Reading: Fare for Flying | Essay | Chicago Reader

Reading: Fare for Flying 

Snatched on the run from the shelves of an airport gift shop, a springtime selection of books for minds on vacation.

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ORD. LAX. JFK. You're standing at Gate 27B. You've already checked in for the ugly 12-hour flight to Europe or Africa or South America. Bags loaded, aisle seat assigned, nothing to do now but mill around the concourse.

Have the traveler's checks? Yeah. Passport? Check. Tickets? You bet. Carry-on baggage? Right here. Step into terminal bar, swill down last scotch. Anything else?

Something nags, tugs like a stomachache, like the first big lie to a new love. It's uncomfortable, it's palpable, you can almost see the shape of it. Of what? What? What is it?

You walk back to the departure gate. Christ, they're almost finished loading.

Bingo. Eureka. That's it! You dolt, you've forgotten to bring something to read. Idiot! You've just got time, maybe, to sprint to the gift shop, grab a few books from the rack. Next 12 miserable hours you'll be caged alongside 500 other geeks--experiencing the romance of travel, the cattle car of modern flight.

Eyes popping, sweat flying, you burst into the hideous gift shop. Gray-haired lady--basic mom figure--should be home making biscuits--instead, here clawing $3.65 an hour--is clucking around the cash register. Mom's got a line of consumers awaiting her profoundly sluggish service.

To hell with them.

Where--where are they? Christ, along the back wall, all the way back, is a row of paperbacks. You lurch forward. PA system announces, "Last call. Last call for flight 1267. All passengers should be on board at this time." Shit! No time now, no time at all. You've got to cull three or four books at maximum speed, hope for the best, flop a 20 on Mom's counter, gallop to 27B.

Thirty minutes later, your 747 has leveled out, your breathing has returned to normal, more or less. Time now to snuggle into that ample seat, ask the fat guy on your right to move his elbow. Don't fight it, let your left leg go to sleep, ignore the tendrils of claustrophobia, disregard that sharp pain building in your lower back. Soon you'll be enjoying some airplane booze from a plastic bottle and some airplane dinner off a plastic tray. So reach into your plastic gift-shop bag and settle in for some authentic airplane reading.

First up (and a very smart selection it was) is Lovestorm, by Judith E. French. Moderately thick paperback. Cover art depicts naked, tanned, barrel-chested male savage-hero wearing never-out-of-fashion loincloth and leather armlet. Joined by huge-bosomed blond Anglo woman wearing see-through nightie. They embrace on tropical beach. He--determined/fierce. She--aching/arching/submitting.

But the action is only beginning. The time is April 1664. Our heroine is Lady Elizabeth Sommersett, daughter of powerful Earl Sommersett. She is passenger on the square-rigged barkentine Speedwell, now lying off the coast of Virginia. Her mission: meeting fiance Edward Lindsey, swinish second son to Earl of Dunmore.

Certainly there is a storm, certainly the vessel goes down, certainly Elizabeth is adrift on a long boat without benefit of maidservants.

Elizabeth "sighed and buried her face in her hands. She had not loved her aunt and uncle, but she was fond of them."

Liz's pleasant reverie is interrupted by our hero:

"Hokkuaa?"

"Elizabeth moaned deep in her throat and tossed her head. An arm slipped under her shoulder and lifted her up. 'What?' She blinked as a man's tanned face came into focus. 'Where am I?' she gasped.

"Mumaane. Drink . . . drink this."

Hero's name is Cain Dare, son of Virginia Dare, first Anglo personage born on North American continent, who, according to Lovestorm, survived, ran away, went native.

So Cain saves Elizabeth, and they make it ashore, where they do a lot of natural things, like play with dolphins, eat plants, chase animals around the forest. Cain is always saying stuff like "This one hears you. Do you always talk so loud?" and "It is good that you hunger. Food and rest will make you strong."

Wouldn't you know, Cain falls in love with Elizabeth, but Liz is snobby, always scheming to get to Jamestown to meet her slimeball fiance (who's already split to inherit big-shot title because he arranged for the murder of his father and brother before he left London).

It's not until page 60 that we get the "She met his caress willingly, touching her tongue against his in a tender, lingering kiss of exploration that left them both trembling. 'Cain,' she whispered. Her voice was strained and throaty.

"His hand spanned her hip as he shifted his weight to press full-length against her.

"'N'mamentschi.' His lips brushed her throat. 'N'dellennowi.'"

Yeah, but Elizabeth backs off, not yet ready for the, ta-da, Lovestorm to come. Instead she nags, she whines, she wheedles, she gets Cain to take her to Jamestown. Wouldn't you know, once in Jamestown Liz scores a ship home, only to find that Cain has been captured and will be transported to England as a heathen-slave on the very same ship!

Once home, Liz tries to back away from her marriage to the swine Lindsey, now Earl of Dunmore, "Because Cain has taught me something of the love a woman should feel for a man." Her father is not amused ("Must I give you a taste of my hand to secure your obedience?"), but during conversation, Dad spills beans and tells Liz that sexist-pig fiance Dunmore has bought Cain!

Yeah, so Liz marries Dunmore but tells Dad, "Then I am once more your obedient daughter, sire, and a bride whose heart lies not with her intended, but already in the grave." You can tell she's got a crush on Cain.

Well, Liz, Cain, the miserable swine Dunmore (who because of gout and a chronic wine habit is unable to perform his husbandly duties) all live in the big estate with a million servants. Finally on page 212, late at night, Cain sneaks into Liz's bedroom to proclaim and demonstrate his love.

"'Meshepeshe,' he crooned, crushing her against him as he struggled with her petticoats. His hand found soft flesh, and she whimpered as shivers of excitement. . ."

Well, Liz gets pregnant, Dunmore gets freaked out because he's a no-good swine, plus he has big-time sex problems. Dunmore has Liz's father killed in order to claim Sommersett's loot. Liz is kidnapped by highwaymen who demand ransom. Dunmore sends trusty retainer "Tom" along with sheriff with orders to kill Liz. Cain rescues Liz but is hurt. They return to Dunmore estate. Swine Dunmore, now mad, orders Tom to throw Liz out castle window. Tom refuses, they struggle, Dunmore is killed. Liz and Cain flee to seacoast, hop boat, return to America, have many babies, play with dolphins, go to lots of Indian parties.

Book ends with Liz "arched provocatively against him, exploring his lean buttocks with a wandering hand and catching his nipple between her teeth to suck gently."

Next selection, The Stud, originally published in 1971 but still found in most quality bookstores. It's a novel from the author who gave us The Bitch and Hollywood Wives. Yes, it's Jackie Collins. It isn't until you read the likes of Danielle Steele and the aforementioned Ms. French that you fully comprehend what a pro Jackie is. Jackie delivers the goods.

She cranks it up starting on page 18. "I followed her to a small elevator and we pressed closely together and it started up. She unzipped my trousers and rubbed me with her long talented fingers. . .

"I stared at her lean body. She had tiny breasts with pale, extended nipples. 'Are we there?' I asked foolishly.

"'No, but we soon could be,' she replied, pulling at my trousers."

Nonstop action. When Collins gets cracking, she can produce a boff scene every five pages. Virgin boffs, duty boffs, adulterous boffs, love boffs, group boffs, bird boffs, slut boffs, drug boffs, stewardess-over-Atlantic boffs, New York City boffs, rock 'n' roll boffs, rich people boffs, teenage boffs, cross-caste boffs, braless boffs, heartless boffs, treacherous boffs, nothing-else-to-do boffs.

And Collins is no slouch when it comes to plot. Tony Schwartzburg, a.k.a. Tony Blake, is maitre d' of Hobo, an unbelievably hot discotheque in London. Tony's hot too. As Tony says, "I have exchanged confidences such as 'Where can we get some pot?' and 'Got any birds?' with some of the most famous in the land."

But Tony came from the wrong side of the tracks, dresses gaudy, bad accent; kind of a jive guy, but knows how to hustle. Anyway, Tony hustles himself from waiter to major domo at internationally known Hobo.

The money behind Hobo is Benjamin Al Khaled, old, semisenile billionaire. The power is his 35-year-old wife Fontaine, who used to be a world-famous photographic model but retired to become a full-time nympho-bitch. Fontaine "understood the pleasures of lust and taught Tony all the little tricks she'd picked up in Beirut, Tangiers, South America. You name it, she knew it."

So Tony's doing good in this hot club, except every once in a while Fontaine orders him to one of her palatial estates and demands a bit of Tony's manly service. It's not long before Tony begins to resent being ordered about like, well, a stud. Except for that one drawback though, Tony's all right, got birds all over the place, including six-foot five-inch "voluptuous one-woman blaze of sexual plenty, 'The Twang.'"

Things continue apace until Tony meets 18-year-old Alexandra, an innocent kid and a virgin. Tony falls in love. Yes, jaded Tony, stud to hundreds, falls crashingly, screamingly in love with the fair Alexandra.

But Alexandra is in love with Michael and goes out with Tony only to make Michael jealous. But Tony thinks Alexandra loves him. Actually, Alexandra is tired of all the stupid comments about being a virgin and goes to bed with Tony just to get it over with. Ah, but Tony believes that that night of lovemaking has made Alexandra his. At the same time we learn that Alexandra is--by a former wife--actually the daughter of billionaire Benjamin Al Khaled.

Meantime, Fontaine is in New York and bored with her ritzy friends. She calls billionaire husband. "Darling, I've got a marvelous idea. What about a Hobo here? Yes, here in New York. Can you arrange to have Tony sent over for a few days? Now, immediately, tomorrow if possible. You're wonderful. Of course I miss you."

Tony arrives, leaving Alexandra in London. Fontaine boffs Tony, has Tony boff her friend while she boffs her friend's boyfriend. Despite this, Fontaine is bummed out by Tony because she has to buy him an appropriate necktie before appearing in public with him. Tony returns to London. Things have gone to hell. Alexandra ignores him; in fact she's now engaged to Michael. Tony finds new partner in scheme to open another nightclub, but bogus partner betrays Tony, allies himself with Fontaine. Tony is fired.

It's in the tight corners that genius works best. The book's very last boff scene, naturally on the very last page, shows why Ms. Collins is the pro she is. Tony is boffing Miranda, and while they boff we learn that Miranda has a very rich daddy. Even more, "We've got this disco in New York called Pickett's. It would be just right for you and, oohh, Tony, that's so beautiful, so wild. I love it! Like yes! Wow, Tony--you're such a stud."

The end.

Pretty satisfying stuff.

All right, what's next in the bag? Secrets of the SS, by Glenn B. Infield. Blurb on cover screams, "Commemorating 50 years since the outbreak of World War II" and "Does Hitler's Brutal Secret Police Force Still Survive?"

Oh-oh, bad sign. Book has index, notes, and bibliography. Could be real book. Hmm, looks like I've stumbled onto a legitimate history. Better toss this one under the seat.

Next is Creative Aggression: The Art of Assertive Living, by Dr. George R. Bach and Dr. Herb Goldberg. Jacket claims over 1,000,000 copies in print. Goldberg is also author of such previous smash hits as The Inner Male and The New Male.

Opens with exhaustive rundown on phony "nice" people. Explanation of those outwardly "nice" folks who seethe inside, cowardly swine most of them, type of people who, in middle age, slash their mothers' throats on dirty, yellow linoleum floors in front of the family refrigerator.

Authors tell us all about "Nice" Americans, "Nice" Mommy, "Nice" Daddy. Nice Children, Nice Parents, Nice Boss, Nice Employees, Nice Teacher, Nice Students, Nice Psychotherapists, Nice Patients, Nice Companions, Nice Sports, Nice Lovers. But they're all crummy little bastards; sneaky, gutless, inauthentic, sniveling human beings.

Chapter two is some more "nice" crap, using slow lead-up to chapter three and dynamite section on patterns of spousal murder. Great selection of bio bits on mass murderers we have known and what friends and family said about them. Charles Whitman ("A real, all-American boy"), Juan Corona ("An exemplary father and a fine Christian"), Mark James Robert Essex ("A nice, quiet boy").

It's this "nice" stuff that's doing it. Luckily, on page 86 we learn that "the authors, through their practice of psychotherapy, have developed a theoretical framework along with a concrete aggression training program. . . . Individuals in our aggression training programs learning to express these feelings constructively within their family milieu or work settings find themselves rising to exciting levels of personal growth."

That's good because earlier, back on page 47, the authors made a statement I'd like to discuss with Ms. Collins and Ms. French--because it's a romance sort of thing.

The statement: "Primary, however, is the necessity for acknowledgment in each person of the existence of aggressive feelings and violent potential toward a spouse or love. With this acknowledgment and the courage to display openly to one's intimates these feelings along with the loving ones, not only murder prevention but the development of deeply satisfying relationships can be facilitated."

You laugh, but can you place "facilitated," "relationships," "development," "feelings," "murder prevention," and "loving" in one tightly packed sentence? No, you cannot. But it's the murder-prevention part I'm interested in, particularly among the "significant other" portions of my life.

With that in mind, let's move on to chapter eight and "The Hidden Aggressors at Home and Work." It all ties into this "nice" business and all the sadists out there pretending to be nice. Here's an example from page 101.

"Skip and Jean were in bed making love. Skip, who had recently been having problems maintaining an erection, was getting very turned on, and his penis was very hard, His wife Jean was so happy that she blurted out, 'Skip, this is so exciting! You're doing terrific. I just hope you can keep that great erection this time!' Whereupon Skip's penis became soft."

See what I mean? "Nice" people faking being nice.

There's a lot more of these "nice" maggots to come and their "nice" controlling little games. The authors explain the Red Cross Nurse Syndrome, Moral One-Upmanship, the Nonrewarder, the Doubter, the Passive Aggressors and their bastard offspring, forgetting, misunderstanding, procrastination, the latecomers, no carryover of learning, bad credit line, drooled-on T-shirts, inability to maintain small pets, Larry, Curly, and Moe.

We'll cut to the chase: part three, "How to Live Constructively With Aggression," which can be stated thus:

AG(e) = Constructive Aggression = I.I = Informative Impact. H.H = Hurtful Hostility.

"This formula states that constructive aggression increases as hurtful hostility is reduced and informative impact is increased."

Got it?

In order to keep those old pots and pans clean, the authors suggest aggression training sessions like "The Vesuvius."

"In the family setting, a specific time each day, preferably toward evening, can be set aside for each family member in turn to vent his or her individual build up of resentment . . . we would encourage them to go more and more out on the limb and express their deepest, most irrational feelings of hostility."

Or how about "The Virginia Woolf." Two-minute time limit. "Each participant is encouraged to focus entirely on his own attack and to avoid trying to listen or respond to what the other person is saying." We also have "The Haircut With Doghouse Release" and more cutely labeled rituals designed to make us well.

Christ; enough. Abandon the book. Push the stewardess light, order a scotch, make that two scotches. What else have we got in the old book stash?

Oh-oh, we got trouble. The last book is The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory by Carol J. Adams. Picture of sitting naked woman (back turned) wearing red cowboy hat. Her exposed back, buttocks, legs are divided into food sections. Written in blue ink, on each portion, are the words "Loin," "Rib," "Rump," "Chuck," and so on. Am pleased to note that "jacket art courtesy of Pornography Awareness, Inc. and Women Against Pornography, from a beach towel illustration . . ."

The book comes to grips with the "connection between male dominance and meat eating." It's also "the story of meat."

"The story of meat follows a sacred typology: the birth of a god, the dismemberment of the god's body, and the god's resurrection. This sacred story paves the way for a mundane enaction of the meaning of dismemberment and the resurrection--achieved through consumption of meat."

Adams gets right to it in the preface when she discovers "a pattern of adopting ethical vegetarianism that I define as the vegetarian quest. The vegetarian quest consists of the revelation of the nothingness of meat . . . ." It's a revelation backed by solid research.

"During the 1973 meat boycott, men were reported to observe the boycott when dining out with their wives or eating at home, but when they dined without their wives, they ate London broil and other meats." I'd like to point out, for the record, that I was not married in 1973.

Adams sez, basically, you got your plant-eating cultures in which "men as well as women were dependent on women's activities," because women "are and have been the gatherers of vegetable foods."

Things were pretty neat then because "where women gather vegetable food and the diet is vegetarian, women do not discriminate as a consequence of distributing the staple."

Although Adams doesn't provide any evidence for that assertion, I, for one, am confident she is right. I would also like to point out that I, too, support the egalitarianism of gathering, particularly of berries, provided the environment is protected.

Scholarship is important all the way through this text. For instance, Adams's discussion of the word "vegetable" as used to express criticism or disdain. She writes, "The word vegetable acts as a synonym for women's passivity because women are supposedly like plants. Hegel made this clear . . ."

Yes, a major, major statement from one of the key areas of Hegel's life-long research.

I would like to point out that I am not now and have never been a follower of the Hegelian-Marxist-Leninist line.

In chapter two ("The Rape of Animals, the Butchering of Women"), Adams gets a little kinky, using a quotation from Lenore Walker, but to make a point. "He would tie me up and force me to have intercourse with our family dog. . . . He would get on top of me, holding the dog, and he would like hump the dog, while the dog had its penis inside me."

I would like to point out that I do not currently own a dog, and except for two months in the summer of 1972, I have not owned a dog in over 30 years.

In chapter three, Adams reminds us, with the aid of a reprinted pamphlet by "Noreen Mola and the Blacker Family," of the often ignored issue of how everyday language reinforces stereotypes and violence toward animals. "Violence undergirds some of our most commonly used metaphors . . . beating a dead horse, a bird in the hand, I have a bone to pick with you."

The Mola pamphlet frowns on "Referring to people who share their home and lives with non-human animals as 'owners,' or 'masters' . . . friends, companions or protectors is preferable . . . ."

"Refer to non-domestic animals as free or free-roaming, not : 'wild' or 'wildlife.'

"Watch out too for expressions that convey contempt for animals. 'Son of a bitch,' 'bird-brain' are insults at the expense of animals. Think of alternatives to calling a person a 'snake,' 'turkey,' 'ass,' 'weasel,' 'chicken,' 'dog,' or the like."

Oh-oh, that blows the hell out of horseshit, dogshit, chickenshit, bullshit, duck and cover, bug-eyed, bugaboo, rat fink, rat's nest, goose-step, pigeon-toed, slothful, hogwash, monkey business, outfoxed, sauce for the goose, passing the buck, snake pit, nitwit, snail's pace, street urchins, dog-eared, puppy love, sheepish, wolfish, woolgathering, mousy, on the lamb, piggish, bull dyke, fishwife, crabby, antsy, stool pigeon, pigeonhole, piggyback, piggy bank, nervous tic, ticked off, badgered, and pig fucker.

Adams goes on about false naming:

"Him: I can't go to Italian restaurants with you anymore because I can't order my favorite meal: veal Parmesan.

"Her: Would you order it if it were called pieces of butchered, anemic baby calves?"

I would like to point out that for many years I have avoided ordering veal Parmesan because of the anemic baby calf problem.

Part two begins with "Frankenstein's Vegetarian Monster." First graph--"Frankenstein's Monster was a vegetarian. This chapter, in analyzing the meaning of the diet adopted by a Creature composed of dismembered parts, will demonstrate the benefits of re-membering rather than dismembering vegetarian tradition."

Just time to skim part three, "Eat Rice, Have Faith in Women." Then "Epilogue: Destabilizing Patriarchal Consumption." Though we are eating "father-food" we are not consuming the father. . . . Christ, the plane is starting to land, meat-eating stewardess appears, bares carnivorous teeth, starts to nag.

I look up, softly ask, "Do you keep animals at home?"

Lovestorm by Judith E. French. Avon, $3.95 (paper).

The Stud by Jackie Collins. New American Library, $4.95 (paper).

Secrets of the SS by Glenn B. Infield. Jove, $3.95 (paper).

Creative Aggression: The Art of Assertive Living by George R. Bach and Herb Goldberg. New American Library, $4.95 (paper).

The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory by Carol J. Adams. Continuum, $22.95 (paper).

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Nicole Ferentz.

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