Saturday, October 29, 2011

What Makes Men Tick -- A Highly Dated and Insulting Guide to Understanding Your Man

Women, let's face it: You don't really understand your man, do you?  You think you do.  You think he likes the hamburgers you make.  You think he likes your cute little nickname for his penis ("Hello, Mr. Jones!").  You think he likes that purple thing you wear to bed. 

You are dead wrong!

As luck would have it, Aldus Books London put out this nifty hardcover guide in 1972 to help ladies around the world figure out their men.  Did it work?  Just look at the cover.  It had to work.

Author Portia Beers (her last name is a siren call to the frat boy in your man), tells ladies that men can bet "tough-minded and tender-hearted, foolish and wise, stubborn and impulsive, thoughtless and considerate -- they can be maddening and they can be marvelous."  Men, this looks good for us.  Apparently we can be everything. 

Anything you can do, I can do better ...
After this puzzling introduction there is a "picture essay" on "The Male Animal."  This is great.  A few of the examples of the male animal you will find: the caveman, a man beating a woman, Casanova, Mick Jagger, football players, homosexuals, and Steve McQueen.  Sprinkled throughout the book are more fascinating '70s-era photos of nude men holding naked babies, men in dapper suits with a line of subservient women, men in pink aprons holding cakes.  One thing you get from looking at all these manly photographs is how bad haircuts were in the '70s.  Seriously.  I grew up in the '70s.  It sucked.  The hairstyles should not have been preserved in a book that women from now until the end of time will be referring to in order to understand their sperm maker.

The advice the book shills out is, as to be expected, scientific and rational.  In a section about why men marry, Beers has this to say, "While a single woman over 40 may be given up as a hopeless case, a single man of the same age is still considered prime marriage material, not only by his family and married friends, but also by single women as young as half his age."  It's statements like this that make you wonder for which sex the book was written.  "[W]omen usually feel safe, more secure, with a man who has everything under control."  And ladies, if you want to get married, just wait.  Eventually, they have to come to you.  Why?  You're ugly.  "[T]he competition for attractive girls is fierce among single men, and keeping pace with every other unmarried Tom, Dick and Harry can make it difficult to keep up with an increasing work load, especially as a man gets older."  So once he tires of chasing attractive women, he can settle for you.  Oh, Ms. Beers (I'm assuming she was single then based on the advice in this book), thank you for giving those forty-one-year-old spinsters hope.

When your old and do get that tired man, Beers has some great advice as to what makes a wife.  "Ideally, an exciting sexual partner, an expert cook and housekeeper, a charming hostess, a patient mother, and above all, a loving and devoted companion."  Need I say more?  Yes.

If only she wouldn't ask for sexual bliss...
Women are also painted as if they are sitting on the bench at the Salem Witch Trials.  "Although wives often direct all kinds of accusations at their husbands about sexual orgies and whatnot at their conventions, these meetings are less marked by depravity then they are by the escapades and tomfoolery of grown men released for a while from the pressures of supporting a family, paying the mortgage, and meeting their wives' demands for everything from new appliances to sexual bliss."  So, ladies, continue to demand that new toaster and G Spot orgasm.  Yes, it will drive your man to tomfoolery and escapades, but at least he won't be involved in some depraved orgy.  Got it?  His tomfoolery (which you have mistaken for a bukkake party) is your fault.  Duh.

I could continue, but why bother.  It's obvious this book is less about what makes men tick and more about women feeling bad about themselves and excusing men for some truly assinine behavior.  I wonder how many women read this and thought, "Wow, this really makes sense.  This advice hits home.  I'm gonna please the holy Hell out of my man so he doesn't want tomfoolery and I can still get those appliances!"  I understand it was 1972, a time when everyone was trying to get in touch with everything (except, apparently, barbers).  Self-help books were the rage, the new opiate of the Me Generation.  They were bought by the boatload by people who had so little understanding of themselves that they turned to books that had even less understanding then they did.

A book on understanding men wouldn't be complete without a section on pedophilia.
So how did I get this book?  Well, that's a funny story, actually.  I got it at work.  There are a few of us who find wildly strange books and then give them to each other, usually in secret.  This ended up in my mailbox.  No note.  No knowing glance from a co-worker who would be waiting for my reaction.  What?  Did you think I bought it?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Stealing the Books of Blood

As a teen I read a lot of horror fiction.  A good part of my library
My copy of this book looks the same ... except
without the "By the author of ..."
was the works of Stephen King.  I read everything I could get my hands on, including interviews.  One name that kept popping up whenever King was asked about forthcoming writers worth reading was Clive Barker.  He was the future of horror.  I knew I had to keep an eye out for this Barker character.

It was almost the summer of 1986.  I was 15.  I had a job at a campground resort.  I sold fun.  We had a small campground store that had a paperback rack.  It was mostly Danielle Steel garbage and Mary Higgins Clark.  (I've tried reading one of Clark's books.  Garbage of the worst sort.)  Every once in a while you'd find a V.C. Andrews book, which drove all the intellectual teen girls wild.  But then, out of the blue, was one copy of the first volume in Clive Barker's Books of Blood.  Sweet mother of horror fiction.  There it was.  Taunting me.  A date stamp was at the top of the book.  May 26 1986.  The cheesy cover alluded to greater things inside.

I opened the book.  "The Midnight Meat Train."  "Pig Blood Blues."  These were story titles I could get behind.  "Sex, Death and Starshine" sounded like crap, but that didn't matter.  Here was the book I had wanted for far too long.  One problem.  It was $2.95.  A meager sum.  (Yes, paperbacks used to be under three bucks.)  I wasn't getting paid for a few days, however, and I was broke.  We had one copy.  Cue the dramatic music.

I figured I would be safe if I left it on the rack.  Books rarely sold, and when they did they were usually to those intellectual teen girls oh-so-sexy in their shorts as they lounged around the pool reading and inspiring teen erections.  (Really, what didn't inspire those?)  Or they sold to mothers who needed a break from the kids, and that break could be found in the steamy hetero world of Steel.

I couldn't risk it, though.  If some kid like me came in with his family, he would see it and snap it right up.  I could hide it behind another book ... one unlikely to sell quickly.  That had worked well for me in the past at my job and at various stores.  It wasn't foolproof, though.  All it took was someone pawning through the titles and nabbing it or seeing it was out of place and correcting that.  It could also be discovered by someone who, like me, was hip to the hiding trick.

That left me with one option.  Theft. 

I've done my share of shoplifting in my time.  These days I think the only thing really worth stealing is art.  I find it to be the ultimate compliment.  In my teen years, though, anything was fair game.  I did think about whether or not anything I took was worth the risk, however.  This Barker book caused me some great mental pains.

Stealing a book was almost unforgivable.  I would be denying someone else the right to read it.  I'd be doing the same thing if I bought it, but by stealing it I would be altering the social agreement that comes with capitalism.  If you have the means, you pay for it.  Otherwise you do without.  It wasn't food, and I wasn't starving.  It was a book, a book I could go to any local bookstore and find once I got my pay check.  I had wanted this for so long, though, that common sense and decency was taking a backseat to pure, unadulterated greed.  I wanted it.  I wanted it now.  And I didn't give a crap that I didn't have the cash.

"Steal me," the mask on the cover whispered in my mind.  "Take me home.  Caress me.  Smell my pages."

So I took it.  I read it.  I enjoyed it.  I have it to this day.  Admirable?  No.  Understandable?  Of course.  It was a moment of weakness mixed with fear.  It's the same feelings that put millions of people in debt with credit card companies. 

At least I bought the other volumes. 

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: Clicking on a link may earn me a commission.

The History of Headbanging

Let him who have understanding reckon the number of the Beast ... If you recognize that, you're a metalhead.  My teen years were filled with the stuff.  I still enjoy it (Iron Maiden never gets old).  That being said, I had to grab Sound of the Beast: The Complete Headbanging History of Heavy Metal when I saw it at Borders back when the place wasn't an empty shell reeking of bad coffee and despair.  Ian Christie, the author, gave his book a bold title, especially considering the "complete" history is done in less than 400 pages.  A true metalhead will know something is going to be missed.

To Christie's credit, the book tries to be thorough, and doesn't do a horrible job of it.  I discovered some things I didn't know, and I realized there was stuff missing.  (The book gives more than a passing nod to the Misfits, but no mention is made of Kryst the Conqueror.  I'm sure anyone can make this complaint about any band, however, as it would be impossible to cover everything.)  I doubt any metalhead could truly complain about that, though, unless he or she hated Metallica.  (The book covers a lot of Metallica.)

As an overview, Christie does a fine job of hitting all the major points in heavy metal history.  He doesn't shy away from the dark stuff, either, unlike Chuck Klosterman who revels in the safety of hard rock and heavy metal.  Christie gets that there is a portion of this music that is truly dangerous and subversive.  He understands it.  He writes about it.  When writing about Mayhem and the infamy around that band, he doesn't sensationalize it or rally against it.  He presents it in a matter-of-fact format that fits with the rest of his book.  It is just another section of heavy metal history.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.

Christie's book is, as a quote from Maxim on its back cover reads, "a must for all fans."  There is really no reason not to recommend it. Well, unless you only like pop music.  In that case, you may want to read something else.

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: I purchased this book with hard-earned U.S. cash.  If you click on a link this, you may end up putting some less-than-hard-earned U.S. cash in my coffers.  Filthy lucre.

Suck on This, Politicians!

 Paladin Press is a favorite of mine.  Yes, much of its output verges on paranoia, but among all the books on how to murder someone (and easily get away with it!) are some real gems.  Henceforth I present Politics & Dirty Tricks: A Guide to Screwing Up the System by V.R. Farb and published way back in 1995.  Its lessons remain pertinent today, and you can apply them to your every day life, such as revenge against a boss or a cop who has done you wrong.  Revenge isn't only fun; it's healthy!

The book, which I received to review back when it was first published and have held onto it ever since, is a mere 90 pages.  Those 90 pages plant some great seeds, though.  Not much of it was new to me, but the average reader is going to put it down and immediately figure out about eight things they can do to the person they want to act as karma on.  Political sabotage just ain't for Republicans anymore.

Tampering with schedules, causing IRS stings and turning press conferences upside down are all covered within this book's pages, as well as actual tales of what happened when these methods were used.  Some worked.  Some backfired.  There are lessons to be learned from both, however.  And while all of it is geared toward ruining a politican (something that seems incredibly easy to do), the astute student can easily see how to manipulate these ideas in order to turn them against one's own enemies.  After all, upon reading about how you can cause a political campaign to lose thousands of dollars through very little effort, it takes but a second to turn those same strategies against your average joe.

Granted, a lot of the things covered in this book are ... illegal.  Despite the illegality, it's extremely hard to get caught doing a lot of this stuff.  Simple fact, plain and true.  The bigger something is, the harder it is to trace the monkeywrench that derailed it.  And then there's the fact that the things in here that aren't illegal are still highly effective.

Election season is coming.  There are stealth candidates doing their usual run to take over school boards and city councils.  If you don't like them, you can do more than vote against them.  You can send them back to the rock they came out from under.  It's easy, fun, and usually fairly affordable.  Have fun with it.  Make it a family project.  Just don't forget, though, that what can be used against your enemy politician can also be used against the candidate you like.  If you're like me, however, you'll realize they're usually different piles of the same shit, so what is good for the goose is definitely good for the gander.  Happy subverting!

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: Yep, I got this book to review.  Clicking on a link may earn me a commission, and who knows?  Maybe you'll get on a list, too.

Lumley Tackles Lovecraft!

I, like about eight million other people, was introduced to writer Brian Lumley through his Necroscope book.  I have fond memories of that book.  I had just come out to California to make my home, and that is the book I read while waiting to fall asleep in a sleazy motel room.  I picked up the rest of the books as they came out.  I also kept an eye out for the author's other works.  Imagine my surprise a few years ago when I found The Burrowers Beneath, which is Lumley mucking around in the world H.P. Lovecraft, a favorite of mine, created.    

DAW Books published this in 1974, the year Carrie came out and the year Rubik's cube was invented.  West Germany was hosting the World Cup, and a young (presumably) man name Ward D. Griffiths bought, at a mere .95 cents, #91 in DAW Books SF series.  I assume Griffiths was the original purchaser of my copy of the book, as his name is scrawled on the inside in ink.  The signature is in trembling cursive, indicating that the signee was either old or had just graduated from block letters.  When he would've turned the page he would have found himself greeted with a slightly cartoon-like drawing of Cthulhu acting as a bookend.
I have no idea of what Griffiths thought of the book, or even if he finished it.  Lovecraft's original fiction is terrifying stuff, and the writers who dabble in his universe are often equally unnerving.  He may have made it to the chapter titled "Cement Surroundings" and stopped when he read, "What of the indescribable droning chant which I often heard issuing from Sir Amery's room in the dead of night?"  Lumley, like the man who influenced this book, knew that when writing in Lovecraft's world it is the unknown and unseen that is the most frightening.  Like many of the other writers who have fashioned similar works, Lumley seems to delight in hinting at the things behind closed doors (or in this case, under the earth).  It works, despite the bombastic tagline on the book's cover ("The Earth's original rulers are waking!").

It's been a few years since I've read the book.  As someone who enjoys Lovecraft and the writers inspired by him, I can say with certainity that Lumley's book will be kept on my shelf to pass down to my daughter once the Elder Gods come to eat my soul.  I don't know if she'll find the novel as gripping as I did, but there are enough of my personality traits in her that I somehow can't help but think that at some point in her life she is going to turn to Lovecraft and those stories inspired by his imagination and maybe shudder a bit more than usual on some rainy, windy night, much like I envision Griffiths, he of the trembling hand. 

I have quite a few Lovecraft books in my collection, and I have several others inspired by him.  The Burrowers Beneath is one of the ones that stays fairly true to the horror legend.  It feels just as timeless as Lovecraft's work, and a hundred years from now when people are still studying and discussing the master, Lumley's book will come up in conversation.  Unearthly things never seem to die, do they?

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: I purchased this book and was not given a review copy.  If you feel bold enough to click on a link, I may earn a commission.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Big Rape And My Depressing End

As I watch the sales for Nothing Men slowly creep up (very slowly), I can't help but think back to the first publisher who got the manuscript.  He turned it down because the end was "too depressing." Of course it is.  It's supposed to be.  It's not a Disney story.  What does that have to do with 1953's The Big Rape?  Well, I'm curious as to how much the times have changed when a horror novel with a depressing is rejected, yet a publisher in the early '50s thought it made perfect business sense to publish a book about a woman who trades her "passion for revenge" which just happened to be called The Big Rape.  That's the kind of thing that keeps me up at night.

I have never read James Wakefield Burke's book.  It could be about rapeseed farmers for all I know.  Somehow, judging by the booze swiggin' men in the background and the half-open shirt of the woman in the foreground, I doubt it.  Were the 1950s more tolerant than the modern era?  Were books like this one commonplace on the shelves and spinner racks?  Again, negative on both.  I do think, however, publishers took more chances.

To think that a horror story such as the one I wrote should have anything but a depressing ending says to me that the publisher had no knowledge of or appreciation for what I was going for with the manuscript.  His idea of horror was probably limited to slasher films (if that) and teen vampires.  What I wrote was more along lines of Jack Ketchum, and there is an audience for that.  Yes, what I wrote may be difficult to sit through at times, but it should be.  Knowing that, I kind of wonder how the story was handled in Burke's work.  Was it graphic and violent?  Or were the rape scenes (if any) kind of glossed over, as was standard for that time period?

In the end, I'm glad that publisher told me my conclusion was too depressing.  I had gone back and forth between two different endings (both radically different), and I went with the depressing one because it felt "right."  His criticism of it told me I was on the mark.  I may have lost out having it published, but now the book is out there, and I can still shop it around to traditional publishers while maintaining all the rights to it.  Win win?  Yes.  All things considered, though, I kind of doubt my book is more offensive or depressing than something called The Big Rape.  It almost has to be, right?

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: Clicking on a link may earn me a commission.