Thursday, September 19, 2013

Loose Change


In seventh grade Mrs. G. stole a book from the Memphis public library. She didn't actively steal it, as in stealthily slip it into her backpack and hotfoot it out the door. No, Mrs. G. was Catholic. Catholic Catholic. It was 1978, and she was panicky about sinning.


The church had recently abandoned the safe and snug anonymity of the perfectly good confessional in favor of the hippy happy, guitar-strumming-nun infused  face-to-face confession.


Previously comfortable with the occasional white lie and blasphemy, eleven-year-old Mrs. G. now focused all her efforts on never, ever sinning and, therefore, never, ever sitting on a folding chair at a lame card table across from an ancient, moth-eaten Father Stritch to report her misdeeds while he looked directly at her base and unholy face. Not since discarding the Latin Mass had the Vatican hatched such an ill conceived, daffy plan. Sin has no business in the cold, hard light of day.


So, no, she didn't swipe the book— she just never returned it. She let her mother take the fall and pay the replacement fine (sin). Mrs. G. concealed the book under the winter sweaters on the top shelf of her closet, right next to a battered copy of Mr. and Mrs. Bo Jo Jones on loan from a friend. The book Mrs. G. stole was a copy of Sara Davidson's Loose Change, a nonfiction account of the lives of three Jewish girls, who met while living in a UC Berkeley sorority house, from the 1960's to the mid 1970's: Sara (Davidson), who becomes a successful journalist; Susie, who marries a student radical and grooves through the western counterculture scene; And Tasha, who moves to the Big Apple and becomes a sophisticated fixture in the art world. The book is chock-full of student protests, drug use, the civil rights and feminist movements, the 1968 Chicago Democratic Convention, communes, vaginal explorations and Joni Mitchell. Arousing stuff for a true-blue, quaking Jesus lover. Mrs. G. isn't entirely sure what it was about the book that lead her to a momentary life of crime, but the wholesale disregard for authority and wanton sex didn't hurt. It was in this book that Mrs. G. learned the word patriarchy and, Mother Mary and St. Bernadette, did she use it a lot. 

To her mother: Don't you know those false eyelashes and platform shoes are tools of the patriarchy!

To her stepfather: I have better things to do than wash your patriarchal dishes!



Mrs. G. still has her stolen copy of Loose Change. It's currently on the family room bookshelf right next to (oh how things change) Martha Stewart's Cookies...The Very Best Treats to Bake. Mrs. G. is looking at the stolen book right this very moment. It reminds her of criminal behavior and damnation. It makes her nostalgic and wistful for outlaws, the Dewey Decimal System and books you just have to own.


It doesn't make her nostalgic and  wistful for the patriarchy because that shit still exists, in spades.

 Reader, what was the most stimulating, devilish book you hid on the top shelf of your closet?

26 comments:

  1. I don't remember a scintillating book while living at home, but do remember reading the book "Helter Skelter" and leaving it on the table, going to bed and finding it gone. My mom decided I was NOT going to read that crap and that bad boy was GONE.

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    1. I remember sneaking Helter Skelter off the shelf. The photo section inside scared me away. He was one crazy looking MF.

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  2. Well, let's see. My dad was in publishing so books were and are everywhere. Anais Nin's Delta of Venus was on our shelf. I may have read it.

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  3. "Wifey" by Judy Blume.

    Also, a book called "Tiger" that my friends and I passed around in middle school in the 1980s. It was FILTHY. And dammit all, I cannot for the life of me remember the author (and believe me, I have searched) so that I can revisit that book to see if it's as filthy as I remember. Given some of the below-the-belt shenanigans, I am guessing it was.

    (If anyone knows of that book, PLEASE TELL ME.)

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    1. Don't re-read it. You will be disappointed because the sex scenes will likely seem tame. I hid many Judy Blume books under the mattress, particular Forever, which I was specifically asked not to read because it wasn't a children's book -- all the encouragement I needed!

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    2. I've re-read "Wifey" and it was tamer than I had remembered.

      But it's that other book, "Tiger" (and I still cannot remember who the author was), that's driving me nuts and that I want to revisit.

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  4. I don't remember any titles, but they were the racy, sex-filled murder mysteries that my father read. No books were off limits in my house. My Mother believed that any reading was better than watching that "stupid box". So I never had to hide what I was reading. My father, on the other hand, wondered if these novels were too "mature" for my ten year-old mind. My mother told him they were fine because I probably didn't understand the s-e-x. Yes, she spelled the word! I was ten, I knew what s-e-x meant! Anyway, I still love true crime and murder mysteries, thanks dad. ALBUG

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    1. I love homes where there is literary freedom. My mom was pretty lax about what I read once I hit Jr. High, but sometimes I hid books I was reading because the secrecy was part of the adventure.

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  5. Oh, my god, I had that very same book. Same cover. Actually, I'd love to read it again. Didn't the author, Sara Davidson, go on to do something else rather extraordinary? I can't remember, I'll have to google.

    I read everything, but in my "hidden away" section, I had a copy of Kate Millet's "Sexual Politics" which I totally misunderstood. And an old paperback copy of M.M. Kaye's "Shadow of the Moon" which had the most deliciously bodice-ripping sex scenes.

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    1. Yes, Sara has maintained an impressive writing career. I wish she'd write a follow up to Loose Change!

      http://www.saradavidson.com/

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  6. SCRUPLES by Judith Krantz. I was about 16 and brought it home, read it in a day and half, reread some of the more "choice parts" and then stuffed it into the bottom of my library bag. A few days later my Mom handed it back to me and said " Now that you've read THAT, you probably don't have any questions or do you?"Not meant to shame or confront me, just open the conversation (and probably find out if I was still a virgin!) Being "uninitiated " at that point I just turned very red, shook my head and disappeared as quickly as possible without really saying much of anything. My poor Mom, I was not an easy teenager! Bramble

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    1. LOVED Scruples. All that sex and shopping.

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  7. Drugstore magazines. One in particular, Private Confessions of Doctors and Nurses, very detailed described sex in them. I was 14 and transfixed. My mother took them away, deeming inappropriate and entirely below the waist. True, but she didn't throw them away. I found them later hidden in her nightstand. Caught! And it seemed like all the parents of everyone I knew had a copy of the Joy of Sex in their bedrooms. It was the seventies. We used to sneak in and look at them when they weren't around. We got ourselves quite an education in a horrified/fascinated kind of way. Those were the days.

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  8. The Harrad Experiment. Fear of Flying. Our Bodies Ourselves.

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  9. When I was in high school, I worked part time at the town library. So I had unlimited access to all the books about more mature subjects that the library did have, but kept stashed behind the desk so you had to ask the ladies (most of whom were your mother's friends) for them. This is why many of the books were years old, but were in pristine condition. I, on the other hand, could quietly check them out to myself, read them in the privacy of my own home, and just as quietly check them back in.

    The one I remember the most was "Our Bodies, Ourselves". I remember being fascinated, not in a prurient way, but at all the things no one ever told me about bodies and the like. It was also the first time that it was even suggested that my body might be ok just the way it was.

    The one time my mother tried to limit/censor my reading was Sidney Sheldon's "Bloodline". She was reading a copy borrowed from her friend, and it looked interesting, so I picked it up and read it. Yes, it was racy in parts, but was also a pretty good story.

    Mom knew I had picked it up, so when she finished it, she said "I don't think you should keep reading this; I think it's a little much for you". I just looked at her and said "Mom, I'm already done." (I was a FAST reader.) That was the end of that right there, and I pretty much read whatever I wanted.

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    1. I still have an updated copy of Our Bodies, Ourselves. There's some good information in that book. I'm sure the photos were quite intriguing to you at the time. Lots of body hair.

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  10. Joy of Sex when I was 11/12. Found it hidden on my mother's sweater shelf so, bc I wasn't stupid, I hid it under my blankets once purloined.

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  11. Cherry by Mary Karr. And a bunch of early stuff by Rita Mae Brown. First place I read about lesbians, group stuff, golden showers and in general not giving a god damned what anybody thought about what you did. Although I am OCD enough to think that a Golden Shower is about the most repulsive possible thing ever. Maybe not ever, but it would be the beginning of the end of the world.

    ~Molly who still cannot remember her google account password.

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    1. I am a huge Mary Karr fan, but I didn't read her until I was in my twenties. I LOVED her last memoir called Lit. You might like it. It's about her journey to sobriety.

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  12. My mother (a pyschologist in the 1970's) had all sorts of interesting books in her at-home office. I can't remember all the titles (a few were named above) but there was one that was really racy. I think it was by Nancy Friday.

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    1. Oooh, Nancy Friday was one of the pioneers of "researching"
      women's fantasies.

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  13. I also remember, strangely, adoring Flowers in the Attic and all the V.C. Andrews books. She must be a real piece of work in real life.

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  14. Ahhh Forever by Judy Blume. we passed that book around like a hot potato in middle school lest we be caught with it. Of course the sex on the carpet scene was tattered and well marked....

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  15. Oooh! Something I can't remember the name of but I can picture the cover, by Rosemary Rogers. It had some double-entendre title was about as trashy as they come. I swiped it from my mother and returned it several times over the years.

    In high school it was Lawrence Sanders' "The Seduction of Peter S" about a male prostitute. A friend and I were just laughing over that the other day.

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