The Movies of 2013*: One-paragraph reviews
*third third only
*feature-length only


Well, I thought we might get out one more time to see one of the great-looking artsy films in theaters this month or watch one of the movies we impulsively picked up at a Blockbuster fire sale but maybe year?

In theaters:

Gravity (2013): Tell you what: space has just lost a lot of its attraction. But my opinion? It's as good as everyone's said. Sandra Bullock will be getting an Oscar nomination. And sitting close to the screen with 3D glasses? Awesome. I jumped and gasped when pieces of the ISS flew past me. And it was not a cheap thrill. It was part of a real and dangerous world. But seriously: I don't really need to go into space anytime soon.

Ender's Game (2013): If you haven't read the book, I say watch the movie first. The novel is so rich and deep. The movie necessarily simplifies, but I think it does a good job. Hard to say though as I know the novel fairly well (not great---I'm not ready for a tv-based Ender's Game Trivia shootout---just fairly well). But I did enjoy the movie and was even moved a couple times and now I really really want someone to attempt to bring Shadow of the Hegemon to the screen (big or---maybe better---small). It'll never happen of course (Peter and Valentine, necessarily, were underdeveloped; no Achilles; your first-movie lead has no role), but it would be cool. The other effect the movie had on me was a deep desire to reread Speaker for the Dead. Of course, you can read any of these books yourself.

The Muppet Movie (1979): I'm not employing hyperbole when I say that this was one of the greatest movie-theater experiences of my life. I've watched this movie a handful of times in my life---most of them in adulthood, most like---but I've listened to the soundtrack HUNDREDS of times. After graduating from high school, for some reason I bought the tape and it was on regular rotation the year before and the year after my mission when I logged endless commute hours driving from Tehachapi to Bakersfield and back. I know these songs as well or better than all other songs in the world. I don't know if I go through a week without singing lines from "Rainbow Connection" or "Movin' Right Along" or "Can You Picture That?" or "I Hope That Somethin' Better Comes Along or "I'm Going To Go Back There Someday" or "The Magic Store." The DNA of this movie has merged with my own DNA and I'm some sort of Muppet hybrid. Anyway, seeing it with an audience of adults who laughed at the Hari Krishna jokes and kids who laughed at Miss Piggy beating up badguys was a joy. I nearly wept for some reason when Big Bird said he was heading to New York City to try to break into public television. Holy smokes, this was great. I need a theater to do a singalong next. I mostly kept myself from singing along today, but not entirely.

Frozen (2013): Given the hype around this movie, I expected more. My bad. Still. Pretty good. Both Lady Steed and I agreed that sometimes the voices didn't seem to be coming out of the mouths on the screen. The songs were more Broadway than Disney and I don't think they'll age well. The character design was off at times. And while I'll give props for playing against some Disney-fairy-tale tropes, they played into others twice as big. So overall a win, but nothing to start an Oscar campaign over.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013): We went 3D on this one in order to get the higher frame-rate projection. The first movie was a headache to watch---the camera moved to quickly to make out anything. Everything was blurred. The higher frame rate solved this problem, though it did introduce the too-real problem. I don't really care how closely the movie followed the book; I liked the movie. Not a great movie like the LotRs tended to be, but perfectly enjoyable. It is getting a bit ridiculous how no dwarf can die though. Just saying.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013): First, it must be said again and again, Jennifer Lawrence is the real thing. A star. And not for today, but I suspect she would prove to be one of the all-time greats. That final look at her face is what Hitchcock said[citation needed] is the greatest special effect: the human face undergoing emotional change. I liked this movie better than the first, which is remarkable when you consider the books started (in my minority opinion) merely okay and got worse. Good writing, pacing, casting. And Jennifer Lawrence.

At home:

His Girl Friday (1940): Although as rapid-fire and funny as I expected, I did not expect how dark it was. With constant undercurrents of crime and war and corruption, it's not a film that can be dismissed as pure fun. (Not that there's anything wrong with pure fun.) I have to admit I wasn't able to fully enjoy it as a movie because I was too busy studying how it---especially its dialogue---was crafted. It's not just speedily delivered---it's complicated and tightly rigged, that dialogue.

Waitress (2007): I didn't like what was done with music and I thought the medical details were a bit sketchy and that old Joe wasn't consistently imagined. Which might sound like a lot, but the film is pretty astonishing all the same. Keri Russell has true star charisma dialed into a small, small space now I really need to see Austenland). The writing was sharp in the way we associate with Diablo Cody or Quentin Tarantino, but it's a bit more honest and believable. I particularly was intrigued by the protagonist's imagining of pies. That's something I can learn from.

Swiss Family Robinson (1960): Sure it has some "flaws," but seriously: is there a more fun movie to watch with your family? I mean really? And frankly, some of those flaws could just as easily be taken as lessons in innovative storytelling. No need to connect the obvious dots, friend.

The Cheat (1915): After recognizing the pirate captain in Swiss Family Robinson, I went to IMBd to look him up. Of course: Bridge over the River Kwai (which I've never seen but have seen enough famous scenes from). But it ends up that Sessue Hayakawa was a major Hollywood star of the silent era. And this is the film that made him famous. Made him a major romantic lead. Before America got all racist against Asians and stuff. But if this is a preracist film, holy moly, I would hate to watch a racist one. (Note: I actually saw the 1918 rerelease version of the film.)

The Amazing Adventure (1936): Apparently the version I watched was the American cut, trimmed twenty minutes from the British original. Which is a shame, because I kept thinking that editing was absolutely amateurish and that a bit more room to develop would have served the characters well. Not that more minutes could fix the generally bad writing or flaky directing, but it wouldn't have hurt either. Anyway, that said, this movie is proof that Cary Grant can carry a film. Even with all its flaws, I rather enjoyed this mess. I would have loved to've seen him in vaudeville.

A Night at the Opera (1935): No chaos like Marx Bros. chaos. By the way, have you ever noticed that Chico in a gypsy costume looks a lot like Fred Armison? Fred Armison needs to do a Chico. Anyway, the crammed-cabin routine gets funnier every time I see it.

The Iron Giant (1999): Little Lord Steed's been bugging to watch this movie for a week. Large S started by saying it would be too scary and wanting none of it to wanting to watch it. Big O recalls liking it. All three spent much of the movie covering their faces or hiding under tables or leaving the room. Clearly, we're not ready for Jurassic Park yet. As for me? Well. No movie makes me sob like The Iron Giant makes me sob.

Elf (2003): A true holiday classic notwithstanding its third-act collapse (and absurd view of picture-book publishing), Elf may be the most important movie I've seen in the last ten years by virtue of introducing me to Zooey Deschanel's voice.

When Harry Met Sally... (1989): I see why everyone loves this movie so much. And like Casablanca that it references, it's so loaded with lines I just know, even though I've never seen this movie before. The interstitial interviews were more daring than they seem and worked quite well. Overall, so nice to see a good romcom. It's been a while.

The Indian in the Cupboard (1995): Wow. Intrusive score, poor acting, weak script. Not sad I missed this last time around. The kids really wanted to watch it though (don't ask me how they found out about it) so I complied. Alas, alas. Not Frank Oz's finest work. Some classid 90s hair on display though. So that's fun.

Sleepwalk with Me (2012): I've been wanting to see this movie since I heard some thing with Mike Brubiglia and Ira Glass on NPR when it came out. It was in a Berkeley theater at the time, but we weren't able to work it. How does it stand up to his radio work? Pretty well. It's a good movie, to be sure. When it ended, I blurted, "That's the end???" with three question marks and so I guess I'm left a tad unsatisfied, but now I want to see My Girlfriend's Boyfriend. So no too unsatisfied.


Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) 2x: Such a well crafted movie from the words to the blocking. The closest thing I can think of to a complaint is the sometimes flexible sizes of things. A chicken, for instance, shrinks when a fox holds it.

A Bucket of Blood (1959): I'm happy to report if you can get 14yrolds past the opening few minutes, they totally dig this movie.

Monsters, Inc. (2001): Interesting this time to see how the storytellers dealt with Boo's scaring. It's not entirely consistent, but I've seen this movie so many times and never noticed before.

Now You See Me (2013): It's a hyper-hyphy heist! It's a crazy-cool caper! It's a lot of fun to watch! It also strains credulity. It features a cheap twist, logical holes, some really absurdly bad moments of screenwriting (I'm looking at you, romance, but not only you). Ultimately, it just kind of pissed me off. I can see why teenagers like it, but I'll not be watching it again.

Romeo and Juliet (1968) x2: I'm getting a bit tired of this. Haven't seen the new one (haven't heard much good), but I'm hoping for the best.

Corianton (1931): Is this a bad movie? Oh, yes. As bad as everyone says? Certainly. Was it worth watching? Oh, yes. Will I watch is again? Quite possibly. Were the costumes as sexy as Orson Scott Card suggested? Much more so.

Gentlemen Broncos (2009) x2: I love this movie more than I did at first. And it's terrific when discussing metafiction. But man is it weird.

The Princess Bride (1987) x2: I am enjoying teaching this book so much. And the movie never gets old.

Black Orpheus (1959): I can't say I really watched this. So much dancing I can't stay focused. Especially when showing it to a class that can't go five minutes without a shoving match. . . . That said, the last half hour is pretty cool, watched without other people.

A Christmas Story (1983): I never saw this movie through as a child, but it's now a seasonal favorite. I'm glad.

Final finished books of 2013


Time to accept I'm not finishing any more books this year.

So, without any further ado, numbers 129 and 128! Dickens and Gaffigan!


129) Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, finished December 30

Ah, point-of-view. While the final scene of this novel is satisfying novelistically, it is a bizarre point to believe that it is where Pip himself would choose to end his story. (Though I'm sure there is plenty of fanfic leading on from that moment.)

As a kid, Great Expectations was one of the least frequently read of my Moby Books, but all the same I read it more than once. So I know much of the story, even if in highly abridged form.

But the highly abridged was the most important part as I read the full novel. So many things I never saw coming.

I think, though, I would have enjoyed the book more if I hadn't simultaneously assigned it to my freshmen. The bulk of them were unprepared for a reading like this and I had to keep telling them it would get better (and it did!) with a desperate hope that it would (it did!).

As for me? I liked it much more than Oliver Twist, the only other non-Christmas Dickens novel I've read as an adult.


128) Dad Is Fat by Jim Gaffigan, finished December 23

Lady Steed didn't make it through a page of this book without laughing incontrollably. Me, I didn't literally lol so often, but I was intrigued, professionally, by the way he structures a joke. You can tell he's in standup because plenty of the jokes would work better delivered orally than on paper. But if you can read them in Gaffigan's voice, all the better.

A pretty great book for beleaguered parents who need a laugh though, I dare say.
over a month


127) Carol of the Tales and Other Nightly Noels edited by Michael Young, finished December 24

The quality varied from the surprisingly good to the invoking of Thumper's dad, but I'm still glad the book existed and that I wrote for it.
twenty-four days

Previously in 2013 . . . . :


Kupla Killrz Kummin Krismaseve


126) Green River Killer: A True Detective Story by Jeff Jensen and Jonathan Case, finished December 22

Hey! Another terrific true-story serial-killer comic book written by an ancillary participant! In this case, the writer is the son of a lead detective. The story skips around from the post-arrest interviews with the killer, the events of the time (both killer and police), contemporaneous events, etc. It's one of the least glamorized looks at police work I've ever read and thus feels particularly honest and true.

A fine procedural, and a good read.

two days


125) My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf, finished December 20

One half nostalgic look at teenagedom, one half chilling recounting of the tragic decent of a weird kid into monsterdom.

The book was a good read while being terribly thoughtprovoking. When Dahmer's crimes were discovered I was at the front end of a deep fascination with serial killers, but Dahmer? Never. Perhaps because he was NOW and therefore hard to view dispassionately. Perhaps his particular set of macabre traits were too much even for an Albert Fish fan. Who knows. I don't know.

Anyway, this book got my mind rolling in many directions.

For instance, Backderf places a lot of blame on inattentive adults. For sure, his parents should have seen the drinking problems, etc, and probably school officials should have done more than they did---today they would---but as a high-school teacher I can tell you: being a teacher is not like being a student. Most of what I thought was happening when I was a student is completely outside my sphere of knowledge as an adult on campus. So much I do not know. How can I? I'm locked in a room. And even when I'm outside my room, "what's happening" does not happen as I walk by. I can sometimes see hints of what's happening, but I don't have enough information to build a case or to even know what case there is to be built. When something does boil to the surface, I'm constantly surprised.

I'm also now wondering how certain misfits from my childhood turned out.


It's a dark and crazy world. And for the first time, I see Dahmer as a tragic figure. Backderf quickly and frequently insists that sympathy for Dahmer ends as soon as he kills for the first time, but I'm not sure I can go quite that far. Sure, he became a monster. Yes, it would have been better for him to kill himself than continue down that road. But what an awful deck of cards to be built. I can't image being a teenager whose burgeoning sexuality turns him toward corpses. It's not fair. And leaves no good solution.

Unsettling, thoughtful, honest, true. Read the notes, read the postscript. Good book.
a few days

Previously in 2013 . . . . :


Have a Very Theric New Year
(or, you know,
last minute christmas
shopping or whatever


2013 is drawing to a close, but 2014 is about to emerge from it's papery ashes. And what better way to celebrate the new year than with the old year's thericky goodness? Some of which, I might add, is still quite fresh?

The first thing to mention is the two Christmas anthologies I was included in this year, one heart-warming, one heart-charring (click any picture in this post to get to Amazon):

I also have a hymn and a personal remembrance of how I came to write it in a collection of goddess literature. I don't have my copy yet (it's in the mail), so I can only guess whether or not I'm the only one holding down the Mormon fort in this volume, but I'm quite curious to see how well my work fits in amongst its pagan peers.

Of course, the other thing I was promoting recently is "The Great Mormon Novel of the 21st Century" which has been doing okay business on the Amazon. So far, no reviews online so you still can take my word for it that it's the finest piece of literature so far this century. I mean---no one's said otherwise---how can you doubt it?

Humility constrains me to mention that when you buy an anthology with my work in it, I can't guarantee the quality of the work generally. Just consider that a general disclaimer. I do, however, guarantee satisfaction for my own work

And, of course, the granddaddy of Thericonia released in 2013, the paperback version of Byuck. Excerpts of reviews quoted on or submitted to the Amazon page:

"I guess part of me also wants to throw in the towel, forget all of the analytic crap that goes with being a critic, and write what I want to say: THIS BOOK IS HILARIOUS! READ IT, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!" - Scott Hales, Association for Mormon Letters

A lot of people have compared Byuck to Napoleon Dynamite and . . . The Death of a Disco Dancer. . . . I kept thinking of John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces. The plot's not similar but it has some of that creative chaos that makes Confederacy so memorable. --- Doug Gibson, the Standard-Examiner

"If you ever wanted to know what would have happened if Godot had shown up, read Byuck, wherein coffee tables are transgressive and Billy Joel claims to be innocent. I LOL'd. For real. Not like you do online where you just kind of huff with a mouth twitch. No, I totally LOL'd. Woke up the cat." -- Moriah Jovan, author of The Proviso and Magdalene

"With humor and affection, Theric Jepson creates a story that gleans the best from both the romantic comedy tradition and the literary LDS tradition. Snappy dialogue and quirky characters make Byuck an enjoyable read for book clubs and Mormon literature enthusiasts." -- Laura Craner, A Motley Vision

If Dave Eggers had gone to BYU, this is what he would have written. A pitch perfect voice and a lot of very funny lines. -- Daftwooly

You know the first five minutes of Moulin Rouge, where the main character starts singing "The hills are alive....with the sound of music.." And you think "...huh...okay, that's kinda random, but sure..." And then once you've embraced the quirkiness, a sweet, unexpected, delicious love story falls into your hands, all the more tasty because of the what-the-heck, random quirks. You know? Well, that's the first few chapters of Byuck. It's like the first 10 seconds of Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along-Blog after he breaks into song in the introductory scene. Or the first fight scene in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Stick with it, because like all those stories I mentioned, this is totally worth it. -- Satsuki


Christmas Tales


For those of you who found the last Christmas collection I was in to be a bit saccharine, how about this collection?

I haven't started reading it yet, so I can't comment on the relative quality of the anthologies, but I'm sure they will not have the same flavors.

Anyway, I'm glad to have finally found a home for my story "Out for Santa" which I've had kicking around for a while.

But now, if you only have time for one Christmas collection and need a thmazing holiday fix, would you rather read about the kindly Southern couple who plays Santa, or the cocky young kid who wants to kill Santa?

Tough choice.


Four fine folios


124) Annie Sullivan and the Trials of Helen Keller by Joseph Lambert, finished December 17

Although I find Helen Keller as remarkable as anyone else, I'm always leery of anyone wanting me to read anything about here. I'm inspired plenty already, thank you very much, said the intolerable ironist. And I would never have considered picking this one up had I not been blown away by the excerpt in BAC (see #122, below). I was moved by those pages and I was moved by the book. The moment where Helen discovers language is so thrilling I nearly wept.

An excellent choice made by Lambert is to let us get to know Annie better---her backstory is arguably more tragic than Helen's---and to understand her spunk and drive and determination and fortitude. She is a true hero.

Besides the characters and the story, one of the great successes of this volume is its means of representing Helen's aloneness in a blank world.

The way the world intrudes into her space---how it threatens---builds empathy for Helen as much as any art could. Which is remarkable, given that comics would not have been an easy medium for Helen Keller to enjoy.

Not that that would have stopped her.


123) The Forage House by Tess Taylor, finished December 14

Short---just the right length, in fact---this is the finest recent single-author poetry collection I've read in a few years. Although I will admit that some of the final section of poems come off a bit whiney after the powerful historical digging of the earlier portions. The problem is that the final section is quite personal while the upper portions generally focus on the sins of her forebears and those of the nation and---specifically---of the horrors of slavery. Dealing with Jefferson's failings (he was a slaveowner, lest we forget) and those of the Taylor's is moving and provocative and complicated. And it seems like much of the About My Own Life poems of the last section might have been better served by being placed first in the collection. In other words, by having them be a launching point rather than a concluding destination.

Though everything I've just said should be modified by the final two lines of the collection:
...And, No, my mother says, you haven't listened.
No, it wasn't like that really---
Which manages to succinctly take her personal hardships and place them back into the historical context established up front. Growing up in "working-class bungalows" does not compare to growing up enslaved.

Which is exactly the point.

A good book. Accessible to anyone, but will reward additional time spent digging into its lines. Check it out.

I should mention that the author is a near neighbor of mine and that we have had some interactions, though I first heard about her on NPR. If the book were a little cheaper I would order a class set. I would love to take a stab at teaching this book. Knowing I can get her to come in is just gravy.
perhaps as much as a month though not likely


122) "When Did You See Her Last?" by Lemony Snicket, finished December 14

The genius of Snicket's books is how he gets emotion out of what he does not say. What he doesn't say about Ellington Feint. What he doesn't say about his sister.

I also would like to know if someone's made a list of the books and music and stuff referenced in this series and never by name...?

first wrong question
couple weeks at most


121) The Best American Comics 2013 edited by Jeff Smith, finished December 11

Jeff Smith and I must have similar tastes because although I doubted that some of these were the "best" of the reading period, there was nothing here I actively disliked. In fact I currently have three books on request at the library (1, 2, 3)that were excerpted herein. (It would be four, but they don't have Rachel Rising.) And although I certainly approve of Kate Beaton, the selection seems odd to me. Anyway, you certainly don't pick up a volume like this expecting to be ecstatic about every selection. But srsly: Jeff Smith done good.
two or so weeks

Previously in 2013 . . . . :


"The Great Mormon Novel of the 21st Century"


"The Great Mormon Novel of the 21st Century" is my first attempt at producing a book only for the Kindle marketplace. Which may be a tad ironical since I don't own a Kindle, but hey! It's Amazon's world. I just live in it.

This story's appearance in the Irreantum contest led a writer I greatly respect to say that Theric's a terrific writer, but he's never going to make a living. Submitted to another of the Mormon rags, I heard from the editor who told me the story was brilliant and excellent and perfect and that she hated everything it stands for and so she feels obliged to publish it but she can't without it being rewritten, but her only rewrite advice is to throw the whole thing out and start all over. (Did you get all that?) I decided to just withdraw it from consideration.

Between those two experiences---and since them as well---I've tried my luck at some Gentile outlets to no avail. Perhaps it's a terrible story. Perhaps it's just what the world needs right now. Or was when it was written. I wrote it just before the great Great Mormon Novel Brouhaha of 2010 and it's been floating around ever since. So it's gone from being zeitgeist to johnny-come-lately. Which is kind of the story of my creative life.

Sigh. Poor, poor Theric.

Anyway, here it is! It finally exists! Make it thine!


From Steampunk to the Rez


121) The Art of Steampunk by Art Donovan, finished December 7

The publisher contacted me and offered this book for my review.

Although part of the selling point of this book is writing from experts described with words like "Dr" and "Oxford University," in fact this book contains no real criticism of the field. Just boosterism. Which I suppose is fine for someone bumping into Steampunk for the first time, but if you're familiar with the field, it seems like a real lost opportunity. Some real analysis would have been terrific and made me much more enthused over this slim, glossy, photo-filled volume.

It seems pretty clear that many if not all of the artists wrote their own bios and captions, giving the impression that the curator's curating was minimal. Another lost opportunity. But I suppose the artform is young and it's practitioners are few and you take what you can get. Anyway, it sometimes feels that way.

But. That said, there is still some crazy awesome stuff in this book. Here are some artists to explore further: Jessica Joslin, Tom Banwell, Mikhail Smolyanov, Richard Nagy. I picked these because their stuff is cool and they're wildly different from each other. This steampunk is a broader field than your punk kid thinks.
four or so months


120) The Blessing Way by Tony Hillerman, finished December 7

This has been the car book since The Little Friend. Sadly, unlike that novel, it's not a masterpiece of prose that rewards the reader who's dropping by for a paragraph or two while waiting with the hazards going. No, Hillerman pops corn. So eat it fast, before it gets stale and the fake butter congeals.

That said, I did enjoy the look into Navajo culture which, given Hillerman's awards from Navajo groups, I assume is fair and reasonably accurate. Frankly, although on one level, this is just another popcorn thriller, its milieu makes it absolutely worth reading and I'm very happy the series has been so popular. Reading something so . . . forgive me, alien, increased my sense of humanity and my empathy for a people this country has not always been terribly kind to (cf litotes). And that, methinks, is extremely worthy.
six months


118) The New Yorker Album 1925-1950, finished DATE

This was a glorious library-sale find, and the most surprising thing is that even though the book's sixty-two years old, it's pretty much impossible to distinguish, design-wise, from any other New Yorker book ever. I love how they got it right the first time and then never had to fix it. Tiny tweaks only.

Anyway, this collection has a lot of cartoons I've never seen before, and I've been devouring New Yorker cartoon collections over twenty years. Many of them are very much of their time---some to a level to which I can barely guess. Some artists who seem pivotal now---James Thurber, Charles Addams---are surprisingly lightly represented.

It's like a time machine to Flapperville and World War II. And some tropes I thought were fairly recent---old ladies' dogs being their children---surprised me with their age.

All in all, a delightful read. Even with some shades of old-timey racism and sexism, this is a pretty swell book to have on the shelf for my kids to find someday and to introduce them to the great heritage of New Yorker cartoons.
about a month


117) Going Postal by Terry Pratchett, finished December 1

Like I said about the second book in the series, this was an utterly delightful listen and although it has more damns than Encyclopedia Brown, I'm glad my kids are into it.

Sadly, we've had no long road trips lately so getting through a 12-cd book in only a single renewal was not easy. We had to take a long drive tonight in order to get it back to the library on time.

But Moist was his regular rascally self and the book pops like all of Pratchett's work should, and the third in the series is on cd is just a few months.

We're all very excited.
about a month


116) The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks, finished November 26

The Big O recently read all of these books (a feat I never accomplished---the last two books were published while I was in high school or years graduated) and loved them. He pushed me to make this our next out-loud book. Large S enjoyed it quite a bit and even Little Lord Steed got into it by the end.

As for me?

It holds up. I don't suppose one would call it properly quote-unquote enlightened, but it's not ignorant of more modern racial thinking. And it's a good yarn. Reid does an impressive job balancing the inherent wonder and horror of the situation---even if she certainly errs on the side of fun and forgiveness. As she must, given her audience. A spoonful of sugar and so forth.
a few weeks

Previously in 2013 . . . . :


Svithe: Ten Lepers and Me (Luke 17:11-19)

And it came to pass, as he went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee.

And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off:

And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.

And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed.

And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God,

And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan.

And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine?

There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger.

And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.
I didn't address the assigned scripture at all in my introduction to the talks last Sunday. Instead, I said something like this:

I don't remember ever being a baby but I have it from people I trust that once I was one. And if that is true, then I have to believe that I, like any baby, was given love and care and sustenance. I'm alive today, aren't I? And I rather suspect that---especially as a babe---I rarely if ever showed gratitude.

Similarly, throughout my life, I often have been guilty of the sin of insufficient gratitude. Particularly, I should admit, to my Savior who deserves recognition at all time.

previous svithe


Multiple perspectives


115) Every Day by David Levithan, finished November 25

Something I admire about Levithan is his willingness to tell strange stories or to tell stories strangely. In other words, I admire that he takes chances. That he does hard things.

This particular novel could easily have been one of those ambitious failures we all enjoy shaking our heads at sadly. And, indeed, in many ways it does fail. But mostly it succeeds.

Here's the conceit: Our protagonist wakes up every morning in a different person's body. This has always been so. He has no body-based identity of his own. And so, although I'm using he and his, he technically has no sex or gender. He only has whatever the body he's borrowing has.

He is able to access the body-of-the-day's memories and thus is able to fake the day as [person] quite well. Of course, when he was little, it took him awhile to realize that people were serious when they made plans for the morrow---that not everyone started each new day in a new body, in a new town, in a new life.

But now he's sixteen and he's used it it.

He can only enter the bodies of people his same age. He has no choice over whose bodies he enters. He finds himself in a new body within about a hundred miles of his previous body.

One thing to know about this novel is that it is an extremely political book. Not political like The Jungle or Nineteen Eighty-four where the entire novel is thrusting at one particular agenda---but rather each day is the opportunity to thrust at a new agenda (though they all come down to live and let live, love everybody, every one is okay).

For instance, when in a transgender body, the book is teaching that it's just the way some people are. When a character has mental illness, it teaches that people can't just cheer up. When a character is an illegal immigrant, the book teaches that it's a rough life. Other lessons dispensed include how to deal with strict homeschooling parents, how to treat those you love, how to deal with those who are unkind, and so on. Lots and lots of lessons. And even though there is a through-plot, at times Every Day does read a bit like a morality primer.

Let's get back a moment to my use of male pronouns. Even though the book goes to great efforts to establish a character utterly without his own body-based characteristics, I don't think it succeeds. I can admit this might be to me giving it a white, heteronormative reading. Could be. We'll need other readers to triangulate this. But the protagonist's voice is very white, very educated (code for not poor), and, sorry, very straight. He often says things that aren't straight, but underneath always appears a straight foundation. I welcome proof I am wrong. (Levithan himself, of course, is not straight.)

Anyway, part of this bias on my part may be that our bodiless protagonist falls in love with a straight girl. Poor silly straight girl has a hard time loving him when he's in a girl's body or a transgender body or a really really fat body, but she does come to believe that it really is him, no matter the body. And the protag starts breaking his own rules and messing up others' lives in order to pursue a relationship. The novel's end is heroic---our hero is a hero---and sweet and redeems many of my complaints.

Besides. It's an ambitious novel. I would forgive a novel this ambitious of much more than my minor tiddles with this one.
a couple weeks at most


114) Boxers by Gene Luen Yang, finished November 21

Now that I've read both, it's hard to say what I think the preferred order should be. Boxers is quite a bit longer even thought the two stories are exceedingly parallel. Both characters are well developed which means the reader ends up with plenty of empathy for both sides of the conflict. (I wonder how successfully this could be accomplished with a conflict we're more familiar with, say, Nazis/Poles or Union/Confederacy?)

Anyway, just by virtue of being longer, this story feels more fully developed. But that's not a slight against Saints---just an observation that her story is a novella and his a novel. So to speak.

Anyway, they're terrific books.
since finishing the last


113) Saints by Gene Luen Yang, finished November 15

This book is half of a nonordered series by Yang and might be the best thing of his I've yet read. It is the tale of a young Chinese girl finding Catholicism. Like many comics these days, there is a layering of narrative, but even though Joan of Arc appears to her, these layers seem more inherently grounded in reality as compared to, say, Yang's own American Born Chinese (another great book).

Having her take on the name of Saint Vibiana was a nice move as well. She begins life with no name, and then chooses a life with a nobody's name. And that made all the difference.

Previously in 2013 . . . . :


Byuck vs. Hunger Games vs Twilight vs Harry Potter


Did you see this fascinating article on Slate? Textual analysis. Cool stuff.

Anyway, one wouldn't expect those lists to have the most stellar sentences of their respective novels. These are sentences that appear over and over and over again. They'll be simple.

But still. Interesting to see what pops up and what impression it gives, eh?

Happily, Recession Cone offered to set his mad Python skillz to the task.* He tested it on War and Peace (1. Yes. 2. All were silent. 3. All right. 4. Yes yes. 5. She paused. 6. I can't.), then ran Byuck through the machine.

My top five most-common sentences (with number of occurrences):

Yeah. : 20
Thanks. : 17
Right. : 16
I know. : 13
Okay. : 11

Hmm. On the one hand, I'm with Tolstoy: "Yeah" makes more sense to frequently repeat than, say, "My name is David Them"---but this isn't a particularly evocative top five.

Six through eleven?

Dave nodded. : 9
Phyoo. : 9
Yes. : 8
Sorry. : 8
I'm sorry. : 7
Great. : 7

Ha ha! Much better. Thank you, Waxboy! I'm so happy to see "Phyoo" up there.

Anyway, this is fun. How about everything else that appeared at least three times?

Sure. : 6
Good. : 6
Dave smiled. : 6
Well. : 6
Hi Dave. : 6
Nothing. : 5
Thanks Dave. : 5
Wow. : 5
Exactly. : 5
Curses nodded. : 5
Amen. : 5
Ref laughed. : 5
He did. : 4
I don't know. : 4
Of course. : 4
Huh. : 4
That. : 4
Hang on. : 4
Crap. : 4
That's right. : 4
Wait. : 4
Please. : 4
Hi Peter. : 3
Benson. : 3
Perfect. : 3
You're welcome. : 3
Dave laughed. : 3
Hey Dave. : 3
The phone rang. : 3
Ref. : 3
Cool. : 3
She laughed. : 3
Ref sighed. : 3
Dave. : 3
Fine. : 3
my nose. : 3
Back and forth. : 3
He is coming. : 3
Maybe. : 3
Gross. : 3
Duh. : 3
Dave frowned. : 3
Hey Curses. : 3

Hey yourself.

of course, many of these are featured on byuckfrags: fairly fun and frequently free


* Recession Cone invites you to crunch your own numbers. It's just a little thing he threw together for my benefit, but still. THIS IS FUN.


Chipotle, huh?


So. Chipotle. Making all kinds of money, spreading all over the country, turning out great commercials. Personally I wasn't interested until I saw a poster at the BART station saying they serve---I forget---three acres of cilantro a day or something. That sounded good.

But still. I have Gordo and Cactus and Picante and Talavera and a million other local places. Why would I go to Chipotle?

Well, a reason arrived in the form of a fundraiser. Half the money I spent tonight (I'm writing this on the 20th) goes to my kids' elementary school. Good enough.

First, the good news. The chips! Holy smokes! What great chips! I don't know what sorta grease they cooked them in, but mmmwa! And the salt! Seriously. Among the best chips I've ever had.

Now, the bad news. Everything else.

I'm sorry Chipotle fans, but really? Really? What do you see in this place? It's a chain, but it's not cheaper than the good places. And it's not better than, say, Cafe Rio or Rubio's. The carnitas is simply bad and everything else ranges from the flavorless to the off. Honestly. I'm utterly mystified what people see in this place.

I mean---if the rest of the country is that desperate for a burrito, okay, but why are there two within a couple miles of my house? Can anyone explain this to me? The burritos aren't even wrapped well! The employees were nice enough (though between my head cold, their music, and some noisy fans, we could barely communicate) and the menu was reminiscent of burger places that know what's up (In-N-Out, Five Guys), but that stuff's mere trappings. The real test is the food and no matter how free-range their chickens or organic their tomatoes, their food just ain't good.

Now. Who wants to make a Gordo run?


"Do Not Open Until Christmas"


My friend T, last Christmastime, did a lovely rendition of Alabama's "Christmas in Dixie":

Her voice got me to thinking about the Christmas anthology I was then reading---in which each tale was inspired by a Christmas carol---and when its editor announced a second collection, I set to work on a Christmas tale set in Dixie.

Happily, Tyrah, an Alabaman herself, helped me get my Southern straight (though I rush to point out that I will still fool no Southerners) and, as we talked about grandpas, I felt a kinship to her in that her Alabama grandpa and my Idaho grandpa share a lot of similarities.

And both are now gone.

I dedicate this story to both.

May they share a lovely Christmas with the babe himself.


“Being grateful for
God's hand in
a world I understand
through science.”


Note: One of my favorite parts of my current calling is the opportunity to sculpt the spiritual aesthetics of sacrament meeting. Deciding on topics, choosing the best speakers (those two items vary in order), making sure the meeting remains Christ-centered, introducing the topic in a few words before passing the mike to the speakers---it's a challenge I relish. In part because it affects so many people immediately and directly, and in part because the effect is inherently---or should be---spiritual.

August was my first time doing this and it didn't occur to me until the month was over that my little intros could make for nice little svithes as well. Starting this month, I will post versions of my intros, bringing quarterly life back to svithery. I'm not pretending this is exactly what I said, but it's based on the same notes.



Not just a time for writing nonce novels and growing nonce beards, but---and more importantly, I think---a time to bend our souls towards gratitude. Thanksgiving.

In my case, I twice had pneumonia when I was a kid. I likely would have died had I been born two hundred years ago.

After my mission I came down with a nasty case of mono. Full-body rash from the soles of my feet to the crown of my head, nasty fever, dehydration. My liver shut down; my eyes and skin turned yellow. If I'd been born two hundred years ago, I likely would have died.

And before my mission I got the mumps! This was before they were recommending an MMR booster for adolescents. And if I'd been born two hundred years ago, I likely wouldn't have died, but infertility would've been pretty likely.

So, the recap, if I'd been born two hundred years ago, not only would I be dead, but the Big O, Large S, and Little Lord Steed wouldn't even exist.

As I've been talking, I'm sure you've all thought about how you would be dead. When I first had it suggested to me, I scoffed at the notion, but no. The more I thought about it the more I realized it's true. I could well be kaput. (Leave in the comments what illnesses or injuries would have done you in.)

Of course, science is not just saving-lives practical. It also provides a sense of wonder. The cosmos! The microcosmos! The intricate microscopic miracles of life, growing and changing and developing and becoming!

I imagine the closer one looks at Creation, the more sublime the experience. The more thanks we know to give.

Today we'll hear from three who look close . . . .

previous svithe




Because we had no school Monday, my classes didn't extract new vocab from reading (they vote on the words to be studied) so this week's quiz is just a review of the 80 words previously chosen.

Normally, for the example sentences, I find examples from the last couple day's news. This week, I responded to a request that I make up sentences. So from the 57 words not used on the front side of the quiz, I made this:

[note: the two words cut off on the left side are akin and larceny]

How'd you do?


The Redemption of Orson Scott Card


It might surprise you that my almost seven-year-old post "The Damnation of Orson Scott Card" has nothing to do with how the lgbt community feels about him. Less surprising will be that my eight-plus-month-old two-part series "The Orson Scott Card Stigma" (one, two) has a great deal to do with that.

Anyway, I'm just back from seeing Ender's Game. My primary reactions to the film (other than my actual reactions to the actual film) are, in order of relevance to this post:
1. I would love to see a Shadow of the Hegemon movie or tv show. In part because wouldn't Hailee Steinfeld be sweet as Petra in that story?

2. I know it's by far the Orson Scott Card book I'm most familiar with, but I really ought to reread Speaker for the Dead.

3. There's some real-world irony out there, given the emphases Ender's Game places on Ender's character.

(Note, I'm not interested in debating the validity of anyone's take on the specific issue under discussion, or even one closely related. So for purposes of this post, we're going to say that Orson Scott Card has a popular YouTube channel in which he drains and drinks the blood of kittens. Kitten killer!)

A lot of ink has been spilled about how ironic it is that a book like Ender's Game was written by a kitten killer in the first place. After all, isn't what makes Ender special his empathy? How can someone who created a superhero powered by empathy kill kittens?
“I think it's impossible to really understand somebody, what they want, what they believe, and not love them the way they love themselves.” *
This is the irony everyone's been talking about. How can the man who created Ender kill kittens? What is wrong with Orson Scott Card?

Well, besides all the trite things I could say about how Ender also doing some killing or about Orson Scott Card also creating the mass of humanity who rejects Ender and views him as a monster---besides all that, this irony can be turned either direction.

If Orson Scott Card is the enemy (if), and if (if) you feel he must be quote-unquote destroyed, then:
“In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love him. I think it’s impossible to really understand somebody, what they want, what they believe, and not love them the way they love themselves. And then, in that very moment when I love them.... I destroy them.”
If you want to "destroy" Orson Scott Card, if you take Ender so seriously that it makes Orson Scott Card that much more monstrous, then you need to take Ender seriously enough to understand/love Orson Scott Card.

But the fact is, most of us aren't Ender. Whether it's hideous space bugs or a man with kitten blood dripping from his goatee, we're not willing to look that enemy in the face and love them.

No matter how you feel about the kitten killer himself, I think thirty years has proven enough time to prove Ender's Game a great book (personally, I prefer Speaker, but I don't think thirty years have been enough to prove that). And someday the storm that is apparently going to be the rest of Orson Scott Card's life (kitten killer!) will end. And even the way we feel about the kittens being killed today will soften with time. And what will be left is the people of the future (kittens inclusive) and Ender Wiggin.

If we insist on conflating Orson Scott Card with Ender Wiggin then we have two options. First: stop it. Second: if we respect the book so much that we can't pretend Ender doesn't matter, then we have to try to be like Ender.

Because here's the thing: you can never make someone else as empathetic as Ender (kitten killer!).

Empathy is not a thing you can force on people.

Nor is it something I'm comfortable judging the health of in other people.

However: Empathy is something we can strive to develop in ourselves.

We can't make Orson Scott Card Ender Wiggin. But we can make ourselves Ender Wiggin.

Is anyone up for the challenge?

[note: images from here and here]


It's a shame the aliens didn't just dingo a cat instead.


112) Have You Seen Marie? by Sandra Cisneros and illustrated by Ester Hernandez, finished November 9

This book is attempting to be mythic in some way. It doesn't succeed.

The bulk of its playtime is spent caught in a---to mix my transmedial metaphors---broken-record picture book trope. And the deliberately mythic part is grandiose and obvious. Even when the cat show up, it's after three days in a cave.

I also am confused by the relationship between the words and the pictures. Sometimes they simply are not talking about the same thing. Given how closely they apparently worked together on this book, I am confused.

Anyway, if you haven't heard: Cisneros is a genius. So my bad for not loving it.



111) Haunting at Home Plate by David Patneaud, finished November 9

The Big O found this book gripping. And terrifying enough that at times he seriously considered abandoning it. The final scene got to him so much he threw the book to the ground.

So of course I had to read it.

Personally, I found the baseball scenes more gripping than the hauntings. Some nice bits of characterization and some silly shortcuts.

Overall, a book, were I the O, I would have read over and over as a kid.
from about six to a few minutes after midnight


110) Scholar of Moab by Steven L. Peck, finished November 8

Really, one could write a book as long as this book about this book and not run out of things to say. Happily, most of that copy would be positive as well. It's a pretty great book. Even when the town goes mad (as, say, in Rift), it's somehow believable, even though their particular madness is about as mad a madness as any I've seen.

The central conceit is that <Redactor> has come into a pile of papers relating to the curious life of one Hyrum Thayne, a young man of Moab who leads quite the Dickensian life. Although he never comes into riches (or even true scholarship, his believing to the contrary), comes into a position of power or equality or simple nearness with poetry, entymology, extraterrestrial life, dicephalic men, a mysterious painting, a wild-woman poet, and Gadianton Robbers.

One advantage afforded Peck through his use of <Redactor> (who never shares his real name) is that it allows a hidden, presumably rational point-of-view to organize and present the novel while generally avoiding making direct observations on the story. In other words, <Redactor> is Mormon (the man, not the people). He sculpts the text and controls the reader's experience while only occasionally dropping in as a voice of reason and sense.

Hyrum's own belabored writings emphasize this comparison. The first words of his journal are, "I Hyrum having been born of goodly parents am from Moab." And his attempts at educated verbage are heavily influenced by scripture throughout, including a pages-long passage he says he delivered to his local congregation as part of his accidental leadership to rid Moab of Gadianton Robbers.

Hyrum's life is a series of good intentions going awry in an endless variety of ways. He's not a bad man, but he's weak, liable to take the route of glory rather than the route of stability which leads him to an explosive death (though the comics-reader in me rushes to point out no body was ever recovered) and a statue that soon becomes the victim of another generation of smalltown kids apt to take the route of one moment of glory over a life of safety and stability and sensibility.

Perhaps the most stable characters in the book (until one goes mad) are the two-headed man. Peck's drawn this pair with such clarity and compassion that I'm wrought with guilt knowing I would have a hard time meeting such men and seeing past their otherness.

Every character in the novel is loved, by the end, by <Redactor>. He is a man of compassion---but aren't we all when we fully know another's story?

My docket is overfilled at the moment, but I hope to write more about this novel in the future. I may need to reread it first though, and you know how likely that is.


109) Word Nerd by Susin Nielsen, finished November 4

You have to wonder what's going on with a YA book that includes the phrase "this brilliantly observed novel" in the flap copy. That's not gonna sell kids on it, I'm pretty sure. It's an empty phrase we adults like to throw around, but kids see through that crap.

Anyway. I'm not reviewing the flap copy.

Structurally, this is about as generic a novel as I've read lately. This isn't a complaint per se as an observation that the details and execution will need to provide the originality. Generally, they succeed. It's not a mind-bending reinvention of the outsider-kid-finds-salvation-through-outside-adult genre, but the Scrabble angle is fun and provides some nice design elements. Plus, all the women seem to have breasts, so that's nice.

I always thought it was only gay men who are mystified by breasts' appeal but given Ms Nielsen's attempts at eroticizing breasts, I think straight women may have the same problem.

I'm sorry. This is all coming off very negative. I picked this book up on a whim from the library and it's due soon. I didn't have to read it. I didn't have to finish it. I did both. And I enjoyed it. Had some decent jokes, some decent pain. No, it's not a great original work, but it's a well written version of a story we've always loved. Props for that.
two days

Previously in 2013 . . . . :


These are the books over one hundred



108) We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Jay Fowler, finished November 3

I read this book on the recommendation of Wm Morris. He, unlike most of the reviews I've been glancing at lately, does not give away the big reveal just before page 80. And, frankly, NO ONE SHOULD KNOW THIS before reading the book. I think spoiler warnings, overall, are overrated, but this is a book which is doing something genuinely remarkable---something I've never seen before---and can only accomplish that to its full exquisiteness if you don't know much going in. Just experience it.

One reason spoiler avoidance is problematic is that right now you're wondering what the heck this book is even about. And I don't know how to tell you and make it interesting. It's about . . . a family? Now do you want to read it? Probably not.

So I'm asking you to take it on faith. I recommend it. William recommends it. Countless other reviews you should not read recommend it. Read it before it becomes an American classic and it becomes henceforth and forever impossible not to know what it's about.

Which may well be as soon as it's released in paperback and it gets some garish new cover.


Without successfully saying anything, this is one of the best books I've read in a while.

Read it while it's still fresh.
about two weeks


107) The Dark Wood by Christine Weston, finished October 23

a month or two


106) Sunshine and Shadow by Lynn Johnston, finished October 18

I'm much older now that when I was last reading For Better or for Worse and I'm coming at it from a totally different direction now. I can empathize with both Michael (the oldest son, who about shares my birth year) and his parents (whom I'm now as close to in age as I am to Michael in this volume). This collection deals with young love and deaths of parents and kids and all sorts of thing I've recently come out of or about to head into or in the middle of right now.

Darn right I laughed and I cried.

Lynn Johnston is right up there with Charles Schultz and Bill Watterson in that rare category of people who made great art one small daily strip at a time. But she did it in her own completely personal way.
afternoon and evening


105) Scarecrow by Michael Connelly, finished October 18

Potato chips.

My friend Recession Cone has described his manner of reading flimsy-but-fun genre fiction as eating potato chips. They're not good for you but they're delicious and it's hard to stop. I need to take a lesson from him.

I tend to treat all literature with the same amount of space to fill, but some literature can't fill very much space.

I was administering a standardized test and had forgotten my intended reading material as I sat on my stool officiating so I was forced to pick up this book. With its large text and wide margins, I had managed to get about seventy pages in while making copies one or two days a week. Like most bestselling thrillers, I didn't find it very engaging. The writing itself is pretty flat and the book projects pretty clearly which little details will prove Very Important later on. The use of the killer's point of view is a storytelling shortcut and he's horrible in stupid ways that don't match what he ultimately supposed to be.

But! Once I stopped leaving myself time to think about it and just started reading it through? Potato chips. I just kept eating one more page and enjoying every moment. When I stop to think about it after the bag is empty and my fingers are greasy, I'm a bit grossed out but man: potato chips. Delicious.
about a month


104) Third Helpings by Calvin Trillin, finished October 16

My cousin the spy lent me a copy of Alice, Let's Eat when Lady Steed and I were first married. It was hilarious and certainly propelled us in a more foodie direction. Also: it taught us Alice's Law of Compensatory Economics which has guided many decisions since that time.

And I've been a Trillin fan ever since.

This volume I found on a shelf at our school library. I had been attracted by the books surrounding it, primarily 1960s publications about how to be a working gal and still keep your man happy with meat and clean shirts. I can't believe we have a whole shelf of these things. Or that Calvin Trillin is shelved with them. Clearly we need more books featuring food.

Anyway, I think I must have started this book at some point in the distant pass because the first two or three essays were familiar.

The book's classic Trillin, sure, but there's nothing like your first time.
under a month


Books --- corrections and additions


I've uncovered more errors in my booklisting this year! Apparently, I suck.

Here is the new official order since Calamity Jack:

103) Dorian by Nephi Anderson, finished October 14
102) Famous Modern Ghost Stories edited by Dorothy Scarborough finished October 13
101) Adventures in Cartooning by James Sturm, Andrew Arnold, Alexis Frederick-Frost finished on October 11
100) Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan et al, finished ~October 1
099) Dead Girl by Peter Milligan, Nick Dragotta, Mike Allred, finished September 29
098) FF - Volume 1: Fantastic Faux by Matt Fraction and Mike Allred and Joe Quinones, finished September 24
097) ZF-360 by Luisa Perkins, finished ~September 19
096) Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, finished September 17
095) The Story of Chester Lawrence by Nephi Anderson, finished September 8
094) Calamity Jack by A Bevy of Hales, finished September 7

A full corrected listing with links will appear below.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

100) Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan et al, finished ~October 1

Yep. Read the whole darn thing. Bootleg this guy gave me of every issue. Glad to have it done.

As a whole, it's pretty tightly constructed. The characters are well developed and grow and change over the course of the almost sixty issues. And, to my surprise, the doublesize final-issue epilogue was not merely a lame capout epilogue. Started out that way, sure, but they found new things to do with this decades-later ending.

Overall, a good show will inklings of good ideas. Pure populist entertainment not afraid to flirt with big ideas. The sort of thing we can always use more of, frankly.

over a year

099) Dead Girl by Peter Milligan, Nick Dragotta, Mike Allred, finished September 29

It makes efforts to be funny and socially conscious and clever and complicated and mythic. And succeeds at being thoroughly adequate. Or at least mediocre

several days

Previously in 2013 . . . . :


book post the next


101) Dorian by Nephi Anderson, finished October 14

More of an exceedingly thorough skimming as I worked on the endnotes. Still good!
say a week


100) Famous Modern Ghost Stories edited by Dorothy Scarborough finished October 13

Usually I wouldn't read an anthology like this so quickly. But I was assigning it to my freshmen, so.

The Willows by Algernon Blackwood
No surprise Lovecraft loved this one. Any kids who choose to read this and manage to get all the way through it may have experience an eldritch change of heart
The Shadows on the Wall by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman
Although I knew Blackwood would be a matter of taste, this story first made me concerned about the ability of a kid belonging to a generation that prioritizes horror over terror (I had them read this article before we started). Maybe they'll surprise me and find this very very quiet story effective.
The Messenger by Robert W. Chambers
I thought this one was a nice classic horror story. Only one kid's chosen this story, read it, and told me about it so far. He didn't like it. But then, he also told me he's read all the short ones and has no idea what they're about because he's just skimming.
Lazarus by Leonid Andreyev
This story is a genuinely unsettling telling of what happened to Lazarus after Jesus raised him from the dead. Imagine "Monkey's Paw" without the third wish?
The Beast with Five Fingers by W. F. Harvey
I'm still not sure what to make of this one. I liked the terrory first half. It's turn to horror was, I thought, a bit silly.
The Mass of Shadows by Anatole France
This read like an old ghostly legend. Not much to get involved with, methought.
What Was It? by Fitz-James O'Brien
This is one of my new favorite monsters. I'm not totally satisfied with where the story ended up, but for most of the ride I was very satisfied.
The Middle Toe of the Right Foot by Ambrose Bierce
I've read this before, though I can't remember where. This also feels like a legend retold to the point of being less effective. But if you read it for the first time, alone, late at night, it could work quite nicely on you.
The Shell of Sense by Olivia Howard Dunbar
This story has too dang much ettiquette. It's a nice enough conceit, but I just skimmed through it for three minutes before I could remember it. Scary stories should be scary, dernit.
The Woman at Seven Brothers by Wilbur Daniel Steele
This is one of the more effective stories in the collection, I think. It has aged, but it has aged well.
At the Gate by Myla Jo Closser
Ghost dogs! Loyal still!
Ligeia by Edgar Allan Poe
Like many of these stories, very little happens here, but it has a decided effect. Even though I knew what would happen, when it finally happened, it got me. I guess that's what makes Poe Poe.
The Haunted Orchard by Richard Le Gallienne
I found the ghost's motivation a bit confusing. But, well, see my comment on Maupassant below.
The Bowmen by Arthur Machen
Apparently this was considered one of the great stories of the age. Which I take to mean that we don't remember The Great War like once we did.
A Ghost by Guy de Maupassant
It's hard. Tell too much you dispell the spell. Tell too little and you don't cast it in the first place.
under a month (unless you include dorothy's introduction which I read much longer ago)


099) Adventures in Cartooning by James Sturm, Andrew Arnold, Alexis Frederick-Frost finished on October 11

My kids really liked this book from the Center for Cartoon Studies. I don't know if it actually will get them adrawing though. And that's the real test of any book like this. So . . . time will tell?
two days

Previously in 2013 . . . . :