Thursday, February 27, 2014

The kind of review you. . . somehow. . . just don't wanna get

I don't know how I end up on these things, but here it is - first of all, an review of one of Elizabeth Wurtzel's self-serving, self-involved pieces of tripe, then another, then another. . . and me wondering how a review could possibly be any worse, when I happen to know the author earns enough to put herself through law school in an extremely happy and floaty state.

It's a racket, this writing business. I think I'll go home now.

19 of 27 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The WORST Book I've Ever Read...Seriously., February 13, 2005
This review is from: The Secret of Life: Commonsense Advice for the Uncommon Woman (Paperback)
While I pretty much liked Prozac Nation, Bitch, and More, Now & Again, this book was completely horrible. Everything about it is cliched. The writing is bad and trite and the advice is really just irritating. The advice is far from radical as well. If I flushed my money down the toilet it would have been better spent. If you are an uncommon woman and you want some commonsense advice, I would say don't spend your money on this trash. I think the only reason I read the whole book was because I couldn't believe how horrible it was. I'm personally offended that so many books don't get published, but this one did. What a waste.

1.0 out of 5 stars simply awful, Dec 21 2001
By A Customer
Self-serving platitude heaped on self-serving platitude then served up as "sass," from a spoiled, self-involved non-entity. Watch and enjoy as she, along with every other nineties excess, swirls into a well-deserved oblivion. Simply an awful --I hesitate to say "writer" --simply an awful phenomenon. Whoever mistook her for a role model deserves what they got. Another non-book from a talentless brat.
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3 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars So is this "Radical Sanity" repackaged?, August 11, 2007
N. Charest (Rancho Cucamonga, CA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Secret of Life: Commonsense Advice for the Uncommon Woman (Paperback)
If so, then URP and shame on everyone for dragging out EW's least imaginative and most poorly written and confusing book and trying to pass it off as a new title. I know law school is expensive, but do what everyone else does and take out student loans. Wurtzel, you've snorted law school tuition 3 or four times over. Get a real job.
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Monday, February 24, 2014

Sister Wives Season Finale: or, how to kill a useless day

Forgive me, please - oh God, forgive me, for I have a nasty filthy habit and I enjoy the hell out of it. I'm powerless over it and it is just such hell, I'm about to join SWA (Sister Wives Anonymous).

I'm powerless over the Fundamentalist Mormon Brown family, who reside not in polygamist-friendly Utah but in Las Vegas. (Long story.) I'm shamefaced over the whole dang crew of them: Merry, Sheri, Dairy and Marvelle-Ann (or something). 

Sister Husband Kody Brown, who has no visible means of support except a fat salary from TLC, is the four-way hub of this mad domestic mess, dashing not from bedroom to bedroom but from house to house - meaning, the four brand-new custom-built homes the Browns purchased in their very own cul-de-sac after running away from Utah for some imaginary crime.

No one has any money in this family, but, sensing the impending meltdown of the entire system, they decide to plan an elaborate Commitment Ceremony (or four-way remarriage bash) costing, probably, at least $10,000.00.

Some 200 people are coming to this affair, if I may use that expression, so the Browns must know an awful lot of other polygs, some obviously from out of state. But this whole Walmart-catered affair, this stacking-green-plastic-chairs-and-rolls-of-white-paper-on-top-of-folding-tables-borrowed-from-the-local-high-school-gym deal, seemed salted with extras, people who would sit there, eat,and look interested while the Browns nervously read out an interminable Mission Statement which ran on much longer than the Ten Commandments. (I mean the movie version.)

But let's back up a little. All we really cared about, after all, was the four wives' dresses. And it's true, I really did have an interest in watching the process of these gowns being individually designed and created for them.


For some reason, they picked about the worst person they could find, a young woman freshly graduated from"design school" who had obviously never made a dress in her life. Then they gave her three weeks to design and make four original, formal-quality gowns in three radically different sizes and styles. There were interminable shots of this young woman pinning, and pinning, and pinning the lopsided, saggy, inside-out, fraying, mismatched pieces of fabric on the wives. None of it looked good, and the general atmosphere was one of sweating alarm as the completely-inexperienced designer tugged and swore. Bringing her mother in at the last minute to keep the ship from sinking altogether did not help.

The whole dress story sort of collapsed, and I was actually shocked that it turned out so badly. Two of the four dresses had to be scrapped entirely ("This isn't working. Do you have something in your closet?"). The other two were unfortunate, like bad costumes from a high school musical, but were launched anyway so the enterprise wouldn't be a total flop.

Robyn, the skinniest and most Kody-worthy of the four (see photo above: now why didn't she wear THAT little red number to the ceremony, seeing as how it made Kody's eyes pop out?) picked a nice little funeral dress out of her closet, and Meri, who doesn't have the sense of a goat, went out on a mad spree and found something for $59.00 that LOOKED like it cost $ 59.00, so tight on her that her substantial abdomen and even her belly button pushed through the sheer fabric.

Well, at least the apple green color was good.

Christine, sometimes known as The One I Like, showed up in a sort of burnt-orange medieval maternity bathrobe, with huge pleated billows of fabric blowing back behind her. The tacky gold ribbons here and there did not contribute to the look. My only question is: where do you buy orange crimplene nowadays? Must be vintage, from Craigslist or some-such. Janelle, who currently seems to have the most fans on the show (it varies from season to season, if not week to week) would have looked nice if the amateur seamstress had  known how to sew. There were four or five bustlines at the front of this thing, meandering switchbacks of poorly-sewn, puckered seams that finally bunched up somewhere above her bust, making her look older and actually disguising her recent, impressive weight loss.

(l. to r.: Christine's unfortunate burnt-orange Camelot castoff; Meri's one-size-doesn't-fit-all, sale-rack special; Janelle's almost-but-not-quite royal blue dress, complete with three breasts and innumerable puckered seams;  Robyn's little black Mormon interment ceremony number. Perhaps because they see their husband only once every four nights, these gals know how to make do.)

The Browns really try - they try and try - but they just never get it right. I don't know what it is. Idiocy? Or is it the pressure of living in a fishbowl, of having cameras zoom in on life's every little crisis? No one even thinks of this. To most people, "having my own reality TV show" is the pinnacle of success and happiness. Everything will be wonderful from now on.

But we are beginning to see what happens when the seeds of narcissism, which I believe are present in every one of us, are watered weekly by reality TV's relentless drool. Les Fleurs de Mal begin to sprout, and eventually they take over.

But soft! What's this I see on the horizon? For reasons that no one is willing to explain, TLC is launchng an ALL NEW polygamy show called My Five Wives, trumping Kody's harem by a whole wife.

There have been whispers on Sister Wives lately about Kody "branching out", something he naturally feels entitled to, with or without his wives' approval. The rumor was seeded and watered when a "fortune teller" came on the show (like a Fundamendalist Mormon would go for that!) and predicted Kody would take a new wife, while everyone acted stunned. Now we see why. The pressure is on: competitive wife-collecting! We can't have FIVE wives on one show, and only FOUR wives on the other, can we? 

(These gals are so committed that they actually rehearse between events: note that one of them is away, presumably getting it on with Kody "Big Polyg" Brown.)

Is TLC phasing out the Browns at last? Am I right in suspecting this new show will be edgier and sexier, with younger, svelter wives and a husband who is not a complete boob?

More will be revealed.

Kody practices his second-favorite sport.

Dear sir or madam, will you read my book
It took me years to write, will you take a look

  Visit Margaret's Amazon Author Page!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Everybody read this

This gets into "issues" that I can barely approach, though I know I will have to eventually. That is, if the power doesn't go out. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014


The Glass Character: Here comes Harold Lloyd!

At last: my love has come along!  Harold Lloyd, who has obsessed my brain and ruled my heart for SIX years, is ready to show his face on the cover of my forthcoming novel, The Glass Character.

I've been looking at him for so many years, it seems strange that now he's looking back at me in one of his most famous (alarmed porcupine) poses. And though The Glass Character (Thistledown Press) won't be available for a few weeks yet, the cover has been finalized, and my excitement knows no bounds.

It's hard to know where to begin. Why Harold Lloyd? some people have asked me, and I have never completely figured it out. It's not as if I suddenly thought "this subject would make a good next novel", because I wasn't thinking in those terms. After two well-received but not-spectacularly-selling novels, my mind was turning to blogging and other more practical things.

Then Hurricane Harold moved in, a storm-front who knocked over whatever order there was in my life. Broke the whole thing wide open, sometimes quite painfully.

Harold Lloyd - and I've given this blog over to him, pretty much - was a legend in silent film, known variously as "the guy with the glasses" and "the man on the clock".

Like so.

I must have seen one of his movies on Turner Classics - in fact, without Turner Classics this novel never would have existed. I think I tuned in partway through The Freshman, the scene where his suit falls apart. I started laughing and didn't stop.

The thing about Harold Lloyd's comedy is -  it's funny. It makes you laugh. It isn't cerebral, it isn't sociological, it isn't "of its time" - it's of this bloody time, and  funny enough to knock you right out of your chair.

Harold Lloyd rocks.

So how did that initial fascination leap across the gap to an actual story, sustainable for 307 pages? Hard to say. Suffice it to say I fell in love. And a story of romantic/erotic obsession was born.

Now that we're out of the finalized-front-cover starting gate, I'm going to be writing more and more about this, because it would be too bad if this one (like the other two) got splended reviews and hardly any readership. Everything has changed since my last novel - and, more to the point, I have changed in ways that can't really be quantified.

("Quantified" - sorry about that!)

When I tell people I've spent six years on this project, they always say, "Oh, man, that must have been slow to write." They don't understand. It took a year and a half to write, and three and a half years to get to the point where it is actually in the starting gate and will soon (soon, soon. . . ) be in the stores.

On the shelves.


I can't possibly get it all in now. I'm still trying to believe it. And though I will do everything I can think of to get the word out, I realize it's a whole different world: not only since I published my last novel Mallory, but since I began writing The Glass Character in 2008.

2008 sounds like a million years ago. So much has changed, I don't know where to begin. But he's coming soon to a book store or Kindle near you, folks: The Glass Character, Thistledown Press.

At last. . .

Order The Glass Character from

Order The Glass Character from Chapters/

Saturday, February 15, 2014

A laugh and a half

I've gone Blingee!

For a long time, before I even knew what a gif was or figured any of that out, there were these sparkly things that you could find on the internet. Sparkly like old greeting cards with that sandlike stuff stuck to them. Mostly they were puppies and kittens and things. I hated them.

When I was swallowed up by the enchantment of the World of Gif, I turned disdainfully away from sparklies. To hell with them! I was a Giffinator now. That is, until my favorite gif site just pulled the plug on me. It doesn't work for shit now and turns out these small stretched uglies that I won't post.

While throwing together bad valentine verses that turned into a dissertation on writer's groups and why I hate them, I wanted to illustrate my points (and break up monotonous blocks of text, which is the main reason I use images) with tacky Valentine sentiments. It wasn't hard to find them. Nearly all of them, the really tacky ones anyway, were Blingees.

Something had happened in the interim, and now these were interesting. Tawdry, most of them, but in a good way. Some of them were wildly creative, just flashing with crazy energy. The animation had improved substantially to allow dancing figures and even, in one case, a walking one.

The hunt was on! I wanted to find them ALL. I wanted Bigfoot, I wanted Bob Dylan, I wanted William Shatner, Jesus, and everything else. What really triggered this search was a Blingee of a squirrel with a bottle of Jack Daniels beside it. WTFFF? It was so nonsensical, so incomprehensible, it was beautiful.

Blingees have been taken over by the cool element, the gangstas, though there are still lots of glittering ponies and bleeding Christs. Jesus probably accounts for 85% of Blingee images, a sort of modern update of the old lenticular pictures that flashed back and forth between the Crucifixion and the Last Supper.

I confess that I lost my virginity not long ago and Blingee-d the cover of The Glass Character (which I am not quite allowed to show you yet, but it's a doozie!). I had to keep the blings to one side to avoid covering Harold's face -  but strangely enough, at the bottom of the cover, the author's name turns out as Margaret Blingee.

I like that. It could be a pseudonym. I could at last be Cool. Margaret Blingee could wear things that Margaret Gunning couldn't get away with. Margaret Blingee could write cool things and win swell prizes. It would be a different life.

Puppy, don't chase that squirrel! "Dis muh nutz, you can't have em!"

Beautiful images that evoke Bob Dylan. Note the walking cat, and the angel perched on the roof playing a violin that releases a cascade of gold shimmers. The second one is Slow Train Coming.

Just beautiful.

 "For dinner, we're having moose chili and caribou hot dogs!"

I assume this cat is dead.

Uhhh. . . 

Blinged out.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Valentine poems: an arrow in the heart

Valentine, O, Valentine / I'll be your love and you'll be mine,
We'll care for each other, rain or fine / and in 90 years we'll be 99.
-Ian Serraillier

If you won't be my Valentine / I'll scream, I'll yell, I'll bite.
I'll cry aloud, I'll start to whine / If you won't be my Valentine.
-Myra Cohn Livingston

Plenty of Love / Tons of kisses
Hope some day / To be your Mrs.
-Author Unknown

My love is like a cabbage / Divided into two
The leaves I give to others / The heart I give to you.
-Author Unknown

Valentines is near / Just wishing you were here
You will always be near / My heart will never be the same
-Jose Villalpando

Are we friends, Are we not / You told me once, but I forgot.
So tell me now and tell me true / So I can say I'm here with you.
-Author Unknown

Raindrops on our dresses / Sunshine on our face,
No matter what the weather / The look of love won't be replaced.
-Donna Wallace

I was lonely, sad, and blue / until the day that I meet you.
You came into my life and changed it around / turned my frown upside down.
-Author Unknown

To see my darling on his special day / Would put two Valentine wishes at bay.
Happy Birthday to him is the Valentine for me / Then two hearts once again get to share ecstasy.
-Lisa D. Myers

Someone asked me to name the time / Of when our love became sublime.
I searched high and low but could not find / It within the vast regions of my mind.
So now as I close it is time / Would please be my Valentine.
-Author Unknown

There's nothing in this world / That can express my love
You're as beautiful as an angel / And pure as a dove.
-Osman Espinoza

I searched high and low (as in one of the poems, above) to find Valentine poetry that is not terrifically bad (some of it is gross or obscene, which just does not do it for me), but truly mediocre. This is poetry with good intentions, poetry that doesn't KNOW it's bad. It's the Stairway to Stardom of Valentine verse, not quite rhyming, not quite NOT rhyming, with meter (if there is any) that is all over the place.

This collection appeared along with snippets by Shakespeare and Dorothy Parker ("one perfect rose"), which of course had to go. Some of these are by "known" writers, even known poets, which amazes me. The Florence Foster Jenkins of verse, perhaps?

I remember my crazy brother Arthur and I having a bad poetry contest which we called Peotry Korner. "Hey, that's spelled wrong!" one of our friends exclaimed. We were so dumb, and he needed to point that out! I think I may have won the contest with this:

"When skies R grey
and it precipitates
You remind me
of a load of wet hay.
Happy Doomsday -
glad you're not here."

I was briefly part of a truly hair-raising "writer's group" called Women and Words, in which the main goal seemed to be not writing by a variety of means. We drank sangria, we talked about our kids and household products, and then someone came up with an idea for fundraising: not an anthology of our writing, but a COOKBOOK! I noticed the group had a "poetry expert", a little old lady with her hair in a bun and a print dress, as if someone had rocketed back in time to the 1950s to collect her. "Doris is our poetry expert," someone said, and Doris colored, saying, "Oh no no no no no."

Several times I heard statements from people like, "I just can't stand all that modern poetry. It doesn't even rhyme." Sooner or later someone had to get up to recite. The poems were not unlike the examples above (and I'm sorry I'm sounding so mean - I know I am - but this was just so frustrating for me, as I'd had high hopes for the group helping to dig me out of the landslide of loneliness I was trapped in).

"Oh mighty eagle who flies so high in the sky
Every time I see you I wonder why
Why you lift your wings and fly so high
Oh mighty eagle who flies so high in the sky"

The standard response to a poetry reading was, to a person, "Oh that's LOVE-ly!". I wondered if that really passed for a critique. By this time I was afraid to get up and read my own self-absorbed laments, most written in abstract form.  I just now realized that a version of this gathering found its way into my first novel, Better than Life, in which a Christlike, charismatic stranger named Bob attempts to initiate the good ladies of Harman into the mysteries of Yeats and Kahlil Gibran.

I went to two sessions of this group, and at the second one it looked as if we had attracted some actual writers (and one of the ladies outright admitted, "Oh, I don't really do any writing, I just come along for the social part"). One fiercely beautiful black woman got up and cast webs of fire over the room, after which there was dead silence.

"Well," said the old lady expert.

"Keep working on it," said Bev, the unofficial matriarch (unofficial, my ass - everything she said was law!). The writer looked distinctly uncomfortable. Another writer had built the substructure for a play, showing a definite talent for discernment - what doesn't need to be there, in other words - thus constructing the foundation for a major work.

Not much comment there, either.

At a certain point, when I made the embarrassing admission I'd written a novel (a truly bad novel, though at the time I thought it was pretty good), someone exclaimed, "Oh, are you Margaret Gunn?" I wanted to say "ING". I had a weekly column in the local paper then, but it seemed she had only managed to read half of it. Another woman asked me, "What's the conflict?", something straight out of Writers Group 101. Obviously, it was the thing to say, the question to ask to show that you understood, that you Knew. I still don't know what it meant.

Oh, but I do remember one actual exercise - we were supposed to take a pen and paper and write down the name of our character, then write down EVERYTHING we could think of about them. There was even a questionnaire. Where they were born, when they were born, who their parents were, what they looked like, their shoe size, and blah blah blah blah blah. It was only later that I realized that trudging through writing a novel would be intolerable if you already knew everything. It's the finding out that is the thing. And if it doesn't interest you - fascinate you, in fact - then it sure as hell will not interest the reader.

Where is all this coming from? There's nothing wrong with drinking sangria and exclaiming "oh, that's lovely!" after every poem. But in a way, "writer's group" is a contradiction in terms. In my experience, giving yourself to the process is often horrendously lonely, to the point that I understand why so many poets commit suicide.

I don't know why I've done this for so many years, except that I'm not good at anything else. No, I mean it, or at least not anything I can do professionally. I haven't had anyone refer to my work as a "nice hobby" for a while now, maybe because they've given up talking to me altogether.

People fall away. They lose interest, or find they can't do it, bury their ambition where it festers and ruins their lives. I become sick of halting myself, to keep pace with their faux interest/dedication. They just stop, or they make themselves stop. I had a friend exclaim, when I made a friendly suggestion that she try keeping a blog, "What would I write about?" But it was her facial expression that cut me: baffled, as if I'd said "why don't you start a worm farm"; offended, as if I'd said "why don't you have an affair with your neighbor"; disgusted, as if I'd said "why don't you shovel shit for a living." And even at that, there was an aspect to her reaction that I can't describe, a mouthful of vinegar or something else awful, with her tone of voice full of "whaaaaat?" Not just incredulous, but ferociously judgemental. It was casting her own insecurity and frustrated ambition back in my face, not unlike the cobra-strike ploys used by my sister for years and years.

I had obviously said the wrong thing. But she had no idea why her reaction bothered me, which was even worse. That friendship died in a torrent of bile which made me realize her ambition had long ago been interred and was sending up noxious fumes of decay.

OK, I never expected to go on and on like this. Are there "real" writers" then, to be divided from the dabblers like the sheep from the goats? YES. Does this have anything to do with money or prestige or even getting widely published and becoming some sort of quasi-celebrity like that bitch who wrote Fifty Shades? Of course not.

It has to do with dedication, but it's something else. Painful as all this is, you can't live without it. I find I replicate my initial experiences of utter obscurity again and again, and the chances of this changing at my age are extremely slim. But I've come to realize that if I needed recognition, I would have quit long ago. Keeping on with it at this level of intensity would have been impossible. So it's something else that drives me, and, I suspect, almost every other writer.

I don't always like what I do. It's kind of like being married. Habit? Not quite. Just a need, something I can't describe or even get away from. It galloped away with me a very long time ago.

A long long long time ago when I was seeing a therapist, I was also listening (incessantly) to k. d. lang's brilliant Ingenue album (which I have started listening to again). I was talking to her about a certain song, how I felt it was much more than a love song.

"Why do you say that?"

I wasn't sure what I was saying.

"I think it's about her work. You know. . . not so much the singing as the writing."

I often wonder
is it so
All I am holding
wants let go
How could I manage
I don't know

I often question
Is it so
Life's contradictions
tend to grow
Spawning the choices
and the woe

But still somehow thrives this love
Which I pray I'm worthy of
Still somehow thrives this love

I often wonder
Is it so
Lessons of patience
are learned slow
Earnings of labour
may never show

But still somehow thrives this love
Which I pray I'm worthy of
Still somehow thrives this love

k. d. lang