Summer Reading Recap

Here it finally is – my long-awaited recap of my summer reading plans. In my original post of July 2, I outlined 5-6 books that I wanted to read this summer. Part of my motivation was to participate in the Jones Library Summer Reading Program. I turned in my log on Aug. 27. At that time, I had read five books; three of them were books I mentioned in that original post.

Since summer doesn’t actually end until Sept. 21, I am counting two more books that I read after I turned my log in as part of my summer reading achievement. Seven books in three months is not bad. I am currently reading Alison Lurie’s Love and Friendship. If i finish that in the next 5d days, I will have read eight books for the summer.

Books I Read this Summer

Maggie Doherty, The Equivalents 

Zadie Smith, White Teeth

Sara Fitzgerald, Conquering Heroines: How Women Fought Sex Bias at Michigan and Paved the Way for Title IX

Molly Greeley, The Heiress: The Revelations of Anne de Bourgh

Amanda Cross, Death in A Tenured Position

Amanda Cross, The Collected Stories of Amanda Cross.

Talia Herbert, Act Your Age, Eve Brown

I liked all the books but Greeley’s second book, imagining the life of Anne de Bourgh from Pride and Prejudice was not as good as her first book, The Clergyman’s Wife about Charlotte Lucas. I will have a separate review of Herbert’s book next week.

I didn’t read the book about training your cat, Wayward Lives or Butler’s Parable of the Talents.  I hope to read them all, but it will have to be part of my ongoing reading schedule.

 

 

 

 

More Bad Luck

On Tuesday, while visiting my son and daughter-in-law in Philadelphia, I tripped over their puppy and injured my ankle. We came home the same day and on Wednesday I went to the doctor. It is not broken but soft tissue injuries can take as long to heal as a fracture. As a result I can not skate for four weeks.

Thursday morning we woke up to the worst basement flood we have ever had. The water was in every part of the basement, reaching the bottom shelves of bookcases. On Thursday we worked for eight hours, cleaning and moving things and  there was still more to do.

Today we got up the soaking wet rug and went through all the other wet boxes. Nothing smells’ worse than wet paper. It will be several more days of work to sort through all the stuff, throwing out a lot, I hope. Also, there will probably be things to donate.

 

My run of bad luck has continued since April but will have to break at some point. My original plan for today’s post was to  bring you up to date about my summer reading program. Of course, like everything else in my life, it didn’t go the way I had originally anticipated. Hopefully, I can tell you about it next week.

Computer Trouble, Again

Last week, I had planned on not having my computer for Wednesday into Thursday. The back cover of my laptop needed to be replaced. When the shop started the repair, my screen cracked. This meant I had no computer until Saturday.

This put a big dent in my work schedule and made posting on this blog very difficult. I couldn’t figure out how to post something from my phone. If any of you know how to do that, please let me know.

This unforeseen problem is why I didn’t post last week. Because I am so far behind on working on my book, I have decided not to post this coming Friday either. I plan to resume my regular schedule on Friday September 3.

There have been many times in 2021 that I have felt akin to the biblical Job. Maybe I am cursed or living under a bad sign. The Jewish New York begins September 6th. Hopefully thing will begin looking up.

New Woman

While working on my book this week, I read an article that I wanted to use and cite from. It came from a magazine called New Woman. Because I can get interested in almost anything I googled it and found a October, 1970 New York Times article. The article stated New Woman was going to start publishing in February, 1971. The Times piece had a patronizing tone and was particularly snarky about Mrs. Hermione Miller,  the advertising director, who had been working in New York City since June to find advertisers for the magazine.

Mrs. Miller was “‘the former ad director of Fort Lauderdale’s Pictorial Life magazine. She said she’s found the agencies very interested. But, then, she’s a blonde.” The article ends there.

When I first read that line I had no idea what they were talking about.  I wondered if somehow part of the article had gotten cut off. Thinking about it, I realized that misogyny was so embedded in institutions like the New York Times that they didn’t realize how awful that sentence was. There was no author so some staff writer, mostly probably white and male, made  assumptions about what it meant to be a blonde and, I assume, attractive woman and unabashedly wrote that last line.

It makes me aware that 1970 is really not that far away and, in some ways, not that much has changed. Yesterday’s Times had an article about the Norwegian women’s handball team and the fine they received for refusing to wear bikini bottoms while playing. The Handball federation is now considering changing the rules.

Generally the women’s sports, particularly in the Olympics, that are the most popular feature scantily dressed athletes. Beach volleyball is the best example. This shows that we still live in a world that judges women by their looks.

Although I thought this was an important topic for the blog, I know that I have to control my insatiable curiosity and stay focused on writing my book.

Michigan Beer

I recently finished reading a book about sex discrimination at the University of Michigan in the 1970s. The same day, a news item about craft brewing in Michigan appeared in my Google alerts. You can read that here.

Stroh’s was Michigan’s largest brewer. Here are some excerpt’s from Brewing Battles about that brewery.

Detroit had thirty-three breweries in 1890. Stroh’s was the most famous and long lived; the owners were descendants of Germans who had been brewing since 1775. By selling ice cream as well as beer it existed as an independent brewery until 1999.[1]

One of the most significant transactions which indicated that brewing was moving firmly away from its nineteenth century heritage occurred on June 10 1982, when the Stroh Brewing Company of Detroit purchased Schlitz. Stroh’s, a long established regional brewery based in Detroit vaulted itself into the first tier of the industry by acquiring Schlitz, one of the country’s largest brewers. Donald Shea, a vice-president of the USBA at the time of this acquisition, assessed the deal and its implication for the industry as “constant concentration within the industry, and as that happened, more and more larger breweries were building up their own shops.”[2]

Competition in the industry continued unabated even while brewing organizations sought reductions in taxes and campaigned against various neo-temperance initiatives. In 1996, Stroh’s continued its ascent into the top tier by purchasing Heileman Brewing. Heileman had made a run at achieving top tier status in the 1980s, but the Justice Department had halted its program of aggressive acquisitions. Russell Cleary, the son-in-law of Ray Kumm and his successor, spearheaded the expansion of the company. Stalled, the company became vulnerable; 1987 Alan Bond, an Australian investor, purchased the nation’s fourth largest brewer. In 1992, Bond went to jail for fraud in connection with a deal to save an Australian bank.[3]

In the 1980s Heileman brewed many different brands of beer including Old Style, its original product, Lone Star, Schmidt, and Carling Black Label. The company was responsible for forty percent of all the new brands in the decade.[4]

In 1991, Heileman developed yet another new product, Power Master, which was a malt liquor with 5.9 percent alcohol; most malt liquors contained 5.5 percent, regular beer 3.5 percent. African-Americans and Hispanics were the core market for malt liquors. Heileman’s marketing featured a young black man. The tagline was “bold, not harsh.” African-American political and community leaders objected to the beer and its marketing. Eventually BATF intervened and prohibited the company from marketing Power Master. The agency felt the name was a subtle attempt to convey the strength of the beer to the public.[5] Heileman’s marketing struggles indicated how far the brewing industry had come from the self-regulation policies that they had pursued from the 1930s on.

The USBA had always stressed restraint in marketing. The Nebraska plan that brewers developed during Repeal was the cornerstone of their approach. Increased competition in the industry and the diminished influence of the USBA led individual brewers to be bolder in their advertising. The specter of Prohibition had diminished.

In 1996, Stroh’s, planning to buy Heileman, was the country’s fourth largest brewer. Coors, in third place, had 10.1 percent of the market. Stroh’s and Heileman’s combined market share would be a little over nine percent. Stroh Brewing Company had been in existence for 149 years; in 1999 the company sold its brands to Miller and Pabst. Pabst got Schlitz. This sale marked the completion of forty years of consolidation of the brewing industry. The dismantling of Stroh, which employed 2,800 people, gave Miller and Anheuser–Busch seventy per cent of the market.[6]

 

[1] William H. Mulligan, “Stroh Brewing Company,” in Blocker et al., Encyclopedia, 598-600; Downard, Dictionary, 56-57, 185-186.

[2] “Shakeout in the Brewing Industry”; Shea interview, 2005.

[3] “Heileman’s Aggressive Style,” New York Times, August 15, 1979, D1; “Alan Bond Gets Jail in Australia,” New York Times, May 30, 1992, 35; Bob Skilnick, “Heileman, G., Brewing Company,” in Blocker et. al, Encyclopedia, 292-293.

[4] Philip E. Ross, “Bid for Heileman Spurs Stock,” New York Times, September 5, 1987, 31.

[5] Anthony Ramirez, “U.S. Is Challenging New Heileman Label,” New York Times, June 21, 1991, D15; “The Threat of Power Master,” New York Times, July 1, 1991, A12; “Heileman Told It Can’t Use the Power Master Name,” New York Times, July 2, 1991, D6; Kurt Eichenwald, “U.S. Rescinds Approval of A Malt Liquor,” New York Times, July 4, 1991, D3.

[6] Robyn Meredith, “Stroh to Buy Heileman in Big Brewery Deal,” New York Times, Match 1, 1996, D2; “Last call: Detroit-based Stroh Brewery will sell beer brands to Pabst, Miller,” Minneapolis Star Tribune, February 9, 1999, 3D http://www.elibrary.com/education (accessed January 23, 2001).

© Copyright, Amy Mittelman 2021

 

Book Review: The Equivalents

I finished the book The Equivalents while we were in Florida. it is the first of the books I plan to read for my summer reading. You can read about that here. The book, by Maggie Doherty, tells the story of five women who were in the first two groups of Fellows at the Radcliffe Institute.

Mary Bunting,  president of Radcliffe College from 1960 to 1972, established the Radcliffe Institute for Independent Study as a way to provide opportunities for married women with children who may have delayed or stopped their study or profession because of  marriage and children. Maggie Doherty  chose to focus her book on five women who all were accepted to the Radcliffe Institute but did not have advanced degrees. They received the term. “Equivalents” because they did not have advanced degrees but their experiences as writers, poets and artists counted as equivalent. to advanced degrees.

The women were the poets, Anne Sexton and Maxine Kumin, the writer Tillie Olsen who started in the second year,  the artist Barbara Swan and the sculptress, Marianna Pineda. Sexton and  Kumin had a relationship that began before their time together at the Institute, 1961-1963, and lasted until Sexton’s suicide in 1974.

The parts of the book where Doherty explores the lives of her five main characters and their relationships while they are at the Institute are well-written; this is the strongest part of the book.

During the first few years of the Institute, all of the Fellows were white. Although the story of the five “equivalents”  is the main part of the book, she tries to place their experiences within a larger societal context. To do this she introduces other characters, such as Alice Walkers, Institute Fellow 1966-1968, so Doherty can talk about issues such as race which her main actors didn’t experience.

Alice Walker is a compelling figure but Doherty should have written about her with more nuance. I find it problematic that she does not even mention Walker’s later career and controversies over her perceived anti-Semitism. A few sentences would have sufficed.

Doherty tries to position the women as precursors to second wave feminism. Although the bond between the five “equivalents” was very strong with elements of later consciousness raising sessions, I feel this is overstated. None of the women expressed overtly feminist ideas while they were at the Institute.

I read the book because the topic interests me and has something to do with what I’m currently writing about in my own manuscript. Because I am taking the PVWW writing class I read the book both for what it said about these women who were in the first group of the Radcliffe Institute and also how it is written, what kind of techniques and craft skills she used in writing it. Doherty does a good job with scene setting and uses quotations judiciously (both craft techniques)

I enjoyed the book and it did give me ideas about how to strengthen scenes and reduce my use of quotes, by putting more things into my own words. I am off to a good start with my summer reading. If any one else has a summer reading plan, I would love to hear about it.

Summer Reading

For several years, pre-Pandemic, I have participated in summer reading challenges hosted by the Jones Library. Usually you are supposed to read, at least, three books, and write a review of one. Once you turn that information in, you get a gift card to a local retail or dining institution.

In the past, the library also had a bingo game connected to the theme for the year’s summer reading challenge. Playing that meant you read three more books, for a total of six,  and had a better chance of winning a more elaborate prize.

Obviously, last year, the library didn’t do anything for summer reading or anything else. This year, they are doing an Adult Summer Reading Program; the theme is Tails  & Tales. It started yesterday and continues until August 27th.

I went today and picked up the material for the Jones Library program and a few of the books they suggest are entrancing. One,  a nonfiction book, The Trainable Cat A Practical Guide to Making Life Happier for You and Your Cat, by John Bradshaw and Sarah Ellis is particularly appealing because, eventually, we are going to get a new cat to replace Bella, our cat who we had for eighteen years. Early this summer we had to put her down.  If possible, I would like to get a short haired cat who we keep indoors and we don’t have to declaw. Maybe the book would help us have a cat who doesn’t starch.

My plan for my own summer reading is to finish five books; six if I add the cat book. The books are Maggie Doherty, The Equivalents which I want to read because it is about the early years of the Bunting Institute , a program of continuing education for women at Radcliffe College. The chapter of my book that I am currently working deals with similar programs developed at various academic institutions in the post World War Two period.

For my Jane Austen book club meeting in August I am reading Zadie Smith’s, White Teeth. Also Austen themed, I will be reading, The Heiress by Mollie Greeley. I read her book, The Clergyman’s Wife which is one of my favorite Jane Austen retellings. I wrote a review of it which you can read here.

One of the people in my year long manuscript class suggested I read Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments by Saidya Hartman. She thinks it will be a good model for how to structure my  book.

The final book I plan on completing before August 27th is Octavia Butler’s, Parable of the Talents. I just finished reading her Parable of the Sower and it was a great book; very dark but very prescient. Written in the 1990s, the novel starts in 2022, a year from now. It tackles issues of race, climate change, loss of our democracy and  concepts of God and organized religion. These are all issues we are currently grappling with. I highly recommend it.

To complete all of these books by the end of August, I will have to read about 36 or 37 pages  a day. I think that is very doable. If I add in the cat book, it will raise my daily reading page count to about 43 pages a day which I still fell is doable. I will keep you posted about my progress.

I will not have a blog post next week. I will resume my regular schedule on July 16th. Have a nice two weeks.

 

Old Age

I recently completed the sixth chapter of my manuscript, The Real Housewives of Academe. “Civil Obedience” deals with activism in the 1950s and 60s and faculty wives who fought for social justice.

One of the people I discuss is Sarah Patton Boyle. She became an early white supporter of civil rights in her hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia.

After spending fifteen years as an active participant in the movement, she retired, got divorced, and moved, at the age of sixty, to Arlington, Virginia, to start her life over.

Below is an excerpt about Boyle from the first draft of my chapter, “Civil Obedience”

In 1983 at the age of 77, Sarah-Patton Boyle published her third book, The Desert Blooms: A personal adventure in growing old creatively. The Desert Blooms is a memoir about a more private and personal chapter of her life.[1] It detailed her journey from the University of Virginia, Charlottesville where she had been a faculty wife for many years to Arlington, Virginia at the age of 60.

Patty had decided to move because much of her life had changed. “My children were far away, intent on finding mates and creating careers. The Southern civil rights revolution of the 1950s, which had riveted my attention and drained my energies for fifteen years, had changed direction and was moving swiftly away from my area of competence and commitment.”[2]

Although Patty was leaving the life she had known and moving by herself to a completely new place, she “lacked the sense to be frightened. … Nothing could be worse than the ordeals I had already weathered, I thought.  Hadn’t I even survived my husband’s announcement that when the last of our children left home, he would too? “[3]

Patty had enjoyed being a housewife and mother while she was doing it but “my unlived life had beckoned often and the thought had occurred to me now and then that nothing held me back but a ball and chain. So now that liberty was thrust unsought upon me, I resolved to focus, not on what I had lost, but on what I would gain.”[4]

Religion was very important to Patty so she looked for a church to belong to in her new city. She found a church that she initially felt comfortable in, forming a relationship with the minister and his wife. The minister sought to change the church and believed that Patty would assist him in this work. “Knowing I had opposed the old guard on civil rights in the 1950s, he thought I would oppose it in this case, too.” Patty was not as on board with changing the church as the minister initially believed. ”His sudden silences, I now know, resulted from doubt that he was right.”

Patty had relied heavily on religion to get her through the difficult years of her involvement with the civil rights movement. “During the black revolution, when I had /battled on the minority side of what was the nation’s hottest issue, a stream of threats and insults had descended on me that only my faith had enabled me to survive. Traditional Christianity had been for me no candy bar but the staff of life.”[6]

Patty’s disappointment in her new church, the minister and his wife led her to feel old in a way that she had never experienced before. “It was now several months since I had recognized that I was old. But shocked as I had been at first, I had not felt old. Now I did. It wasn’t a feeling of accumulated years so much as one of having outlived my power to achieve anything – a feeling of not having any life ahead of me but only behind me, of having passed from anticipation into merely marking time.”[7]

[1] Jennifer Rittenhouse, “Speaking of race : Sarah Patton Boyle and the “T.J. Sellers course for backward southern whites” in Martha Hodes, ed.  Sex, love, race : crossing boundaries in North American history, New York : New York University Press, c1999, p. 493.

[2] Desert, p. 19

[3] Desert, 20

[4] Desert, 22

[5] Desert, 56.

[6] Desert, p, 99-100

[7] Desert, p. 104.

© Copyright 2020 Do Not Reproduce without the Author’s Permission.

 

 

 

 

 

Over 400 Served

I have been so busy that a milestone passed and I didn’t even acknowledge it. Apparently my April 4 post, “Busy Week” was my 400th. When I publish this post, I will have 407 WordPress posts. Adding in the 38 post I did before I was using WordPress, the grand total is 445.

I started blogging to promote Brewing Battles but it has taken on a life of its own. When I made the commitment, a few years ago, to post weekly, my pace picked up. Keeping that commitment has been difficulty sometimes, but now that I see what I have  amassed, I am glad I have kept doing it.

My top post, all time, is Methylated Spirits. The home page is a not close second. Except for views of the home page, which is always my most recent post and my Twitter feed, none of the top ten posts are from this year. Poppins on the Roof, which was my most read post for a while, is now number 30 on the all time list.

The past seven days, I had 156 views and the top posts were still Methylated Spirits and the Home Page. Other popular post were from the last year, including The Mysteries of Udolpho.

It has taken me 14 years to write  445 posts. Since I now try to post weekly, the next 400 should take only 8 years. I will try to do that.

 

Ideas

One of the assignments for this month from my Pioneer Valley Writer’s Workshop Year Long class, was to read three essays to look at the craft tools used in presenting ideas.

First, I read “The Futurist Manifesto by Flippo Tommaso Marinetti. For the class assignment, we were not supposed to say whether we like a piece or not but rather, look at the craft elements used in the writing and determine if they would be valuable for our own writing.  However, this is is my blog, so I will  say that I hated this essay. The language  was over wrought, hyperbolic and flowery. I would not want to write in that style. The piece felt dated with racist and misogynistic elements and I had a strong suspicion that the author was a fascist. When I Googled him, I found out I was right.

Our teacher implied that Verlyn Klinkenborg’s, “Our Vanishing Light”, had  lyrical tone, and visual and sensory imagery.  The writing was okay but it seemed a fairly standard journalistic article. Written in 2008, it might have been startling then but felt like nothing new thirteen years later.

In “Sick Women Theory”, Johanna Hedva uses her personal story to make her point. I thought that was a good strategy or tool to use. By personalizing her ideas, it made thinking about those ideas more accessible. Hedva weaves her story of chronic illness into a compelling critique of western medicine. She explores how disability interacts with political participation, seeking a redefinition of both public and private.  I found her writing the most compelling of the three essays and I enjoyed reading it.