Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Women and Tattoos

I keep wondering why women do it. I know why men do it: most of us are idiots. But women are a different deal. Tattoos by their very nature are disfiguring. They reduce a woman's desirability. They reduce a woman's attractiveness. They turn men away.

I used to think that women got tattooed from narcissism: Look at me! See my message! I am the center of the universe! But I have come to another tentative conclusion. Women tattoo themselves to reduce their attractiveness. A tattooed woman sends a message to any available man: leave me alone. Go find someone else. If you think I'm desirable, forget it.

Men have deep, largely biological urges to pursue attractive women. Tattoos affront those deep impulses. 

In other words, I think female tattoos are an intentional barrier, intended to give tattooed ladies an independent life, free of males. It's sort of sad. But maybe there's some good in it. Tattoos on women are warning flags. Don't mess with gals who mess with themselves. There is nothing sadder than a woman who has wrecked the gracious beauty she has been given as a gift. That includes not only tattoo freaks, but also Botox babes and facelift foxes. A thoughtful male looking for a companion knows enough to steer clear of those sorts.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Finishing Up

I decided recently to finish some business while I still could. I never completed my bachelor of arts degree back in the fifties. In my junior year I managed to flunk out, get a great job on the opinion page of a large newspaper, get married, and begin my adult life. All of that eventually fell apart, but that is another story.

I've been thinking for years, in fact for decades, about finishing up. I was a history major at the University of Wisconsin. I've wanted to complete what was well along. But writing for a living is a full-time profession. I supported myself entirely with fiction and also managed a career. Being a novelist required not only hard work daily at the keyboard, but also selling my product, drafting proposals, dealing with agents and editors and publicists, reading the work of colleagues, going on book tours, attending workshops and conventions, and so on. So I never returned to school.

But in the wake of illness last year, and the onset of old age, the old need returned to me. I have time now to get that long-delayed degree. But I've learned that my 1950s credits are no longer valid or transferable. I can't simply pick up where I left off. I would need to start from scratch. None of my eighty or so novels can be transformed into academic credit, either. I have taught writing workshops at a senior level but that doesn't count.

So, I am debating what to do. Chances are, I will audit some history courses just for the fun of it, and forget about finishing the unfinished business that has been haunting me. Whether I do it online, or in class will depend on how well I am at age 80, and how damaged I was by the grand mal seizure that beset me last summer, the product of a nonmalignant brain tumor. My memory is shaky. We will see. I have several academic friends working on all this, and I am looking forward to their counsel.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Not So Swift

One thing fascinates me about Taylor Swift. She keeps changing her appearance, always dissatisfied with what she is, and itching to try something new. So she botoxes this and glossy lipsticks that, and she's got a new self to try out. It comes from not knowing who she is, and she plainly is unhappy with that person who resides deep within--if any person at all resides there.

She may be at her peak, but I am seeing signs of decline, and by thirty she will have gone through her fifteen minutes of fame twice over. Her singing never appealed to me. She sounds like a screech owl, and her choice of style contradicts the innate sweetness of her features.

I am old, and have seen thousands of alleged celebrities come and go, enjoy their fifteen minutes in the limelight, and disappear, only to scratch out a living performing at Florida nostalgia clubs for old people.

I don't know why these singers and actresses are so unhappy with whatever gifts were given to them in the way of beauty and talent. I remember Meg Ryan, whose fresh-faced beauty and sweetness were the envy of angels. She was unhappy with herself, got ruinous plastic surgery that turned her into a chipmunk, and that was the end of her film career.

In the case of Miss Swift, she keeps wanting to be different, and tries out endless variations, but the end is in sight. Botox and lip gloss and frizzled hair will be her ruin. There are some women who are naturally different all the while but remain themselves. Gene Tierney was never the same in any two photographs, but that was a trick of her features, not the result of endless dissatisfaction with herself.

I wish Miss Swift would scrub away all the cosmetic experiments, return to the beauty of her own features without layers of gloss, wipe the damned gaudy lipstick from her lips, and sing music that resonates with her natural beauty. But I suspect it's too late for that.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015


Here is a photo of my town, taken yesterday, April 21, by my nephew.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Thinking of Jim Crumley

This was Jim Crumley, who came regularly to Livingston, along with his lovely Martha Elizabeth, to occupy a corner barstool at the Bar and Grille. I was among the fortunate to share some hours with them.


Saturday, April 18, 2015

Which Will Be the Classic?

I have been thinking about two novelists, one the epitome of the literary writer, and celebrated for his genius; the other the epitome of those who write popular fiction.

One is Jonathan Franzen, gifted and celebrated as one of the finest novelists of our times, honored in all the venues where literary fiction is discussed and esteemed. The other is the late Colleen McCullough, who died in January. She wrote The Thorn Birds, one of the most successful novels in literary history, with over ten million copies sold worldwide. Every page of it is popular fiction. Her 1980s novel, a multigenerational story about an Australian family, still sells well. I am sure that Mr. Franzen's novels still sell briskly, if not on the level of Ms McCullough's.

Which one of these authors is likely to enter the pantheon of great novelists? Whose work is most likely to survive, prosper, and finally win a berth as a classic in the English language? Shrewd people have told me that The Thorn Birds is likely to became one of the all-time great novels of our times. I know that Mr. Franzen has written some memorable fiction, but the chances of its surviving beyond his life are minimal. The Thorn Birds will be entertaining people for generations to come.

One of the curiosities of our times is the role of academics in deciding what fiction is worthwhile and artistic and meaningful, and what isn't. By and large, books acquire a certain cachet if the writing is deemed elegant and meaningful. Once they, and their authors, are deemed to be literary by certain critics, they are considered to belong to an elite stratum, above and beyond authors of popular fiction, and their works.

The problem is that this view is nonsense. The Thorn Birds is well on its way to greatness.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Homicidal Saint

I'm pleased to report that later today my mystery, The Homicidal Saint, will appear as a Kindle e-book, with Axel Brand listed as the author. It is the first book I have completed in some while, and I am glad, at age eighty, to be writing again. I've lowered the price of all my Axel Brand mysteries to one buck for the electronic editions, and hope to build some readership that way. There will be Nook and Smashword electronic editions and a print version forthcoming. You can find out more about these stories by going to my Axel Brand website, or Goodreads.