My back hurts too much to concentrate to the level the memoir requires and way too much to train, so yay for livejournal and a pillow stuffed behind my back.

When I stopped for lunch in Santa Maria yesterday (seafood bisque, very nice) I popped into a thrift shop to check out the books. Thrift shops are often havens for books that I read when I was a kid and which I should have hung on to, because they never appear in bookshops. Eureka!

A Choose Your Own Adventure book, MASTER OF JUDO. I must have read hundreds of those, but not that one. The "others in the series" list includes MASTER OF KUNG FU, MASTER OF TAE KWON DO, MASTER OF KARATE (too bad they didn't have that one), and (to cover all bases) MASTER OF MARTIAL ARTS. My favorites, however, were not in that series but were Rose Estes' Dungeons and Dragons books, especially CIRCUS OF FEAR and REVENGE OF THE RAINBOW DRAGONS.

Ellen Kushner wrote a Choose Your Own Adventure book, incidentally. Hers was about getting transported back in time to being an immigrant at Ellis Island.

CAN I GET THERE BY CANDLELIGHT? by Jean Slaughter Doty. Doty wrote pretty good and comparatively realistic books about horses; THE MONDAY HORSES, for instance, is a gritty backstage portrait of a rental stable, complete with pushy parents and doped horses. CANDLELIGHT is a moody timeslip novel about a girl who rides her horse Candlelight a hundred years into the past. The ending is unexpectedly bleak.

HEADS YOU WIN, TAILS I LOSE, by Isabelle Holland. Holland wrote a number of glum YA novels, of which my favorite was ALAN AND THE ANIMAL KINGDOM, about a boy who doesn't tell anyone that his last remaining relative has died, because he thinks they'll put all his pets to sleep, which is what happened when his next-to-last relative died. It ends on the signature glum YA novel note of a teeny ray of hope in the midst of inevitable misery and despair. Holland also wrote some adult suspense novels, which I remember enjoying but have never been able to find.

She's probably best-known for THE MAN WITHOUT A FACE, in which a boy apparently has a sexual moment with a man-- something which blew right over my head when I read it. I hope this review at amazon is a joke:

"For the same reason that the historical novels of Mary Reynolds are failures - a trilogy which purports to depict the relationships between Alexander the Great and his boy, but suppurates with honey and marshmallows until no self respecting male can continue reading them - Holland's book becomes absurd rather than tragic. Women should not try to write about relationships between men and men, or between men and boys. They possess neither the physiological instruments nor the erotic imagination for the task. Women see the male sex drive as something superficial, anatomical and standing in the way of romance. How little they understand! Sex between men turns on shared understandings of how muscles flex, organs pulse and juices flow; and we make from our animal excitement something playful which opens the door to a testosterone driven romance more powerful than any fairy-tales that giggling girls may tell each other. Don't read the book."

The front cover of HEADS reads "Melissa lost weight steadily, but her days were spent as unknowing 'highs.'" Yep, copyright 1973. Melissa is supposedly a compulsive eater, though we don't ever see her compulsively eating. We do see her being depressed because her monstrous parents keep verbally abusing her for being fat, ugly, and unworthy. She starts popping her mother's diet pills, with predictably bad consequences. There's a vague feminist undercurrent, in which feminism keeps getting mentioned and seems to be a fad, but Holland never quite seems to connect the social pressure on women to conform to an ideal of appearance to feminism. Still, Melissa's adolescent pain comes across vividly, which is no doubt what attracted me the first time I read it.

The bit where Melissa "freaks out" reminded me to look up the ads for other books in the back of Jay Williams' wonderful middle-grade fantasy, THE HERO FROM OTHERWHERE:

TUNED OUT, by Maia Wojciechowska. Winner of the 1965 Newbery Medal.

"Summer turns into a nightmare for sixteen-year-old Jim when his brother Kevin comes home from college. Kevin, whom Jim idolizes, has changed drastically during his year away. He has become a person full of doubts, with urgent needs-- one of which is drugs.

We share the experience of that terrible summer in this moving book-- the LSD, the marijuana, the hippies, the disillusionment, the helpless confusion and fear. It is all recorded frankly, to the final horror of Kevin's freaking out and the shaky beginnings of his redemption."

Yep, the teeny ray of hope in the midst of inevitable misery and despair.

It goes on to quote "Horn Book's" review: "No recent novel or factual treatment succeeds as well in showing the self-deception, the sense of alienation, the bitterness against the established order today..."

The picture shows a silhouetted man freaking out in the middle of a psychedelic swirl.


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