Friday, August 21, 2015

Friday's Forgotten Books, August 21, 2015

 Looking For Mr. Goodbar, Judith Rossner (Ed Gorman)

When Looking For Mrs. Goodbar was published in 1975 it was such a sensational hit that I put off reading because I assumed it would be not much more than trendy titillation. When I finally got to it I was stunned by how fine a writer Judith Rossner was and how truly her novel reflected the times.

Based on a particularly ugly murder in New York City, Rossner offers us the life of one Theresa Dunn, a lower class but good looking Irish Catholic teacher much respected by her colleagues and much pursued by the men she finds in the singles bars she haunts looking for sex and a release from her self-loathing and depression, the by-product (she has always thought) of polio that left her with a warped spine. Even though surgery corrected the spine, it did not correct her image of herself as as a freak, especially when she contrasts herself with her glamorous sister.

To me this is one of the most important novels of the 70s, the so-called "me" decade. Theresa has always sought out men she believes can rescue her in some way--from the bastard professor she had an affair with as a student to the numerous hot shots of various kinds (Madison Avenue, theater) she meets on her nightly excursions. Her illusion is the illusion of the decade, as Rossner suggests, that the freedom so many people enjoy is a spiritual prison. Waiting in the wings was AIDs of course.

Then comes the time when she meets the drifter who will kill her the very night he meets her. Rossner, both here and in all of her novels, demonstrates that serious literature can find mass appeal when the story is as powerful as this one. An overplayed movie version appeared soon after publication of the book but its ham-handedness destroyed the subtle and ironic truths of Rossner's brilliant novel.

ANYA, Susan Fromberg Schaeffer
I heard a story this week about a romance novel, which nearly won the top Romance Writers of America award for a story in which an inmate in a concentration camp has an affair with the commandant and goes on to live with him after the war. I find this shocking. You can't even compare this instance to prisoners who have relationships with prison guards because these were completely innocent people. Any relationship would have to be considered rape. So to give this guard redemption by having her forgive and marry him is deplorable.

So that gave me pause: what novel about the camps touched me? There was a period in my life where this period dominated my reading.

And that would be ANYA, written in the seventies, and republished in 2004 by Susan Fromberg Schaeffer. Anya comes from a rich and privileged background and the book lays our her prewar experiences, her years in a camp, her survival and eventually her life in New York. The writing is sharp, unsentimental and poignant. Highly recommended.

Sergio Angelini, THE LAST POLICEMAN, Ben Winters
Mark Baker, MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS, Agatha Christie
Yvette Banek, THE DOORS OF SLEEP, Thurman Warriner
Bill Crider, BLONDES DIE YOUNG, Bill Peters
Scott Cupp, ANNIVERSARY DAY, Krysten Katheryn Rusch
Curt Evans, Pepik Books
John Hegenberger, BULLET FOR A STAR,  Suart Kaminsky
Rick Horton, THE VANISHING POINT, Coningsby Dawson
Jerry House, TEXAS GUNSLINGER, Murray Leinster
Nick Jones, A HIVE OF GLASS, P. M. Hubbard
George Kelley, THE SINISTER SHADOW, Kenneth Robeson
Margot Kinberg, SENECA FALLS INHERITANCE, Maria Grace Montfredo
Rob Kitchin, DEADLOCK, Sara Paretsky
B.V. Lawson, THE SAINT IN EUROPE, Leslie Charteris
Evan Lewis,  WESTERN TOY GUNS by Jim Schleyer -and- CAP GUNS by James L. Dundas
Steve Lewis, THE MYSTERY OF THE DEAD POLICE, Philip Macdonald
Todd Mason, NIGHT'S BLACK AGENTS, Fritz Leiber
Graham Powell, THE CLAVERTON AFFAIR, John Rhode
James Reasoner, Three Television Books, Lee Goldberg
Richard Robinson, CRACKDOWN, Val McDermid
Gerard Saylor, ON DANGEROUS GROUND, ed. Ed Gorman et al.
Kevin Tipple, TEQUILLA SUNRISE, Michael Bracken
TracyK, CHARITY, Len Deighton
Westlake Review, GANGWAY, Donald Westlake


Jeff Meyerson said...

I agree on MR. GOODBAR. The book was so much better than the movie. The latter gave important early roles to Richard Gere and Tom Berenger.

As to the concentration camp, I'd go with Eli Weisel. His books are haunting.

Jeff M.

Deb said...

I just read about that "concentration camp romance" and the sh*tstorm that very rightly erupted over it being nominated for a Romance Award. To make it even more insulting (if that's possible), the Jewish heroine is drawn to and finds solace in a Christian Bible she just happens to have in the camp with her! For sheer wtf-ery, that nonsense will be hard to beat.

Charles Gramlich said...

I'm afraid I've never read this book, "Mr Goodbar. I have a copy. Gotta see if I can find it

pattinase (abbott) said...

Deb-even worse. It is appalling that it ever got published.

Gerard said...

I don't think I've read any concentration camp books except SCHINDLER'S LIST.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I guess NIGHT by Elie Wiesel is the gold metal one.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Make that medal.

Kevin R. Tipple said...

As always, thank you for including my blog.

Jerry House said...

Dang, Deb, that was the plot I was going to use on my concentration camp romance! Except of course, at the end when the Nazi zombies eat the brains of the starcrossed lovers and said zombies become born again.

Todd Mason said...

Well, as I was noting on the librarian and FictionMags lists, romance fiction needed its own variation on the Tea Puppies argument over the Hugo Awards...and as some observers of romance fiction over the decades have been noting, this kind of insensitive Christian romance is hardly the first time rather tone-deaf "transgressive" material has been published in romance and found some enthusiastic response...

My recommendation among Nazi atrocity novels would lean toward THE EXILE by William Kotzwinkle, which strikes me as succeeding at what D.M. Thomas's THE WHITE HOTEL attempts. #2 with entirely too many bullets would be Michael Chabon's Sherlock Holmes novella, "The Final Solution"...

Anonymous said...

I always get such good reading ideas from FFB, Patti - thanks!

Unknown said...

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pattinase (abbott) said...

If you look to the left side of my blog, your blog is listed and has been for a week or two. Thanks!

Kevin R. Tipple said...

I got the same post over on my blog minutes before it appeared here. I don't have any blogs listed because I never could figure out how to do it.

Kelly Robinson said...

I read part of Looking for Mr. Goodbar when I was a young girl, because I would always sneak and read whatever book my mom had lying around. When she finished it, though, it disappeared, replaces by a new one. I read the beginnings of so many '70s bestsellers. I finally bought a copy of this, and plan to read it all soon!

pattinase (abbott) said...

I hope it holds up, Kelly. At the time, it was terrific.