Th' #MormonPoetrySlam


It's time for the Mormon Poetry Slam again and since self-promotion is all the internet's really about anyway---and since I've placed a few poems over the last year or so---here's some therickified goodness for your outloud reading pleasure. (Since it's a #MormonPoetrySlam, I've ordered them from "most" Mormon on down. And since it's a #MormonPoetrySlam, I've left out a few that probably won't read well. Also any you have to pay money to get---those are left out too. because I'm so nice to the poor.)

A Hymn for Mother’s Day in Long Meter

After Party


Jesus Fishing the Styx

Some seduction this—

My Latest Trip to the Berkeley Botanical Gardens


Rifflection: ‘To His Mistress Going to Bed’ by John Donne

Enough Is

Being a High-School Teacher Is a Great Disguise

Sponsored Funeral

Amtrak to SAC

The Fiberglass Giraffe in Davis, California

Accidentally Deleted

Completely Static Account


Well. That's another scariest-movie-of-all-time over and done with.


And, alas, like Night of the Living Dead, The Shining was a disappointment.

Look: heckuva lotta Filmmaking going on here. No question about that. And no doubt it stressed me out. But it was just too much. Which may seem like a funny thing to say, me being a wild Wes Anderson fan, but you don't want a silly scariest-movie-of-all-time, do you? No. Of course you don't. Then it wouldn't be the scariest-movie-of-all-time, would it?

Does that music get you scared? Sure. I guess. It's better than most Halloween sound-effect tapes, for sure.

Does that almost-symmetrical-but-not-quite framing keep you off guard? Yep. Sure does.

How about Danny riding his bike around and around and around?

How about the All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. manuscript?

How about the lady in the tub?

How about the running through the hedge?

The use of mirrors?

Yes, yes, yes. All very well done. The sudden cuts made me jump almost every time (although the last one to the iconic image of frozen Jack just made me snort), but aren't you wasting tension, making me jump just to tell me it's Tuesday?


I can see where the influence of this film has shown up in everyone from my boy Wes to Twin Peaks, but come on. The slow build of terror was so slow it finally fell apart and collapsed. The sudden death of Dick provided no payoff or release. Having Mom see ghosts got in the way of the true source of the terror. The room of skeletons just made me laugh out loud. And that photograph at the end? Oh yeah. Very artsy. Whoopdefreakindo. That does nothing for me, Kubrick. Stop patting yourself on the back.

Some great acting from the leads, though! Even though the direction included lots of needless pauses. Jack Nicholson was born for this role. I'm glad other people like it....

I know I'm grumpy. Sorry. But really. For all it's merits, when you add them all up, the film kind of sucked.

There it is.


Rejected books: YOU by Caroline Kepnes
#WhosReadingYou? Erm. Not me.


[NOTE: I received this book as a Klout perk with the presumed hope of the publisher that I would love it and tweet that love with the hashtag #WhosReadingYou. I wish that had been the case.]


YOU is the tale of a man who thinks he is not merely rational and good, but better than you or I---less degenerate than the rest of us, smarter, kinder---the only man with his head screwed on straight in the whole damn world. Which naturally leads to stalking a pretty girl and locking her up and heroically trying to save her from herself for himself.

Which is fine. This sort of thing can be done well. Joyce Carol Oates's Zombie is arguably of this genre and is the most terrifying novel I've ever read and is fabulously written. Largely, the book works because I believed that I was actually experiencing the inside of Quentin's head.

Compare that to a story I wrote for an undergrad writing class. I don't remember the title anymore, but I think of it as the cockroach story. In that one too, the lead is a creepy fellow who's not so bright and has never grown beyond the solipsism of youth and who only kills because it's necessary and sensible and kind, given the circumstances. When my professor returned my portfolio, for all the love she had for my work in general, she was disappointed in the cockroach story as a generic piece of crap. I hadn't known this character was a tired trope, a cliche much in need of execution, but since then, yeah, I've seen it many many many times. It's worn out and almost impossible to do well, even if you only try to maintain it for ten pages.

YOU is 422 pages and, I'm sorry to say, much much closer to my cockroach story in execution than it is to Zombie.

This is not to say that Kepnes can't write. She's clearly talented. She's just written a kind of bad first novel.

Now look: I'm definitely in favor of ambitious failures. And this novel thinks it's ambitious in the same way a teenager who asks "How do I know that what you see as red is what I see as red?" thinks she's deeply philosophical. Kepner's book is called YOU to emphasize that the bulk of the narration is Joe's internal thinking as aimed at Beck---he's talking to her at all times within his head.

First paragraph:
YOU walk into the bookstore and you keep your hand on the door to make sure it doesn't slam. You smile, embarrassed to be a nice girl, and your nails are bare and your V-neck sweater is beige and it's impossible to know if you're wearing a bra but I don't think that you are. You're so clean that you're dirty and you murmur your first word to me—hello—when most people would just pass by, but not you, in your loose pink jeans, a pink spun from Charlotte's Web and where did you come from?
She's clearly meant for him and he begins to court her by following her around and learning everything about him. And not in a cute way like in The Fisher King.

It's pretty easy while reading this novel to see the balancing act Kepnes is attempting. If Joe starts seeming too legitimately cute she has him say something utterly misogynistic or to talk about watching Beck masturbate (which she seems to do all the time), and when he starts seeming too creepy it's time to talk about movies or chivalry again. The real issue comes not that Joe is ambiguous (something he should be) but that he's actually not ambiguous. She doesn't seem able to make him chivalrous and dangerous at the same time, so he's one then the other then one then the other. He's never a good guy, mind, but his character is inconsistent in terms of what sort of bad will he actually be, even though it's obvious pretty quickly that he'll be locking her up ala Room and, thanks to that violent cover, she'll die.

The sloppy execution though made it so that I couldn't get past page sixty. I skimmed a bit here and there through the end and it was pretty much exactly what I expected. Nothing impressed or surprised me.

Which is where the marketing confuses me. Is it possible that no one at Simon & Schuster realized that calling it "a perversely romantic thriller that’s more dangerously clever than any you’ve read before" just isn't true?

Unless. . . .

Here's my theory: This book is aimed at a younger, Millennial audience who maybe hasn't actually seen this before and thus might actually be impressed by it. An young audience the suits hope might be suckered into thinking this is hip stuff because it has Twitter and Smartphones and Cool Stuff Like That. Also, it has sex and young people like sex. I mean---the way this girl grinds her c**t against that pillow! Gracious.

Looking at the Goodreads reviews, I think the suits mostly guessed right. It appears that the novel is coming off as something new to many readers, and so they at least are getting the experience this #WhosReadingYou campaign has promised them. Lucky kids.

Anyway. I know I'm coming off like a bit of a hater here, but I'm bummed that the book wasn't better than it was. Although it was obvious almost immediately that it wasn't going to work for me, I kept forcing myself to read just one more chapter until I couldn't anymore.

I hope that Kepnes keeps writing and keeps being ambitious. And I hope someone's upfront with her the next time her ambition takes her down a tired road. Someone did me that favor once, and I'm still grateful.

Keep reading, Kepnes. Keep writing.


Dead supermodel on down


084) The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith, finished October 11

This was recommended to me by a former student now working at my local library. I think he'd read it as a duty, being a grown-up member of the Harry Potter generation (Galbraith now revealed to be a pen name for Rowling).

Having been reintroduced to detective fiction of late by reading Sue Grafton, I tend to think of her pacing as the standard. The Galbraith novel's mystery is about the same size as those in the Grafton books I've read, but it's much, much longer. The swift conclusion arrives about the same distance from the end---absolutely, not proportionally---which is to say it seems a bit too long to get too. I found the twist a little too obvious in the sense that I didn't think THAT person could be the murderer because all the misdirection made THAT person impossible.

Anyway. I think the most important part of these sorts of novels is whether or not we grow fond of the the hero[es] to come back on another adventure with them. In this case, Cormoron Strike is compelling and ultimately likable. His assistant Robin Ellacott even more so. Their love histories and presents are still to be fully explored. (Although choosing to introduce Robin's fiance as a wonderful person and then spend the rest of the book undermining that was an odd choice.)

Yeah. Anyway, the point is it was enjoyable, too long, not remarkable really in any way, wonderfully British, and---because we already know---tastes a lot like JK Rowling. Just with more swears.
two or three weeks


083) Non-Essential Mnemonics: An Unnecessary Journey into Senseless Knowledge by Kent Woodyard, finished October 8

Apparently these originally appeared on McSweeney's, and in many ways, that's a better place for it. My favorite part of the collection is the final chapter in which every mnemonic is something said at his ten-year high-school reunion. The random things which these are made to signify is the undercurrent of humor but the contrarily directed undercurrent of deciphering a "true" story simultaneously makes the whole gag more successful.

Ultimately, this is the sort of book in which a sequence of mildly humorous antijokes set up the more largely funny antijokes.

In other words, hard to imagine that most people won't hate it.

But it's a pleasant humor book of the sort I thought they stopped publishing in the 90s. So if you like these---or enjoy giving them as gifts---it's a solid choice.

[Review of gratis copy from publisher.]
four days


082) Superman: Earth One by J. Michael Straczynski and Shane Davis, finished September 28

I may someday finish this other loooong comic I'm reading whose name I can't be bothered to look up right now, I may not. I mention it because the introduction talks about how its creator is the creator of Babylon 5 and his genius shines through in comics form as well. Now, I've never seen Babylon 5(and after the good-ideas/holey-execution of that comic, I've no real drive too), but the reason I bring it up is because I just discovered this book is also by that bloke.

I liked a lot about this reimagining of Superman's coming into the public eye, but, at the same time, it did a lot of things that didn't make sense. I'm forgiving those flaws because I liked the parts I liked, but let's face it: no way was this good enough to turn me on to Babylon 5.
two days


081) Usagi Yojimo 20: Glimpses of Death by Stan Sakai, finished September 28

Incredibly, I've never read any Usagi before. Just never happened. I'm always a little leery of martial-arts stories (the oft-repeated trauma of watching Karate Kid is no doubt to blame) and there are sooo many of these books. But I was stuck at the library and looking at the comics in the teen section and they had two, one of which was a standalone. I decided to take that one home, but in the meantime, I read the first few pages of this one. A few turned to forty and I took this home instead. And I loved it. I don't even care that I'm in the middle of some longer tales. Each of these short stories satisfies---and in different ways.

Man, I've wasted a lot of time not reading Usagi.
two days

Previously in 2014 . . . . :


True or False: Theric's exhuming things that's better left alone
lost songs


I can't think of a song more suitable for the Lost Songs series than Randy Travis's "Diggin' Up Bones" which is, after all, about "resurrecting memories."

Travis's is one of the memorable voices of my childhood and this particular song is one of many permanent tracks in my internal jukebox. It has also, for reasons I cannot explain, recently been placed on Constant Rotation alongside current popular songs and new favorites.

This particular song is about a fellow up late one night taking out old photos and love letters and like paraphernalia of a lost love. He puts on his old wedding ring and then gives hers a fling (a nice bit of wordplay), then slips into the chorus:

Yeah tonight I'm sitting alone, diggin' up bones
I'm diggin' up bones, I'm diggin' up bones
Exhuming things that's better left alone
I'm resurrecting memories of a love that's dead and gone
Yeah tonight I'm sittin' alone diggin' up bones

I think I liked this song a bit better than some of the others when I was a kid because there was no hint of infidelity---I liked songs about broken hearts, but infidelity was too much. The closest thing to sex here is "the pretty negligee that I bought you to wear."

In short, though, this songs was an excellent choice for exhumation. I think it captures much of what is typical about Eighties Radio Country---melodic hooks, cheery pop background singers, over-the-top metaphor---and grounds it in some simple guitar work and the hyper-masculine-yet-vulnerable voice of Mr Randy Travis.

I've played this song maybe a dozen times while writing this post and I still feel no regret about my decision. That's impressive.