them in maturity."


Now she concentrates on helping her sons become "better men and good friends. I want them to grow up to be good men to my daughters-in-law. I'm already protecting daughters-in-law that I do not have. I have said to Luke many times,

'You are not going to treat your wife, my daughter-in-law, and my grandchildren like your father treated us.'


"I don't feel I'm a rampant feminist. I'm a human rights person. I believe that we really are all equal."



Link to original review:




UPDATE 19 February 2018


Charlotte Fedders, now 74, was back in the news today.




She was also the subject of the opening segment of The Rachel Maddow Show tonight.



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