Wednesday, 26 February 2014

The Hot and the Dead – Linda Goodman

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Your parents probably had a copy of Linda Goodman’s best-selling book, Sun Signs on a bookshelf somewhere. I know mine did. Maybe you’ve got a copy too. The book that explored the zodiac’s influence on human relationships and brought the wonders of astrology into the limelight has sold millions of copies since its release in 1968.

But what was she like? What made Linda Goodman tick? What was behind that thoughtfully posed, high-cheekboned, elfin visage?

Well, erm… nothing much, I reckon. But I can’t really finish there, can I?

Linda Goodman was born Mary Alice Kemery in West Virginia in 1925. Shortly after graduating from Parkesburg High School at age 18, she married William Snyder, with whom she had two children. The marriage didn’t last.

After her divorce, she hosted a local radio show for which she adopted a new persona. Called Love Letters From Linda, the program consisted of her reading out letters sent between World War II soldiers and their sweethearts, interspersed with popular music. It was kinda like Love Song Dedications except the dedications were made to someone probably sitting in a ditch in France with dysentery and a gutful of bayonet.

Linda met her second husband, Sam Goodman, while working in radio. They had two children but later separated. During her marriage to Goodman, Linda discovered astrology, and began years of intense research into its ancient mysteries. This research involved hours and hours of reading about astrology, thinking about astrology and nodding a lot with her mouth slightly open.

After thinking especially hard for a very long time and writing most of it down, Linda produced Sun Signs, and her world exploded into a fiery ball of fame and fortune. In hindsight, the outrageous success of the book was unsurprising – it was plonked right in the middle of the Age of Aquarius and snatched up by millions who found Linda’s easy-to-read style a suitably attractive gateway into the Great Universal Life Plan of What Time You Were Born.

Before Sun Signs, astrology was a fringe spiritualist hobby; an anachronism. Afterwards, it was the key to establishing fulfilling and productive relationships with other humans. Sun Signs transformed humanity into a global fellowship of people who sought out happiness by asking “What’s your sign?” and not, surprisingly, getting punched in the face.

Goodman went on to write Love Signs (1978), Star Signs (1987), Relationship Signs (released posthumously in 1998) and other books of stories and poems with slightly less samey titles.

So the lady could write. And clearly her timing was good. But did this astrology-as-a-relationship-guide stuff ring true? Did Linda live her words? Did she walk her talk? Let’s have a little look, shall we?

First husband: divorced. Second husband: separated. Much-younger-lover and marine biologist Robert Brewer: pissed off to Mexico in 1972, never to return. For someone who made her living analysing and predicting the success or failure of relationships based on a birthdate, I’d say she wasn’t really setting an example.

But I’m not here to poke fun at someone’s career simply because it consists entirely of pseudoscientific bollocks. I’m here to talk about hotness and deadness. Linda Goodman was hot. And Linda Goodman died in 1995 at the age of 70, from complications of diabetes. Still, her books and her spirituality live on. Maybe Linda herself lives on as she would have hoped, reincarnated as a wise person or perhaps an attractive insect of some kind.

Sun Signs and other Goodman books evidently still sell well - the most recent review on amazon.com was posted only two days ago. Nevertheless, to the modern critic, Linda’s literary output may appear cutely outdated, espousing 60s-era values, personalities and social stereotypes. But given that astrology itself has been outdated since some guy in a toga said, “Hey, what if the Earth goes around the sun?” I don’t think it really matters.

Shelley Stocken

Shelley Stocken is a freelance writer when she’s not feeding, clothing and wiping family members.

Follow her on twitter @shellity

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