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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

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Tuesday October 19th, 2021
Stray Leaves Daily

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Tuesday October 19th, 2021
Stray Leaves Daily

☞Today in Old-West History — On today’s date 119 years ago, Sunday, October 19, 1902, notorious Old-West outlaw & fiddle player James Hardin “Uncle Jim” Younger (1848-1902) met his earthly demise at the age of 54 when he committed suicide by gunshot whilst on parole at Saint Paul, Minnesota.

☞Requiéscant In Pace, Jim Younger.

☞Jim Younger was one of the central figures of a band of the most desperate outlaws the Old West ever knew — the infamous James-Younger Gang, which was formed by Jim’s brother Cole Younger along with Frank & Jesse James.

☞Jim Younger joined the Confederate Army during the War Between the States (1861-1865) & served with Quantrill’s Raiders. In 1864, he was captured by Union troops & was imprisoned until the end of the War.

☞After the War, Younger worked on various ranches until he joined the James-Younger Gang in 1873. When his brother John was killed at Roscoe, Missouri in 1874, Jim left the gang & went out west where he worked on a ranch in San Luis Obispo, California.

☞In 1876, Jim returned to the gang, & on September 7 he participated in a bank robbery that became known as the Great Northfield Minnesota Raid. During that robbery he was shot & captured. The James brothers escaped, but Cole, Jim, & Bob Younger were shot up by a posse, arrested, & sentenced to long terms in the state penitentiary at Stillwater, Minnesota, where they were afforded celebrity status.

☞Jim Younger’s fiddle was one of the few possessions that he was allowed to have with him in prison, & he played it often. As time passed, Jim noticed that a little bird would appear most every day in the window of his jail cell. It seemed as though the bird came to listen whenever Jim played his fiddle. Jim was lonely & he befriended the bird which he named “Swipsy.” The bird would fly into the prison cell & Jim would always try to have crumbs to feed Swipsy. One day, a fellow prisoner killed the little bird just for spite. Jim then painted a picture of Swipsy on the back of his violin to remember his little feathered friend.

☞In 1898, the prison warden allowed the prisoners to throw a Christmas party at his own home, with Cole Younger portraying Santa Claus & Jim Younger playing his fiddle.

☞Paroled in 1901, Jim became engaged to his long-time lover Alix Mueller; however, because of the terms of his parole he couldn’t marry her.

☞On October 19, 1902, after a failed attempt to sell tombstones & then insurance, Jim Younger locked himself in his room, wrote a suicide note to Alix, picked up his revolver, & blew his brains out.

☞In 2013, Jim Younger’s fiddle, which was played by him at the famous 1898 Christmas party at Stillwater Prison, was sold at a Dallas, Texas auction for over $11,000.

☞The left-hand photograph depicts the image of Swipsy the Bird that Jim Younger painted on the back of his fiddle. The right-hand photograph depicts an undated studio portrait of Jim Younger.
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Tuesday October 5th, 2021
Stray Leaves Daily

For Drury Woodson James, founder of Paso Robles, CA., and all his descendants, PASO ROBLES FOUNDERS’ DAY 2021. See MoreSee Less