Star Dust nightclub-St. Louis MO

Physicality Influences in Books By Rebecca Busselle

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Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Rebecca Busselle is one the most accomplished book authors among the family of Frank and Jesse James. The strongest and most abiding influence in Becky’s writing is the physical nature of life itself.

A Most Unusual Girlhood Influence

Becky offers Stray Leaves this description of her girlhood years in St. Louis, Missouri when she first encountered a most startling influence.

“I grew up in the Central West End. Summers we cooled down with fans blown over bowls of ice or went to Pevely Dairy where the colored lights took your mind off the heat. Learned to ice skate at the Winter Garden. Took the streetcar to Glazers Drugs in Clayton.”

The playwright Tennessee Williams lived in the Central West End of St. Louis. So did the poet T.S. Eliot and the Beat writer William S. Burroughs. The neighborhood also was home to sculptor George Julian Zolnay, known as the “Sculptor of the Confederacy.”

Then Becky added this unanticipated gem . . .

Lived spitting distance from the DeBalivier strip, where I managed to sneak in to see Evelyn West, the biggest and the best, with her $50,000 treasure chest, insured by Lloyds of London. Sorry to hear she’s gone but amazed she made it so long. RIP.

The DeBalivier strip in St. Louis, Missouri. To the left, out of frame, is the Star Dust nightclub, home to striptease artist Evelyn West.

You would think that a young girl who could appreciate the sensuality, carnality, and fleshliness of the famous stripper Evelyn West might not accomplish much of significance as she grew into her future. But Becky is a descendant in the family of Frank and Jesse James. It is no surprise to the Jesse James family that books by Rebecca Busselle might confound expectations.

Physical Preservation in An Exposure of the Heart

An Exposure of the Heart by Rebecca Busselle

Among the books of Rebecca Busselle, Becky’s first book was An Exposure of the Heart, published in 1989. The review in the New York Times said the following:

Five minutes after I began reading this book, I wanted to slam it shut and hide it away in the deepest recesses of my desk. ‘An Exposure of the Heart’ is a beautifully written, profoundly disturbing account of Rebecca Busselle’s year as a photographer and observer at a New York State institution for the retarded – society’s most invisible people.”

The reviewer concluded, “Rebecca Busselle forces us to ask why society takes so little interest in the lives of those it preserves from physical death.”

Fleshliness in Bathing Ugly

Bathing Ugly by Rebecca Busselle

Physicality is at the core of another of Becky’s books. Her novel Bathing Ugly centers on thirteen-year-old Betsy Sherman.

Attending Camp Sunny Days, operated by a faded beauty queen who can impel casual cruelty upon girls lacking in physical beauty, overweight Betsy spends ten desperate weeks trying to avoid winning the Bathing Ugly contest, the camp’s counterpart to a Bathing Beauty contest. Betsy’s summer ends with flair and vengeance, but not in the way you might think.

Animalism & Self-Destruction in A Frog’s-Eye View

A Frogs-Eye View by Rebecca Busselle

Self-destruction dogs Becky’s next heroine Neela in A Frog’s- Eye View. Haunted by her parent’s alcoholism, Neela is convinced her boyfriend Nick is about to break up with her. She stalks him with the flair and obsessive animalism of Fatal Attraction. She is caught in an adolescent love that is half nightmare, half farce.

Decay & Disintegration in Paul Strand, Southwest

Paul Strand, Southwest by Rebecca Busselle

In Becky’s latest book, Paul Strand, Southwest, Becky introduces many new photographs of the famed protégé of Alfred Stieglitz during his Taos period, when Strand’s relationship with his mentor was disintegrating as fast as his relationship with his wife, Rebecca Salsbury.  Strand’s images of landscapes are dramatic, the ghost towns decayed, the architecture noble, and the images of his wife Rebecca austere. Later, Rebecca Salsbury married William H. James, who is not known to be related to Becky’s James family.

Flaws Make Things Beautiful

Rebecca Starkloff Busselle, 2018

I think about the idea of perfection a lot. I’m a recovering perfectionist. The idea that the flaws are what make things beautiful. And to achieve perfection is sort of the antithesis of what we’re supposed to be. But we’re all striving to do that…being okay with uncertainty or not having ground to stand on or not knowing has really been a struggle to absorb. I think it will take my whole life, I’m sure.

Rebecca Busselle, Yoga Student of the Month
San Busselle & Rebecca Starkloff Busselle

Rebecca is married to Sam Busselle. They both served as Peace Corps Volunteers in Sierra Leone from 1972 to 1975. They now make their home outside New York City.

Family Pedigree & Influencers

Rebecca Starkloff-Busselle

. Elizabeth Egan & Gene B. Starkloff

.. Fannie James & Louis Henry Egan

… John Crawford James & Fannie Shouse

…. Thomas Martin James & Susan Ann Woodward

….. John M. James & Mary “Polly” Poor

…. Robert Sallee James & Zerelda Elizabeth Cole

… Frank & Jesse James

Cover for Stray Leaves Daily
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