2013-08-29

Noah & Mel & Sarah & Nephi

.

093) The Hypo by Noah Van Sciver, finished August 28

I've been telling people for a while that this Noah Van Sciver kid is a major talent primed to explode. And even though I only recently realized this book had been finished and released, HE HAS OFFICIALLY EXPLODED.

Noah's tale of the melancholic young Lincoln captures the place and era in a way I just haven't seen elsewhere. The pathos young Lincoln carries on his face---the way he ages over the 200 pages of story---this is a powerful piece of work. From his series of failures to finding a fellow damaged soul to spend his life with---from suffering under frontier medicine to using hyperbole and humor (and a bit of luck) to escape a duel---from changing his mind in a whore's bedroom to his reason for doing so---Noah's young Lincoln is a complex and powerful characterization. And it doesn't play any of the postmodern games many of the better comics (and aspiring-to-be-better) of our era are getting caught up in.

(Aside: One thing I know having read this book? I really really hope he finishes his Joseph Smith book.)


The book finishes with an addendum with an illustrated version of the almost-certainly-by Lincoln poem on suicide. It's not a bad bit of verse. I've taught it before.

Anyway, the pacing is both stolid and rapid. The art has, in my controversial opinion, not only gone beyond its Crumby origins but quite arguably surpassed Crumb.

Noah Van Sciver has unquestionably arrived.
a week or so



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



092) Martyrs' Crossin by Melissa Leilani Larson, finished August 24

As I recently noted elsewhere, sometimes I have a hard time seeing a script, in my mind, in the full glory it would enjoy on stage. This was an occasional problem with this reading. The complicated stagins? No problem? The mystical flow of dialogue by the historical characters? Hard to see quite how that could be pulled off.

But that's far less important than the fact that the primary characters---Catherine, Margaret, Joan---and their interactions make terrific sense.

Since I'm dealing with three Mormon writers in this post, I should note the choice of having Joan quote the Doctrine & Covenants and the Book of Mormon. I think it's a smart choice for a couple reasons. For Mormon audiences it has the weight of scripture while seeming exotic and new coming from Joan's mouth. For nonLDS audiences it would have a similar effect, but balanced differently. To have a mixed audience processing the same line in such similar but divergent ways could well prove weirdly electric.

Anyway, I'm quite fond of the play's decision to keep God absent---at least to the audience---and to allow the great to struggle and stumble towards got just as anyone does. There's some sort of meaning here. I can taste it.
an hour or two



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




091) Mile 21 by Sarah Dunster, finished August 22

It occurred to me after finishing this particular review that it would be better placed somewhere else.

I don't know if Sarah would have sent me an ARC of her upcoming novel if she hadn't already been reading Byuck, but I like to think so. In her email, she said, "I think we share some literary similarities. I think you would like this one... it's marketed romance by Cedar Fort (blah) but it's about as much Romance as Byuck is" (ellipses in original). I'm going to use this as an excuse to navelgaze a bit as I review her new novel. My apologies in advance.

I don't know if all writers compare what they're reading to their own work, but I often do. Especially when a book keeps reminding me in blatant ways of my stuff. If you were to take Byuck, cross it with "The Widower," set it at BYU Idaho, and swap the sex of the major characters, you would get something very much like Mile 21.

In some ways I think Byuck is better (largely in issues of style, but my complaints here are largely connected to issues inherent with writing in the first person), and in some ways I think Mile 21 is better (it successfully incorporates direct religiosity into the plot in ways I shied away from), but both books share an ethos of dealing with the modern, early-twenties, Mormon scene within the artificially heightened setting of a Church-run university.

(Also, Byuck once again has more jokes.)

I rush to admit that this is hardly a new topic or setting for novelists. And I don't want to speak for Sarah, but I suspect that her lack of enthusiasm for the "romance" label is similar to mine. First that romance has an (often undeserved) reputation for poor plot/character development. Second that "romance" suggests a single-mindedness of plot. Mile 21 is waaaaay to complex to pretend it is "just" a love story. In fact, the love story's conclusion functions largely as an external and parallel signification for the completion of the internal trajectory.

Which makes this a good time to mention that I admire the layering of metaphor in this novel. And Sarah's using for metaphors stuff that is just lying around, waiting to be used, but currently underutilized. For instance, I don't know of any other Mormon fiction that uses video games to such good effect. And since I rather notoriously do not like "Blood Work," I don't know of any other Mormon fiction that uses running to such good effect either.

(Note that all quotations are cited at Nook locations based on an epub file I made myself from a Word document of a pre-ARC proof copy Sarah sent me, and are out of 241 locations---at best, the parenthetical number will be an approximations for you.)
Time to buy new shoes.

Are you sure? What if I like my new shoes better than my old ones?

Well, that's kind of the point. Off with the old, on with the new.

But the old shoes fit so well. They brought me through hundreds of miles.

They're not working anymore, Abish.
(75-6)
It's not particularly subtle---the old shoes are her dead husband!---but it's just one part of what Sarah's up to; all the metaphors are twisting around each other making a nice little tapestry that runs the risk of driving us mad right along with our hero. Who doesn't overexamine life for significance when nothing important seems capable of maintaining meaning?

But this also brings us back to my earlier complaint re first-person point-of-view. At times, Abish (our female protagonist) is given more words than are strictly necessary to help us get it. Anyone who's had me edit them will know that one of my mantras is to assume the reader will get it with the minimum of help. Anyone who's edited me will tell you I take sometimes take my own advice to an unfortunate extreme. Perhaps a half dozen times over the course of Mile 21 Abish unpleasantly overexplained herself. It is, I grant, a tough line to straddle when you're using first-person. Abish herself is a curious mix of self-aware and deliberately ignorant that helps with the straddling, but there were those moments I felt pandered to.
I'm feeling sort of puzzled. I'm not sure why Bob's being like this. (108)
Oh, Abish. I can accept you're thinking shallowly enough to end up puzzled. I cannot accept that you are simultaneously puzzled and pretending you can't hypothesize concerning boy/girl interactions. Either you're puzzled or you're thinking about it. But you can't open the box and still find the cat both alive and dead. A third-person narrator has more leeway here, but with Abish narrating, it doesn't quite work in this spot.

Anyway, it's just like me to spend an inordinate amount of time on style issues. Suffice it to say that first-person's a hassle---especially one as self-contradictory as Abish---and Mile 21, though generally successfully, did not escape unscathed.

Here's something else. Mile 21 is a decidedly for-Mormons novel, or so it seems to me. Although keep in mind that everyone says that about Byuck and that was never my intention and still is not my belief. The reason I place this label on Mile 21 is how much time Abish spends in decidedly Mormon relationships. Not just roommates, but a ward, a Relief Society, a bishop. She gets even deeper into the weirdness that is BYU-I and Rexberg generally. They're so much stricter than BYU Classic that I find it bewildering. A two-hours earlier apartment curfew? A city with a similar curfew? Reading about BYU-I gives me the same kind of eyes-wide-open disbelief I imagine nonMormons get reading Byuck. (Which is to say I may be completely wrong about my own for-Mormons claim.) But these down-the-rabbit-hole aspects of the novel are part of what I admire about them. This bold foray into the heart of darkness (so to speak) is something Mile 21 does and does well.

Another thing that strikes me as particularly for-Mormons---though in a somewhat subterfuged way---is something about the tone or voice that puts me in the mood to expect sudden moralizing or tidy messages. But it never happens (cf Nephi Anderson, below). Yes, the ending is quite tidy (here "romance" raises its head again), and Abish find not just romantic answers but many spiritual answers, but those spiritual answers are less clear than the surface romantic conclusion. Sure, she "discovers" that the Plan of Happiness is a plan of happiness, but she also apparently arrives at the conclusion that confusion and uncertainty are not opposed to happiness. Which is not the sort of pat answer detractors of Mormon lit might anticipate this novel to provide. The fact that the novel keeps suggesting simple answers are forthcoming---without ever providing any---allows the novel to function on levels beyond that a casual reader may happily tuck away in a backpocket.

I'm not suggesting the novel is secretly amoral or even wishywashy, but that it rejects the simplicity of tidy fictions in favor of a more realistic complexity, while occasionally allowing the reader the the pleasurable, if immature, hope that life is preordinately predictable. In fact, those characters who promote a simplified, predictable worldview, are the clearest villains of the novel. But even the clearest of villains is seen working through a penance at the end of the novel, presumably shedding her simplicity as she encounters the complexity of others' suffering.

Perhaps the greatest lesson offered by the text is that every character---no matter how simple they seem on the outside---has inner layers of pain and holiness. Each soul is worthy of saving. The crass are sensitive. The sweet live horrors. We are all broken and fallen. We are all capable of love and redemption. We should not give up on ourselves. We should not assume the strong do not need our help. We should not eschew offers of succor from the weak. We should get over ourselves; we should never get over anyone, not even ourselves.

And maybe---just maybe---at least in a story---things really will more or less work out and no matter our confusions, we can be happy.
methinks almost two weeks



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



090) Piney Ridge Cottage by Nephi Anderson, finished August 20

I enjoyed this book so much more than I expected to. I shouldn't be surprised---whenever I read a novel by a long-dead author I've enjoyed in the past, I enjoy it more than I expect it to. Somehow, school made even me fear classic literature.

Some may argue against calling Piney Ridge Cottage classic, but I'm not alone in thinking it good. And it is good. I found it unwilling to take obvious roads. Even elements that others could choose to interpret as stereotypical Mormon copouts (eg, Chester's quick conversion) are twisted into unexpected forms. And Anderson's made some peculiar decisions as well. Back to Chester, Anderson spends so much time developing this character who, in the end, is primarily a foil for a character we barely see at all! Who does that? He's crazy!

The novel's been sitting on my Nook since SASS but I didn't start reading it until it became fodder for a pending online discussion. Then I read it and was so enraptured by the lead character and the milieux she travels that it kept taking me away from my primary read of piratey sex and violence. Nice girls are not supposed to be able to compete with piratey sex and violence, but this one did.

As a work of realistic fiction, I feel Piney Ridge is a great success. Unquestionably it is a Mormon book with Mormon theology and Mormon actions, but nothing is as clean or as simple or as certain as it may sometimes appear on the surface.

Personally, I still think Dorian is the superior novel, but I would not be surprised if I secretly end up liking Julia more.
maybe exactly three weeks



Previously in 2013 . . . . :

2013-08-26

Battle of the Byuck

.

So Byuck has made it to the semifinals in August Insanity. I hypothesized this was a possibility in my original post on the topic and imagined that this is where it would fall, to the highly regarded Bound on Earth. Truly, it is a great book.

But abstract qualities like greatness (or excellence or literariness) don't seem to be guaranteed to win the day during August Insanity. LET ME RUSH TO SAY I AM NOT SUGGESTING THE OTHER BOOKS STILL IN THE RUNNING ARE ANYTHING OTHER THAN TERRIFIC BOOKS. But when it comes time to vote, the better machine seems likely to win the day.

With this in mind---and recognizing that Author Angela does not seem to own a machine---I figure hey! why not! let's Vote Byuck! one more time!

While I have no qualms about losing to Angela, I also have no qualms trying to crush Luisa or Steven in the finals (what are friends for). Do you think it's possible? Let's find out!

Click Byuck to battle!

2013-08-21

Charly vs Byuck
presents Beautiful Dead Women for
thmonth of theric

.

(explanation for all this focus on beautiful dead women)

.

from Byuck ~p113

.

Jamison had heard that being underground could turn you blind. Or

drive you mad. Or both. He supposed he would find out soon enough.

The ceilings grew lower and the walls grew tighter until Jameson was

struggling to squeeze ever deeper and upward.


Popping through a particularly tight spot, Jameson found himself under a

small waterfall. He reached up and found some rocks to hold onto and pulled

himself up. Trying to balance on the precarious ledge, Jameson realized he

was perched on the edge of an underground lake, the overflow trickling

down behind him and turning into the stream he had followed. Where to

now? Walls towered above him on each side. Thrown rocks revealed the

lake’s breadth to be farther than Jameson could throw. He wanted to cry.


And then – was it the madness? Or was this what blindness was like?

Jameson saw, off in the distance, phosphorescent blurs bobbing about. As

they grew larger, he began to hear splashes. Finally, he realized what they

were: mermaids.


They drew up next to him, their pale features and scales glowing, their

blank eyes gazing to his side, unseeing. Then they spoke.


“Please, please, please.”


“Please go.”


More were arriving all the time, their silver bell voices chiming together,

begging him to go.


Then the message changed.


“He is coming. He is coming.”


“He will be angry.”


“He is coming.”


They begged him again to leave.


“We don’t want to hurt you.”


“We don’t want to hurt you.”


“Please go. Please.”


“Please.”


And then it was too late. A monstrous creature rose from the sea, his

blackened and scarred visage oilily reflecting the quiet glow of the mermaids.


He spoke in a familiar voice – the voice of a thousand remembered villains

combined with the crackling fires of hell.


“YOU HAVE NOT DONE AS I SAID.”


He reached down and plucked some mermaids from the sea, his

leviathan size becoming apparent as he stuffed them into his mouth.


“I WILL TEACH YOU TO DISOBEY.”


Jameson watched, horrified, unable to move or speak.


Then the blind beast turned to him and smiled, the lightly glowing scales

of devoured mermaids illuminating his rotting hole of a mouth. It reached for

him, lifted him up, and bit off his head, chewing slowly.

.

VOTE BYUCK TOMORROW

2013-08-20

Charly vs Byuck
thmonth of theric

.

So Byuck won last week against one of the great artistic triumphs of Mormon culture. Next up: the much more difficult battle against saccharine teenage favorite Charly. Not even my pal Poe's on my side here:
. . . the death . . . of a beautiful woman is unquestionably the most poetical topic in the world, and equally is it beyond doubt that the lips best suited for such topic are those of a bereaved lover.
So a couple problems with my book. It's not about a beautiful dead woman and it's not written by the lover of a beautiful dead woman. These are serious blows to my chances.


But I shall not give up! Tomorrow I will reveal that, contrary to common belief, Byuck has beautiful dead women! Plural!

2013-08-19

Job went to the museum, joined a cult, hung out with rabbits and dogs, then shared his dinner of mostly plants with them.

.

089) The Book of Job: When Bad Things Happened to a Good Person by Harold S. Kushner, finished August 19

I'm not sure quite what caused me to pick this up. I feel like I had been thinking about the book of Job? Maybe it was the sweet rottenapple cover. I don't know. Anyway, pick it up I did and I'm glad I did.

Rabbi Kusher is apparently author of a famous book called When Bad Things Happen to Good People, a topic on which he has published several books. I can't judge this book against those, but I found his scholarly approach, moving through several possible translations and theological stances helpful and provocative. Ultimately, he won me over to his interpretations. It didn't hurt his cause of course that his interpretations were basically much more thought-out and well written versions of my own, but regardless: he creates a compelling framework for understanding Job's difficult story.

If you feel the world is treating you poorly or wish to take a journey through scripture with a skilled and wise and friendly guide, I can't think of many books I could recommend more.
about a month



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



088) From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg, finished August 18

It takes so long to read a book to my kids. Even a book I really love and that they are into. Don't know why. Anyway, so great to read this classic again. And I'm happy to say it holds up. In fact, in some ways, I suspect I appreciate a few elements more now than then. And: it was kind of awesome to read my actual personal childhood copy. I liked that. Maybe we'll do Stone Fox next. If I think I can actually read it without sobbing....
some months but not that many months



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



087) Canyons of Grace by Levi S. Peterson, finished August 17

Just six stories of varying degrees of excellence. I need to write Levi an email and see if his memory's fresh enough on this book to discuss the collection title and organization which were, I would argue, much more areligious than a different organization and choosing a different eponymous tale would have created.
not many weeks



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



086) Good Dog by Graham Chaffe, finished August 16

Not so sure it lives up to the cover-praise of being as good a look into the animal soul as Watership Down, but it was pretty great. It's like Call of the Wild comics.
at the store



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



085) Stone Rabbit #4: Superhero Stampede by Erik Craddock, finished August 6

I didn't really like this. Yes, it was bright and colorful and "fun" but it had the sort of not-thought-through morality of your worse cartoons that leads to inadvertent bad advice. I'm not keen on that.
a few minutes



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



084) Food Rules by Michael Pollan, finished August 4

A breeze of a read filled with good advice in Pollan's nonthreatening, engaging voice. Start here if his big books look like too much work. (And they do, don't they?)
perhaps three weeks



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



083) Martha Speaks: Canine Comics: Six Daring Doggie Adventures by Jamie White, finished August 1

No dumber than the Richie Rich comics I read as a kid.
afternoon



Previously in 2013 . . . . :

2013-08-18

Heavenly Parents svithe

.

There being very view places to publish hymns, I shall just put it here, for you, to like or not, to use or not, to have or not, as you please. Feel free to reproduce or distribute any way you like so long as it's not for money.


Our Glorious Parents

Our glorious Parents once sat in their councils
And taught us and loved us as all parents should
The plan They presented, our Brother endorsed, which
Made Him our Savior and exemplar for good.

Our glorious Parents, both Mother and Father,
Reach out from Their heavens and we should reach back.
As we live our lives we should think of Them always
And pray that we will keep our closeness intact.

Our glorious Parents, You know that we love You.
We love the green Earth and our families and friends.
We thank You for prophets, for hope, and salvation;
Take us to Your bosoms when our time here ends.


This hymn is written to a traditional form and many traditional and modern melodies could be appropriated for use.


previous svithe

2013-08-16

VB Day
thmonth of theric

.

Well, let's be honest. Campaign or no campaign I never really thought I had a chance. But no hard feelings! I think Backslider's a terrific book! And I'm what book was I reading the day of the voting? Canyons of Grace. The edition featuring Levi in a dapper hat.

But the masses came through with perhaps the greatest upset in the history of literary contestation. Always remember the power of one. And who knows---on the 22nd when I'm up against the cute dead girl?---maybe the Byuck nation will win again.

2013-08-15

2013-08-14

Cover battle!!!
Byuck vee Backslider
thmonth of theric

.

Let's face facts! You're a busy person! You don't have time to waste on a silly archaic artforms like buks or however you say it! You've got things to do!

Well, I hear ya! So let's just judge the current cover of Byuck against the current cover of The Backslider, shall we?

I'll even let Levi go first:


My turn:


Shazam, yall.

visit the designer

2013-08-13

Because it is SHORT and because it is FUNNY
thmonth of theric

.

This is the Meme Age. Short and funny are all that really matters. With that in mind, I've prepared this chart for you in advance of the upcoming showdown between Byuck and Backslider.


You know what I like about this? It's math. And you really can't argue with math.

2013-08-12

Mormon Lit's August Insanity
thmonth of theric

.

Good news: my nine-year-old son loves me more than James's nine-year-old daughter loves him. But it's okay because I love him.

@byuckfrags
thmonth of theric

.

Are you following @byuckfrags on Twitter? Well, you should be. It's my dada misinterpretation of How To Market Books and I for one love it. All the fragment sentences from the novel presented alphabetically. Or z-to-a, depending on where you are in the sequence.


2013-08-11

A byucky svithe for the sabbath
thmonth of theric

.

The Backslider has a couple of marvelously rendered spiritual scenes. Religiosity is strong as a background element in Byuck, but does not often appear in the foreground. A notable exception is this short chapter. The selection does include some spoilers, but nothing you wouldn't have guessed by the end of page ten.


Chapter Thirty-Nine = Nice Quiet Place


Dave spent the first part of Tuesday trodding head down from class to class, utterly failing to enjoy the first day in months that not only could be called warm, but was warm. Instead he was berating himself for one failing or another (you like girls! you like unbowdlerized Grimms’ fairy tales! you like shampoo commercials!) and watching his shoes strike sidewalk over and over and over again.

As he approached University Parkway on his way home, one of those shoes suddenly tripped over the other one and Dave flew face first into a signpost, barely getting his hands out in time to prevent a nice crease in his forehead. The impact bounced him back a couple steps, then he staggered on to the intersection, his mind void of thought.

As he stood there waiting for the light to change he realized, One, he was moping. Two, no one likes a moper. Three, he should knock it off. So he took his keys out of his pocket and threw them over University Parkway into the nearly deserted stadium parking lot. “Keys!” he cried. “Where are you going?” The light changed and he thanked the little green man for appearing—“Martian or leprechaun?” he politely inquired—then ran into the parking lot and kicked his keys as hard as he could. He chased his keys kick by kick to the low hill at the east end of the lot, then grabbed them and ran up the little incline to the stream that flowed there, already filling with spring runoff. It was actually a ditch, he supposed, but too pretty to be called that. He put the keys in his pocket, sat on the dirt, listened to the water, looked at the parking lot through the soon-to-green foliage, and prayed.

He started by mentioning the beautiful day, the good semester he was having, his new job and this nice quiet place to sit and clear his head and, he realized, pray aloud. Like Joseph Smith. Dave smiled. He thanked his Heavenly Father for his friends. He mentioned how good they were to him, then admitted maybe he wasn’t such a good friend in return. He mentioned Ref. They reminisced about his many years with her, about the times he and she’d had. Then he admitted something he had never even admitted to himself. He searched for the right words. It wasn’t that he was Aware of Ref, though that was suddenly true. And it wasn’t that he Loved her either. But she was his friend and somehow . . . that wasn’t enough. Dissatisfaction. Was that his problem? Ingratitude. Not exactly.

Dave leaned back on his hands and looked up at the sky through the trees. “I told her I couldn’t go to her banquet with her,” he prayed. “Why did I do that?” Why had he done that? Dave lowered his head and shook it. He brushed his hands on his pants and leaned over his knees. And kept talking.

Dave hadn’t checked his watch when he’d started praying, and didn’t when he finished either. It hadn’t been an Enos-a-thon and it hadn’t been earth-shattering. But he felt better. A lot better. He walked the rest of the way home smiling, and he kept talking to God in his mind because he felt He was still there, listening.

Dave felt like doing frabjous cartwheels down the sidewalk, or some other acrobatic act of derring-do. Pity he didn’t know how.

previous svithe

2013-08-10

Reviews of Byuck
thmonth of theric

.

Let's keep it to four pages for today. We're not even going to link to Amazon today.

Response to this review:
Yeah, when Dave Eggers's book came out I wanted to punch him in the face. Mine was written first but now I'm always going to be the guy who kind of sounds a lot like Eggers. He's a decent human being, so I can't hate him, but still. Sheez. Shoulda been first. </whine>

Response to this review:
Please don't anyone tell her this book really has nothing to do with me and my wife? Pretty please?

Response to this review:
I'm very seriously getting SCREWBALL REALIST put on business cards. What do you guys thing? Becoming?

Response to these reviews:
I'm utterly dissatisfied with people's reasons for disliking the book. I mean: come on! A little spittle?

Please leave your hate in the comments section. The most egregious vitriol will be used for promotional purposes.

2013-08-09

This is what Byuck sounds like
thmonth of theric

.

Just a few days until the 15th and I have to take on one of the most storied books in Mormon literature.


Today, I read to you. Settle in kids; it's story time.


2013-08-08

What have I got that Cowboy Jesus hasn't got?
thmonth of theric

.

March Madness is fun and all, but you know what it's always really lacked? Books.


Welcome to August Insanity.

But perhaps you are one of the approximately seven-point-one billion people who have not heard of August Insanity? In brief, it's the latest brainstorm from James Goldberg to promote Mormon literature. In that quest, he's taken sixteen very good Mormon books and pitted them against each other, like so:


Now, I know what two things you're thinking:

1 Congratulations! You've written one of Mormon literature's top sixteen books, like, ever!

2 Oh no! You're pitted against The Backslider! What are you, the sixteenth seed?

To which I say:

1 Oh, undoubtedly.

2 Please do not quote my review to me right now.

But rather than panic, I'm sitting down with my campaign manager and we're asking ourselves: what have we got that Cowboy Jesus hasn't got? We've got one week to pull off the greatest upset in the history of August Insanity and WHAT HAVE WE GOT?

For each of the next seven days, I will provide an answer to that question. But for now, let me just point you to my self-pirated version. If you like it, you will, of course, send me fifty bucks and vote a byucky ticket. But for now the money can wait. For now you should simply read.

2013-08-01

Thopening lines
thmonth of theric, post one

.

Me thoughts were provoked, he said, by this article sort of on and sort of by Stephen King. The man spends as much time, it would seem, crafting his opening lines as he does on the rest of the book. Add to that the general discussion of opening lines in literature, and I felt a need to look at some of mine.

These are the opening lines from the non-cowritten, non-parodic fiction found here. I am going to be as self-absorbed as King and tell you why each is so dernd good.

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

Frank walked around the chapel comforting his family, aware yet unaware that they were mourning him, that he was no longer with them.
Immediately, thauthor moves us from a pedestrian funeral scene to a shyamalanesque reversal of expectations as our hero is revealed to be, in fact, dead. Meanwhile, the mambypamby grammar warns the reader that this is not a thrillfest but a boring old literary tale. Only a gentleman wordsmith would be so honest.

It’s difficult to adjust to being dead.
This one, in stark contract to the prior story, is much more blunt about its being-dead ambitions. We the readers are instructed by thauthor to prepare ourselves for some thrilling scifi escapadery.

Growth arrives first, as he always does, though Decay charges in just after him.
Seemingly assaulted by allegorical characters, the reader has no choice but to accept that thauthor is either hackneyed or a genius. But his skilled use of commas prevents the former conclusion.

Davey Dow was walking down the street a bit earlier and a bit happier than was usual for a Friday afternoon (Friday, usually, being the least halcyon of his days), and anyone on the street who may have known him would have swiftly gotten out of his way with that long and peculiar sidelong glance reserved for the irredeemably weird.
Beginning with a series of nonassonantic long vowels and peppered throughout with bits of consonance, thauthor presents the reader a poetic introduction to what appears---based on the variance in vocabularic levels---will ultimately prove a comedic romp. What a charming introduction to such an alliterative character!

In 1852 when the McLeerys moved to America, they were pleased with New York and imagined they could make the city their permanent home.
The key word in this appears to be "imagined"---suggesting, as it does, that the information provided in this first sentence will ultimately be negated. This introduction via negativa is a balancing act lesser writers dare not attempt. Zowee!

The angel was having a hard time explaining the concept of a year to Adam & Eve.
While this simple sentence has a large number of things going on, what is most striking is the ampersand, suggested that thauthor prefer we, as reader, view this pairing of characters as inseparable. Through one fell character, such characterization!

“So! You must be Eric!”
By engaging the reader as if they were a character sharing a name with thauthor himself, he has immediately collapsed the distance between reader and writer, between reader and character, between character and writer. The postmodern has never been so personal.

Maurine slapped down onto the plush double bench across from a man in a well kempt but slightly old-fashioned suit.
The repurposed verb "slapped" youngifies our title character in preƫmptive contrast to the second, unnamed character who is both a nascently identified individual and a representative of all older generations. Thauthor thus places the reader in a complicated tension: identifying with the young protagonist, while simultaneously being vastly more curious than her regarding the gentleman across. What profundity through such simple means!

Abandoning the car had been a good idea.
Who is the narrator? Who is the protagonist? What car? Where was it abandoned? In what way was abandoning it a good idea? One did one human penjockey creative such wonder and curiosity through a mere eight words?

Patient is stuck on a spaceship.
The immediate contrast between "Patient" and "is stuck" throws the reader into awe at the literary balancing act---but thauthor was not satisfied with that bit of quilly magic; he has followed it up immediately with the whiplash-inducing "spaceship." What other working scribbler would make such demands upon his readership?

Four years had passed since Mary had died; Torrance still wasn’t comfortable dating and yet here he was, getting married.
Whaaaaaat???