Review of the fiction in Dialogue 43.3 (fall2010)


Banner issue for fiction!

I'm not a subscriber and I don't often pick up issues and so perhaps this is more common than I realize, but for provocative, enjoyable, literary fiction, the new Dialogue is par

I picked up this issue largely to read the (very positive) review of The Fob Bible (buy now) so everything else is just gravy.

But, if you are familiar with my Thanksgiving habits, then you know that gravy's where it's at, yo.

Story one: Ryan McIlvain's "The Canyon That Is Not A Canyon"

Full discosure: Ryan's a Fob (I'm pretty sure he's 5.1). He's currently at Stanford on a Stegner Fellowship and I've met in in person precisely once. He's probably best known for his story "Keep It Bible" which apparently was shortlisted for Best American Short Stories and Best American Nonrequired Reading which I find interesting since I really didn't like it all that much.

This story, however, is a winner.

Ryan likes writing about Mormon sexual politics and this story is no different. Wife can no longer handle husband's porn addiction and wants a divorce. Instead, they take a drive to Bryce Canyon and fail to work things out.

In many ways I'm surprised this story works. Ryan's taken on some clever writing gimmicks that I've used myself, but never in a serious piece, and rocks them. He commits all sort of Literary Affectations without getting affective. If you know what I mean. And even worse, he layers on the symbolic lines with a palette knife yet never irritatingly. I don't know how he did it. He committed every sin of literary fiction yet his story transcends each one to be a thing of beauty.

One caveat: I'm not sold on the ending. Just end the story, Ryan. Sheesh. I can only forgive so much.

But Ryan writes gorgeous prose (if Danny Nelson, the most frequently lauded Fob Bible contributor waxes jealous of his "incredibly polished and effortless prose" you know it's excellent) and I've read most of his published work and it is all good and "Canyon" is unquestionable the best. Keep your eye on this Fob. He's going places.

Story two: Roger Terry's "Eternal Misfit"

I can't think of a fiction that comes close to Terry's attempt at creating the Mormon afterlife. Added Upon is the only other reasonable attempt I can think of, but Terry's look at the Terrestrial Kingdom digs deeper into the weirdness of our doctrine. This is a wholly Mormon and only Mormon story.

I admit at first beginning this story I was skeptical. All these sexless eternal beings hanging around libraries and enjoying perfect weather. Forever.

Until Kim realizes he's bored. So he tries to introduce opposition back into the world, starting with a nice, competitive game of soccer.

I know, I know. It sounds embarrassing. It sounds impossible to execute. And so what could be more audacious than this story succeeding? And not just succeeding, but thrilling the reader to the core?

If Brigham Young had had any sense, instead of riffing every lunatic idea he had from one pulpit or another, he would have taken on a nom de plume (Roger Terry might've worked) and secretly published some fiction instead.

But nah. The real Roger Terry's doing just fine.


Elder Jensen Sez & The Doodle Family


In the last couple of weeks I've run a couple series of posts which have garnered a bit of attention. One thing I intended to do but have not, is add a bit to the end of each post, a series of interlinks. I'm doing so now.

At the end of the Doodle posts appears this:
At the end of the Elder Jensen posts appears this:

Svithe: YWRock


Our ward's Young Women ran church today, talking about what is it to have faith and how do you know when you have it. It was strikingly absent of saccharine and complex and heartfelt. Quite a joy.

Plus, my favorite seminary song.

One thing I worry about with LDS youth is that we keep them from thinking complex thoughts about religion until they are adults and they are suddenly forced to grapple with religion's complexity. So I was warmed to hear them speak complexly today even while still young.

Nice work, young people.

previous svithe


Svithe: What Elder Jensen said (in closing)


(Introductory note: Elder Jensen also agreed to give a fireside Sunday night. This was given at the beautiful 19030s Berkeley building and we as a ward looked at it as a chance to really show off our building. We gave it a deep clean, flew in an emeritus member with particularly good organ chops, the works. Elder Jensen looked at this fireside more as an opportunity to function in his role as Church Historian and Recorder. He told us he had thought of just making the whole meeting Q&A but the Spirit recommended against that. Instead, he spoke on various topics then took questions as pertaining to those topics.)

(Postintroductory note: As a reminder, my notes are fallible and nothing I write should be construed as being Exactly What Elder Jensen Said. It is entirely possible that I botched up his meaning or intent at some point and so please proceed with caution and assume attempted accuracy on my part. Thanks.)

When called as Church Historian/Recorder, the position had been vacant for several years (about seven). He did not ask President Hinckley why that long hiatus and it's too late now.

Jensen: What are your expectations for me as the Historian.
Hinckley: Read the scriptures and do your duty.
Jensen: What are your expectations of me as Recorder.
Hinckley: I haven't given that a bit of thought. But you better.

The Church is about to begin a big project turning Harmony, Pennsylvania into a Church History site. Upon completion of that, turning US sites into historical attractions will cease and the Church History Department will turn more to the internationalizing of Church History. This has already begun in a small way in Britain and will soon begin in earnest in Mexico, Brazil, the Philippines and other nations.

Each area of the church is working on calling area historians and 50 are already working worldwide to collect the stories of History Happening Now throughout the world.

Minutes for the Council of Fifty and Nauvoo's Relief Society will soon be online, neither of which have ever fully been available before. This is exciting. [That's both a sorta quote and an editorial comment.]

Speaking of Relief Society and history, the History Department is actively soliciting women's writings throughout the Church's history. They're even advertising for such records in the Mormon Times.

Incidentally, this is part of the rehabilitation of Emma.

A new Comprehensive History of the Church is being planned for the bicentennial (2030). The expectation is that it will be four volumes with a massive web component.

History should flow from the individual to the family to the ward to the stake to the area to the Church.

The Church is beginning to digitize the gazillions [my word, not his] of records in Granite Mountain and hopes to have them online by [. . . 2015?].

The Joseph Smith Papers is selling like gangbusters in its first two volumes, 65,000 and 15,000[?] copies respectively. In addition to the books to be published in hardcopy, everything will eventually end up online. [Incidentally, Elder Jensen recently published an article about the second-published volume and Irreantum had a nice review of it, if you are a subscriber.]

The Church no longer needs to apologize for itself or its history. We are in the era of transparency. But we will still always have critics.

Church History Library: The Story Lives Here
Church History Museum: Come Live The Story

Priesthood Leadership (mostly on women)
Early Sunday Morning (mostly on Mormon/gay relations)
Sunday Morning (mostly on trees)
Sunday Evening Fireside (mostly on Church History)


Svithe: What Elder Jensen (also) said


(Introductory note: So we've finally made it to the general session of stake conference. This is even further away from Elder Jensen's actual words than the other molaq quotes in the previous two svithes. He said this was the first time he was trying out this extended metaphor. I thought it worked well. But I'm)

The Church has a forester on staff who primarily takes care of lumber but they also work with a fellow in Palmyra who has, over time, been given stewardship over the Sacred Grove. He's not educated with a degree and forestry and he's not even a Mormon but he has a great love and instinct for the trees of upstate New York and the Grove in particular. The forester doesn't really approve of his methods, but they are working.

The man's name is Robert or Roger Parrot [sic? Elder Jensen even spelled it for me but I was in another room with the kids and without my notebooks and didn't quite get it] and philosophy is, basically, to let nature run its course. No more careful bark-lined paths. No more clearing away deadfall. No more removing the healthier tree's competition. And under his stewardship the Grove has thrived.

We can find a lot of lessons here. (Basically, how every thing they had done preParrot while well intentioned resulted in weaker unhealthier trees. And each of those things is a metaphor to apply in our own lives. I'll let you do the heavy lifting here.) Every tree, to thrive, must grow towards the light. And so must we.

(Conclusionary note: The most striking image in this long extended metaphor to me is the tree that, its access to light blocked, makes a right turn in its trunk, moves into the light, then begins growing upward again. I think that's just beautiful.)

yesterday's svithe

Priesthood Leadership (mostly on women)
Early Sunday Morning (mostly on Mormon/gay relations)
Sunday Morning (mostly on trees)
Sunday Evening Fireside (mostly on Church History)


Svithe: What (else) Elder Jensen said


(Metaïntroductory note: Apparently --- and I didn't know this --- but apparently it is typical, when a General Authority [innermetanote: I'm going deep with the unexplained Mormon terms again] attends a stake conference, for the General Authority to hold a special meeting the morning of the general session for a select group of invited memmbers. The last visiting authority to our stake was Bishop McMullin and he met with recently baptized members [why I wasn't invited and thus remained ignorant]. This time, Elder Jensen met with member of our stake who may have been particularly wounded or troubled by Prop 8. I'm not sure how Lady Steed and I ended up on the invite list as we doubt we were "particularly" affected, but we did and we weren't going to miss it. So we packed up our kids and let them play baseball in a room elsewhere in the building while we sat near the back of the baptistery.)

(Introductory note: The format of the meeting began with the stake president discussing the history of the stake's efforts to heal after Prop 8 [cf]), then he invited those in attendance to speak frankly, taking turns at the front. People talked primarily about their pain and confusion related to the Church's handling of Prop 8 directly or about their pain and confusion related to being gay and Mormon, gay and formerly Mormon, or being closely related to such a person. This part of the meeting went, as you might imagine, long. I ended up not standing up because the personal stories hit all my points, but if I had taken the chance to speak, there are three things I don't understand which I would've loved to have addressed: 1. I don't understand the scriptural (canonical) basis for the Church's policy against homosexuality. Few doctrines with that amount of scriptural basis do we bother adhering to. 2. Even if homosexuality is a dire sin, I don't understand how preventing suchlike from entering legally sanctioned committed relationships will result in a net moral loss for society at large. 3. I wonder where the Church will go now, because the court case was an utter debacle --- it's hard to imagine how Prop 8 proponents could have lost worse or more thoroughly. Legally, it's over. So will the Church continue to engage in a lost battle or . . . what's our plan exactly? But anyway, people's pain and tears covered those points, just not as succinctly. After these stories, Elder Jensen rose to speak.)

Trust is my stock in trade as a General Authority and I don't want to lose it but I do want to use it for those I can help in my ministry.

The Lord expects better of us. (By which he meant that members who behaved uncharitably toward the gay community during 2008 etc are not to be commended.)

The Church has learned from its Prop-8 experience and will likely handle things differently in the future, ala Argentina.

(Concluding note: I did not take many notes during this meeting. Elder Jensen made some comments that made me feel that to record a large percentage of his words would be inappropriate. So in conclusion, near the beginning of his words, he apologized directly and personally and forthrightly and emotionally for the pain that was caused to so many during the campaign. His sincerity could not be doubted and I heard many sobs from those in attendance. Clearly, Elder Jensen is not in a position to change doctrine or even apologize for it [this was not the nature of his apology], but having witnessed the meeting, I think that the real purpose of the meeting was to give the downtrodden the chance to feel heard and understood and loved, and in that respect I think the meeting was a stirring success.)

(Postconcluding note: In the general session of stake conference, our stake president spoke on the meaning of the scripture Charity Seeketh Not Her Own. I've meant to svithe* on this before but haven't yet, but the gist is that, in context, the scripture is clearly teaching us that those with charity to not cleave only unto people like unto themselves, but unto those wholly different as well. And so, as his final example of charity seeking not her own, he told of a recent dinner he had with a couple, both lapsed Mormons, who desire to return to the faith. Their daughter ran around the house as they and the stake president and his wife spoke together. Then he asked us is our stake had room for a couple of lapsed Mormons. Answer: Yes. For charity seeketh not her own. And what if this couple is unmarried. Is their room in our stake for them then? Yes. For charity seeketh not her own. And if they are of the same gender? Have we room for them then? Yes. For charity seeketh not her own.)

*I've been a lazy svither
lately, ergo this multi-
part svithe. Call it the
beginnings of my eventual
redemption. Kaybye.

yesterday's svithe

Priesthood Leadership (mostly on women)
Early Sunday Morning (mostly on Mormon/gay relations)
Sunday Morning (mostly on trees)
Sunday Evening Fireside (mostly on Church History)


Svithe: What Elder Jensen said


Elder Marlin K. Jensen is visiting our stake this weekend. Currently, Lady Steed is attending the adult session while I type and listen to kids not make noise. This afternoon, however, I was able to sit in another meeting with Elder Jensen and I thought a number of his comments were striking. Here are some:

(Preïntroductory note: In writing the introductory note, I realized that this post would be heavily heavily Mormon --- too Mormon to easily annotate. So, for those 5.99 billion who are not Mormon, please advance with that in mind. Sorry for the opacity.)

(Introductory note: Before Elder Jensen spoke, a member of our stake presidency spoke and his primary concern was how, in a naturally patriarchal church [no women in attendance at this meeting, for instance], it is important that women's voices are heard. Among other points, pointed out that quantitywise, practically all revelation Churchwide is personal revelation and therefore women receive half the revelation in the Church. Also, that a ward's Relief Society president is not the bishop's Relief Society president, but the Relief Society president and should be viewed as a source of counsel, not someone to give jobs too. He noted that another member of the stake presidency, when bishop, had the Relief Society in attendance at PEC. Etc. Elder Jensen began by following up on these ideas.)

(Postintroductory note: Nothing I type here should be construed as being a perfect quotation. Everything is close and everything matches the spirit of what he said, but few if any are word-for-word as he said. Be advised. Some are even obviously my retelling of his stories. Be sensible before repeating any of this.)

There are no kings without queens, no priests without priestesses.

And no presidents without presidentesses. Which was what Eliza R. Snow was called. Though somehow we have gotten away from that.

To be faithful is good. To be competent also is better.

Elder Marion D. Hanks: I've been to the statistics factory. I know how they're made.

Once at a Tuesday-after-General-Conference training with the Seventies, Elder Packer said that he had seen one of the Seventy that weekend being unkind to his wife. He then said that he had lost respect for that Seventy, but was confident it could be regained. Elder Jensen naturally thought of the disciples asking "Lord, is it I?" and during a break called his wife to ask he had been unkind to his wife that weekend? publicly? She said no and he was relieved.

His wife: You would be so odd if it weren't for me.

His wife: What happened to those nice short talks you used to give?
He: Well, I'm older now. I feel like I should share what I've learned.
She: Well don't.

Spouse as peer-reviewer.

Elder Packer has also said that the three most important developments he has seen in the Church are the 1978 revelation on the priesthood, the roughly-the-same-time release of the LDS versions of the scriptures, and the evolution of the Seventies. He says that he would now like to see elders quorums develop as the seventies already have --- not in the same way, but towards a more complete measure of their intended duties.

Elder Jensen's father: It takes a mighty good meeting to be better than no meeting at all.

previous svithe

Priesthood Leadership (mostly on women)
Early Sunday Morning (mostly on Mormon/gay relations)
Sunday Morning (mostly on trees)
Sunday Evening Fireside (mostly on Church History)


The Doodle Family: Pucker

Pucker Doodle is the shyest of the Doodle boys, but he knows what he likes. If you know what I mean.

Step six: Roll the Doodle doughballs in a mixture of 1T sugar to 1t amchoor powder. But before you start mixing, fiddle with that mixture to taste. For every 2 or 3ts of amchoor, add one more t. And every 3 or 3Ts of sugar, throw in a t of sour salt (crystallized citric acid).

The amchoor makes it sour and fruity but the citric acid adds punch. A number of people told me eating Puckers was like eating Sour Patch Kids (buy ten pounds! why not!) which, as an old fan, I found quite the compliment.

I've received more positive comments on Puckers than any other of the Doodle brothers and Pucker is my personal favorite of the new flavors as well. In my opinion, it's the most addictive. Which is good, right? I think?

Coming Soon!
Doodle Family DNA
Snicker Doodle
Skorcher Doodle
Porker Doodle
Pucker Doodle


The Doodle Family: Porker

Porker's the wild man at the party, hip with a chat and a laff and a slap on the back. Soon as you see him coming, pump up the volume.

Step six: Roll the Doodle doughballs in a mixture of 1T and 1t of sugar to 1t Bacon Salt.

Of all four Doodle brothers, Porker is unquestionably the favorite of the Big O (age six) and Large S (age three). Our home cookie stash ran out of Porkers before running out of anything else.

It's curious how smoky and savory it can be, yet still be a delicious cookie. While last year's -bacon chocolate-chip cookies were good (and also hugely popular with my kids), I think these are better. Improving my bacon-cookie brand, year by year, I am Theric.

Coming Soon!
Doodle Family DNA
Snicker Doodle
Skorcher Doodle
Porker Doodle
Pucker Doodle


The Doodle Family: Skorcher

Skorcher's a dangerous fellow. He's been known to make people grasp their throats, he's made little girls scream in pain and fright. But: he's totally charming.

Step six: Roll the Doodle doughballs in a mixture of 1T sugar to 1t cayenne. This is easily scaled of course, for every T add a t, upwards or downwards.

One thing worth adding though is that Lady Steed and I have the some incredibly hot cayenne. As you read above, cayenne's supposed to top out at 50,000 scovilles but that's were Tabasco tops out and these cookies were hotter than any Tabasco I've ever used. 

If I make Skorchers again (and I might because they did taste good) I plan to double the sugar. Right now, only masochists such as myself are capable of enjoying these cookies.

Coming Soon!
Doodle Family DNA
Snicker Doodle
Skorcher Doodle
Porker Doodle
Pucker Doodle


The Doodle Family: Snicker

Snicker's the happiest of the Doodle boys always there with a joke and smile and a teehee and a haha. A jolly young gentleman is Snicker; a jolly young gentleman he. With a smile on his lips and charm head to hips to his toes he is smiling and free.

Step six: Roll the Doodle doughballs in a mixture of 1T sugar to 1t cinnamon (or cassia, as the case may be). This is easily scaled of course, for every T add a t, upwards or downwards.

Coming Soon!
Doodle Family DNA
Snicker Doodle
Skorcher Doodle
Porker Doodle
Pucker Doodle


The Doodle Family: Basic DNA


Every September in the Berkeley Ward, we hold a New Member Dinner / Men's Cookoff. The cookoff is a surprisingly intense competition and all the families who've moved in during the last twelvemonth make a poster about themselves to help us get to know them.

This year I entered the dessert competition with the Doodle Family.

Today I'll share with you basic Doodle genetics and through the rest of the week I'll introduce you to the four Doodle brothers, using the same basic materials I used in making a fake new-family poster to advertise the goods.

I used this recipe for Mrs. Sigg's from allrecipes.com because it had over 2500 ratings averaging nearly five and over 30,000 had saved the recipe. These looked like good signs. Also, interesting fact, this is the first time I've used shortening in my entire adult life.

The recipe [my alterations]:

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract [but splosh in more than this to the sound of about another t]
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

Step one: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
[Actually, given our oven, I set it at 350.]

Step two: Cream together butter, shortening, cups sugar, the eggs and the vanilla.

Step three: Blend together the flour, cream of tartar, soda and salt; then add to the creamed stuff.

[Step four: Fridgerate it for a few days, tempting wife and children.]

Step five: Shape dough into [little] balls.

[Step six: (see the individual brothers)]

Step seven: Bake [6] minutes.

Come back tomorrow to meet the most famous of the Doodle brothers, Snicker!

Coming Soon!
Doodle Family DNA
Snicker Doodle
Skorcher Doodle
Porker Doodle
Pucker Doodle


Holy guacamole! Have you seen the fiction in the new issue of Irreantum?


I think sometimes people don't believe me when I say that Irreantum is one of my two favorite literary rags; I can understand this --- after all, I'm a big booster of Mormon letters so it makes sense that I would want people to engage either way. But I'm not lying. Irreantum is, to the best of my knowledge, one of the two best literary journals going (I'm only talking about fiction here, by the way; other forms are necessarily secondary in my mind) (and the other of the two, incidentally, is One Story) (though it's been slipping lately and Irreantum, as we shall see, is getting better).

Three stories in this issue. Let's talk about them in pager order, which also happens to be the ascending order of excellence.

A Confession by Lisa Madsen Rubilar
    Although my weariness for rural Utah fiction remains officially in place, two stories this issue made me forgiven them that sin, this being the first. A man, nearing death, commits to paper a defining series of events earlier in his life, in which a man he loved stole irrigation water from him and in which he saw an angel. I'll admit that part of the reason I originally conceived of an angel story myself was because of discussions (one example) that challenged me to do so. Because angel stories often suck. But this one did not. It was complex and uncertain and the main character never quite knew what the angel's appearance meant. Which makes angels like real life. Which means angels can be part of real life. Which is part of the Mormon challenge.

When We Remembered Zion by Thom Duncan
    Like angel stories, Second Coming stories can, as a general rule, be assumed to suck. And while Duncan's story could be accused of sidestepping some of the most challenging tropes of the genre (Where, for instance, is Jesus?), he doesn't make any missteps when it comes to the story he is trying to tell. We're back in rural Utah, this time postapocalypse. A small band of Saints is alone and abandoned by the rest of the world (though that may be all for the better, given the violence of the past) when the hierarchy starts breaking down. A barely pubescent boy and girl fall in love while their mothers experience something called the Vision. The story dips into magic realism in subtle and appropriate ways and left me with a feeling of dizzy delight. One recommendation, when you get to the final page, be sure to cover the last line with your hand to keep from accidentally reading it before arriving there. Because as charmed as I was with the story, I was absolutely left weak by the utterly perfect last line. Don't miss it.

The Man and His Wife by Lon Young
    This is Young's first published fiction and a couple moments of awkwardness in handling the diary entries and the movie memories are in play. But ultimately, those minor slips do not register because the story is absolutely astonishing --- one of my favorites in recent memory. Rarely have I seen such blatant symbolism handled with such subtlety and simplicity. Young clearly trusts his readers. Plus, it was nice to see nudity used as a positive symbol for a change. Hoo. I can feel my heart speeding up (not because of the nudity). I'm just so excited about the story told here. I've not heard this deliriously Mormon story told before but I suspect that everyone who does read it will have a hard time not writing their own imitation. It's just that bright and shiny and original. Beautiful stuff.

I have about forty more pages to read, but that's it for the fiction. I've read three of the essays (one engages is absolutely every technique that has made me sick of creative nonfiction, one is brilliant, and one is really good) and I've read the poetry (I didn't get Papworth's or Eggertsen's, but quite liked Babcock's and Chadwick's).

If I have anything else to say as I continue to read, I'll add it to the comments.

Oh. And nice cover, by the way. I didn't scan it, but here's an ittybitty rendition from their website. Click to subscribe. (That's an order.)


In defense of labor


I understand that unions are part of the problem that many California cities are in danger of bankruptcy, and that fair wages and decent benefits are part of the reason schools are in trouble.


Let's be fair.

The reason America's in the tanker now has nothing to do with unions. It's the fatcats sinking banks and taking huge bonuses. Imagine what schools could do with 10% of Wall Street's bonuses.


Micah 6:8 (svithe)


The Lord hath shewed thee what is good.

And what doth the Lord require of thee,
but to do justly,
to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with thy God?

previous svithe


Next Five Books, yo
(ugly and illegible Paint edition)


040) The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, finished September 1

Finally! I'm not too late the zeitgeist!

The book's about everything you've heard. Even I, who never rush through books anymore, rushed through this book. Even I, who never stays up late in an attempt to finish a book, stayed up late attempting to finish a book last night.

The book is imperfect however. After the natural conclusion, Collins attempted to introduce a secondary climax which fizzled, though I suppose it may matter in later books. I hope it does.

SPOILER PARAGRAPH: My other major complaint is that none of the heroic characters are made to murder another heroic character. That was the great moral complexity the book promised but utterly failed to deliver on. And while I suppose that was nice, it does make me wonder if the author's nervous of going to the truly dark places. And if she's afraid to go there, where else will she be afraid of going?

Anyway, I'm planning on reading the other two as well. (It's great getting books from the school library before it opens for students.)

three days


039) Buy Ketchup in May and Fly at Noon: A Guide to the Best Time to Buy This, Do That and Go There by Mark Di Vincenzo, finished August 28

Lately, trips to the inlaws have resulted in interesting library books to peruse. I read all the When-is-it-best-to questions and a goodly percentage of the answers. And ever since (it's been a couple days now) I've been quoting salient and worthwhile facts. I want to get a copy of this book and share all the education-related ones with my students and just to have on hand next time I'm thinking about buying a refrigerator.

And, incidentally, buy ketchup in May because it's cheapest then, not freshest. Whatever you might mean by fresh Heinz.

(More tips from Vince, only online.)

an afternoon and evening


038) Bluebeard by Kurt Vonnegut, finished August 25

Perhaps if this was your first Vonnegut book you might be suitably impressed, but otherwise you're apt to think, well, themes copied from this book and this books, narrative voice renewed from this book and this book.

So, in other words, not one of his best. But still enjoyable. Made me want to read Breakfast of Champions again since a) they share characters and b) I don't really remember it at all.

about a month


037) In the Void by Michael R. Collings, finished August 21

When I first read Michael Collings --- in Irreantum --- it was one of those rare moments when a poem opens up and speaks to me as reader as if written in the moment for my eyes. I doubt this has happened ten times in my life, but it does happen and this was such an experience.

So when he sent me a copy earlier this year (full disclosure) I was happy to dig in. Particularly because I believe "genre" poetry has potential and I've never really seen it done well.

And this book's full title is, after all, In the Void: Poems of Science Fiction, Myth and Fantasy, & Horror.

    Another example of opening poetry occurred shortly after my high-school graduation in the pages of The New Yorker --- a poem about a snowman by Sparrow. I later had more indepth experiences with Sparrow while carrying a Sun subscription and found him half bore, half blowhard. But, then again, no way he could live up to the mythologized late-adolescent experience he had catalyzed.
I've had a similar experience with this book. I have enjoyed it. I've found numerous poems I plan to introduce to my students. I had some laughs and I had some dark smiles. I can recommend the book without reservation. I did not lose myself and rediscover myself in a new country.

But it's not fair to expect that from every book --- even one written by someone who has reached those heights before. SO let me leave you with a snippet:
    ....to dine, to surfeit on web-wrapped parts— the crimson spider at their heart.
about four months


036) Three Men on the Bummel by Jerome K. Jerome, finished August 18

This I think, will be the final book I read on the Kindle before returning it. I downloaded it as a mobi from Gutenberg and it worked like a charm.

This book is the sequel to one of my all-time favorite books and while not as fully engaging as Three Men in a Boat, it was still mostly good. Some dry storyless patches in the middle where he just goes on and on about Germany (something he swore he would not do), but still worth a read.

What was heartbreaking though, was to read the Wikipedia article and learn that his companions in these two books, Harris and George, are not real. In fact, he had taken these vacations with his wife. I sputter impotently in disbelief. I wonder if Connie Willis knows.....

In the final chapters, his analysis of preWorld-Wars Germany is wonderful and delightful but also clearly primed for Nazis.

I wonder if this book is still as popular as it once was in German English-language classrooms and if so what the current generation thinks of the book.

Let's share a couple passages, shall we?

JKJ on being an early adopter:
    I agree in trying new experiments up to thirty-five; after thirty-five I consider a man is entitled to think of himself.
JKJ correctly predicts the new lingua franca:
    In the course of the century, I am inclined to think that Germany will solve her difficulty in this respect by speaking English. Every boy and girl in Germany, above the peasant class, speaks English. Were English pronunciation less arbitrary, there is not the slightest doubt but that in the course of a very few years, comparatively speaking, it would become the language of the world. All foreigners agree that, grammatically, it is the easiest language of any to learn. A German, comparing it with his own language, where every word in every sentence is governed by at least four distinct and separate rules, tells you that English has no grammar. A good many English people would seem to have come to the same conclusion; but they are wrong. As a matter of fact, there is an English grammar, and one of these days our schools will recognise the fact, and it will be taught to our children, penetrating maybe even into literary and journalistic circles. But at present we appear to agree with the foreigner that it is a quantity neglectable. English pronunciation is the stumbling-block to our progress. English spelling would seem to have been designed chiefly as a disguise to pronunciation. It is a clever idea, calculated to check presumption on the part of the foreigner; but for that he would learn it in a year.
JKJ on why Germans became the bane of the Twentieth Century:
    Their everlasting teaching is duty. It is a fine ideal for any people; but before buckling to it, one would wish to have a clear understanding as to what this "duty" is. The German idea of it would appear to be: "blind obedience to everything in buttons." It is the antithesis of the Anglo-Saxon scheme; but as both the Anglo-Saxon and the Teuton are prospering, there must be good in both methods. Hitherto, the German has had the blessed fortune to be exceptionally well governed; if this continue, it will go well with him. When his troubles will begin will be when by any chance something goes wrong with the governing machine.

perhaps a month perhaps less

Previously in 2010 . . . . :

035) Utah: Sex and Travel Guide by Calvin Grondahl, finished August 10
034) E Pluribus Unicorn by Theodore Sturgeon, finished August 9
033) The Complete Peanuts, 1971 to 1972 by Charles M. Schulz, finished August 6
032) I Am Not a Serial Killer by Dan Wells, finished August 6
031) Rogue Clone by Steven L. Kent, finished July 26
030) Servant of a Dark God by John Brown, finished July 21
029) Drink Me, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Blog by James Goldberg, finished June 9
028) Out of the Mount (tentative title) edited by Davey Morrison, finished June 8
027) Madman Boogaloo! by Mike Allred, Mike Baron, Bernie Mireault, Steve Rude; finished June 2
026) The Education of Robert Nifkin by Daniel Pinkwater, finished May 22
025) True Grit by Charles Portis, finished May 21
024) Old Man's War by John Scalzi, finished May 15
023) Pandora's Nightmare: Horror Unleashed, finished May 13
022) Anthem by Ayn Rand, finished May 11
021) Look! It's Jesus!: Amazing Holy Visions in Everyday Life by Harry Choron and Sandra Choron, finished May 9
020) Travels in the Scriptorium: A Novel by Paul Auster, finished May 5
019) Suburban Folklore by Steven Walters, finished May 4
018) The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall, finished April 30
017) Gracie: A Love Story by George Burns by George Burns, finished April 20
016) The Autobiography of Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley, finished April 15
015) Dispensation: Latter-Day Fiction edited by Angela Hallstrom, finished March 24
014) The Best American Comics 2009 edited by Charles Burns, finished March 22
013) Icon: A Hero's Welcome by Dwayne McDuffie and MD Bright, finished March 17
012) There's Treasure Everywhere by Bill Watterson, finished March 15
011) Static Shock: Rebirth of the Cool. Finished right at midnight between March 13 and 14
010) Teen Titans: Year One by Amy Wolfram et al, finished March 7
009) The Complete Calvin and Hobbes, Book One by Bill Watterson, finished March 6
008) Apparition & Late Fictions: A Novella and Stories by Thomas Lynch, finished March 5
007) Stone Rabbit #1: BC Mambo by Erik Craddock, finished March 2
006) The Selected Works of T. S. Spivet by Reif Larsen, finished February 23
005) Missile Mouse 2 by Jake Parker (MS POLICY), finished February 5
004) Heroes of the Fallen by David J. West, finished February 4
003) Still Life in Milford by Thomas Lynch, finished January 19
002) Rapunzel's Revenge by Hales Shannon Dean and Nathan, finished January 16
001) Mormoniana by Mormon Artists Group, finished January 13