I do not think that there can ever be enough books about anything and I say that knowing that some of them are going to be about Pilates.The more knowledge the better seems like a solid rule of thumb, even though I have watched enough science fiction films to accept that humanity’s unchecked pursuit of learning will end with robots taking over the world.-Sarah Vowell

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Bless Your Heart, Tramp by Celia Rivenbark

In this first book of essays collected from Rivenbark's columns, she focuses on 50's Home Economics Advice, Marriage Tips, Lazy Men, Disney movies, Southern speak, snow, exploding grits, women who make crocheted bear can vests and hats, card shopping, and Congestion in the Cold Aisle.

There is a 50s home economics textbook out there includes a section on "Recommendations for a Successful Marriage".  "Textbook: Prepare yourself.  Take 15 minutes to rest so you'll look refreshed when hubby comes home...Mama Celia: Get knee-walking drunk.  You've earned it.  You've been with four kids under the age of 7 all day....Textbook: Have a delicious meal ready...MC: Order a big, expensive dinner-to-go from a nice restaurant and call hubby at work to tell him to pick it up...Textbook: Just before your husband arrives, clear away clutter and run a dust cloth over tables...MC: Drop-kick the Little Tikes crap into the yard and hide the smaller stuff under the couch...Textbook: Make the evening his. Never complain if he doesn't take you out to dinner or to other places of entertainment...  MC: Complain constantly and bitterly if he balks at taking you out at least once a week.  Withhold sex until he complies.   Textbook: Make him comfortable.  Arrange his pillow...MC: Place a pillow over his head and hold it there until he promises to do at least one household chore a month."

Some marriage rules: 1. "Never marry someone until you've established the perfect pizza ratio....Never marry a man who wants two slices one week and four the next....2. Never ask him for his opinion on colors, patterns, or textures...3.Accept that men are notorious for never completing a task.  If you ask him to clean the refrigerator, which is working beautifully, by the way, except that he will have the coolant coil replaced by the end of the day and all your meat will have spoiled....4. Women, shut up....Quit talking everything to death....5.Never go to bed angry.  Draw straws for the couch and resume fighting in the morning."

Disney movies can be more dangerous then they seem.  "I always thought that as long as it was Disney, how bad could it be?  Then, I started watching more closely.  Take "The Little Mermaid".  Sure, Ariel is pretty and smart and has a great set of pipes but what does she do?  at 16, she deliberately disobeys her doting father and tosses him and her adoring sisters aside like week-old flounder to chase after an older man whom she decides to marry just THREE DAYS after they meet.  Within mere hours of meeting Prince Eric, they're shackin' and her poor family back there "under the seaaaaaa is sick with worry."

In the South, a "Southerner can get away with the most awful insult as long as it is prefaced with the words "Bless her heart" or "Bless his heart".  As in "Bless his heart, if they put his brains on the head of a pin, it'd roll around like a BB on a six-lane highway."  Sadly, some Southerners are slowly stopping using southernisms like ya'll or addressing their elders properly.  "The properly reared Southern child responds to such a question with a 'Yes, ma'am, Miss Lura Mae, I surely would love some more of your delicious lemonade if it's not too much trouble.'  Of course, that is a bit long-winded, but we Southerners believe that a simple "yes" or "no" has a certain harshness in it that could be construed as, horror of horrors, rude."

Northerners make fun of Southerners and their fear of snow.  At the threat of a snowflake, schools close and the grocery store runs out of bread and milk.  "They love to say stuff like,'Geez, back home it'd snow 15, 18 inches and nothing shuts down.'  Well, that's because ya'll got the road equipment to handle regular snowstorms.  All we got is Bubba and Junior's four-wheel drive pick-em-up-trucks to help us out of the driveway and on our way  And the truth is they're probably not budging either because there's a good chance they've gotten likkered up and have gone off to fry a turkey in somebody's backyard."

Grits can be quite dangerous.  "A large pot of grits exploded and sent two people to the hospital...The grits were being prepared for a client appreciation party hosted by a Gainesville accounting firm when a large piece of the exploding pot hit one of the guests just as he was waiting for his heaping helping of fish and grits."  Kids today are prepared for tornadoes, hurricanes, and fires, but no one is training them in the preparedness of exploding grits.

Try buying a birthday card today in under five hours.  You can't do it.  The problem is that there is a card for every conceivable occasion or condition.  Such as: "We've Just Broken Up, Secret Pal...Now That You Know I'm Gay...I'm Glad You're My Doctor...So You've Had a Hysterectomy...Thanks for Covering for Me. (Who do you send this one to?  Your buddy who lied to your wife and said you were playing pool at his house instead of hanging out at Hooters quaffing pitchers and wearing Hooter Girls' orange shorts on your head?)..."Our marriage may not be exactly like everyone else's but that's OK.' What does that mean?  Is one of you inflatable?"

And finally, she looks at the cold aisle.  Do you need Extra Strength or Maximum Strength?  "...nighttime and daytime, caplets, coated caplets, enteric (who knows?) buffered, aspirin-free, with sleeping aid, without sleeping aid, effervescent, liqui-cap, caffeine-free, with cream and sugar, thin crust or hand-tossed...Did I want Co-Tylenol, Co-Advil or Co-Dependent Tylenol and Advil for the dysfunctional cold sufferer?....How often did I want to take this stuff? Every four hours, six, 12, 24?  I was leaning heavily toward Contac which boasted Severe Cold and Flu Maximum Strength Continuous Action for Adults.  Most adults would love continuous action."

Monday, October 27, 2014

Storyville by Louis Battle

I have been meaning to read this book for the past twenty years.  It was well worth the wait.  Set in 1898 New Orleans, the local government has just made prostitution legal as long as it stays in the "District".  This is the story of two women, one, Julia Ransome, a transplanted progressive Suffragette Yankee who married Charles, whom she has just found out, after twenty years of marriage, owns a few whore houses.  Julia sees this as a breach of trust and demands that he sell them off.  Charles has never given them much thought (as his tenants can attest) to these properties and never thought to tell Julia or that they should be gotten rid of.  Julia and Charles have a very loving relationship and a son, Laurence, who is at college at MIT, and a young daughter, Angelique, who only listens to her eccentric and cruel grandmother, Carlotta.

The other is a young girl, fifteen-years-old, Kate who is lured down to New Orleans with the promise of a better life and stays at the Versailles Hotel at the edge of the District with a man who promises to marry her, but leaves her as soon as he gets what he wants from her.  He does leave her some money to pay the hotel bill.  The desk clerk, known as Billy Shakespeare, is a former actor who feels sorry for Kate and tells her about a job at a dressmakers making hats.  After a short while doing this, the owner sends her to a brothel to deliver a hat and essentially sells her to its owner.  However, Kate is pregnant.  They give her things to get rid of the baby, but she doesn't take them.  One of the other whores in the house, jealous of Kate, sneaks her out to go to Mollie Q's house to work.  While not a virgin, Kate is as green as they come.  Mollie treats her well and fair.

The District is filled with a cast of characters including Mollie, who drinks too much and is very religious and plans on retiring to a cottage in Ireland and donating money to the nuns in order to save her soul.  There's also Billy Shakespeare, who hangs out at Mollie's and provides council on everything from money matters to fashion and etiquette.  Lady Caroline is a drag queen who caters to a "specific" clientele.  There's also Monkey, a black kid who runs errands for people and plays music like no one else.  In this book, you can hear the music and taste the beignets and smell the honeysuckle.

One night, when Laurence comes home from school to enlist in the Rough Riders to fight in Cuba in the Spanish American War, his friends, intent on getting him to lose his virginity, something he was saving for marriage (he has his father's good looks, but his mother's ideals and temperament), take him to Mollie's where he meets Kate and instantly falls in love.  What will the family and society say when they find out he plans on marrying her?

Julia finds herself on the outs with her husband, whom she knows visited a brothel (which he did, but only to talk to a male friend and nothing else).  When Julia finds out about Kate, she takes her in to live in the house, even though it could ruin her reputation.  The two go to stay in Boston with Julia's family for a while so Kate can have the baby and to treat Julia's parent's illnesses.

These two remarkable women take on the world in their own ways and survive the hardships and tragedies that come to them both.  They are women ahead of their time blazing  a trail for others to follow and show that women are capable of anything they put their mind to and nothing can stop them.  You can't help but admire both women, even as they make tough choices, you as a reader, may not like.  This was an incredible read and a fascinating look into the history of New Orleans during a wild and progressive time when the new century shows how much things can and will change.


If only his parents would make love, he thought (for making love now seemed the solution to most of the world’s ills), they wouldn’t be able to stay angry with each other.
--Lois Battle (Storyville p 224)

You know, I think people in tropical climates are intellectually sluggish because the blood doesn’t circulate to their brains.
--Lois Battle (Storyville p 244).

Suicide was a plan even the most helpless could carry out.  Two bottles of sleeping syrup and a bottle of whiskey.  Rocked to sleep in the bosom of the deep.  It was a comforting thought, better than a pile of money because  no one could take it away from you.
--Lois Battle (Storyville p 378)

Link to Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Storyville-Lois-Battle/dp/0140267697/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1473860448&sr=1-3&keywords=storyville