Stuff you didn't know about me


086) A Wolf at the Door and Other Retold Fairy Tales edited by , Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, finished August 31

I forget why I ran this book down. Perhaps I just saw Neil Gaiman's name then noticed Gregory Maguire and Patricia McKillip's names as well and thought, hey, why not? Dunno. The point is that I'm glad I picked it up and I quickly switched from planning to read a couple stories from names I know to eagerly reading one after another.

For a YA collection, the variety was terrific. From retellings that stayed very classic to modern settings to postmodern deconstructions. A little bit of everything. Some of my favorites were from writers I didn't know (and one was from a writer I only knew from her introduction to book #085).

Frankly, the best book of fairy tales I've read in some time.
over two weeks


085) Castle Waiting by Linda Medley, finished August 30

I loved the for-a-buck Castle Waiting novel I picked up at Escapist. When I learned more was available, I availed myself of the library. This volume includes a prologue, then what I had already read, then more. (I've put volume two on hold and am eagerly anticipating volume three.)

Having just read the Castle Waiting I own, I had planned to skip those chapters during this read. But the writing and art (and thus the characters and scenes) are so friendly and likable and inviting that I couldn't say no to an invitation to travel old roads with them again. And I'm someone who pretty much never rereads anything any more.

The charms of Castle waiting are largely mundane, domestic. People about their daily lives. And yes, this is a fantasy novel so everyday life includes sprites and golden eggs, but these aren't great heroes about derring-do. These are people. People so richly drawn that they feel like friends. An afternoon at Castle Waiting would rank high among my travels were I Thursday Next and tired of Jane Eyre.
maybe two weeks


084) An Amorous Discourse in the Suburbs of Hell by Deborah Levy, finished August 30

This is a novel in verse, I suppose, in dialogue form, "He" and "she" taking turns speaking. "He" is a mortal man and "she" is an angel. Eventually they get on each other's nerves. She gets most of the best lines. Ultimately, however, it's pretty hard to tell what this is all about. Maybe this is a Poe issue. Although short enough to be read in one sitting, I'm not sure I was able to cram the whole thing in my brain at once. I could blame this on it being too literary, but I don't think that was the problem. The fact that sometimes I would forget who was talking was a bigger problem---only two characters? They should be more distinguishable. Anyway. Complaints aside, if you're looking for a manageable bit of book-length poetry, you could do much worse. Plus, it'll look cool on your shelf.
one morning and afternoon


083) Women at Church: Magnifying LDS Women's Local Impact by Neylan McBaine, finished August 30


Neylan McBaine's name seems to be a bit like Joseph Smith's---known for good and evil (though without the same kind of among-all-people reach). It's fascinating how to some she is Moses come off the mountain and to others she's Uncle Tom. I think she's sensible enough to reject both those labels, but if those were the only two options, I would choose the former. But if she is Moses, she's more of a Greek Moses, not with anything written in stone, but with a wandering series of questions and reasonable answers and followup questions that lead to a seemingly inevitable conclusion.

Here I jump in and wonder if audience bias plays a role in how things "seem." Do I, Theric, find McBain convincing because I already assume that part of the Restoration is ever greater equality of the sexes and surely excerpts from the Nauvoo Relief Society Minute Book will be added to the D&C any Conference now? If I were one of those Twitter Stake trolls who make fun of the women giving talks during #ldsconf, would this book help me see past my sociopathy? Or, more importantly, if I were a well meaning bishop to whom it's simply never occurred to ask a woman for feedback on my Mother's Day plans, could this book increase empathy and lead to openings in my ward's spiritual growth? Or would I nod wisely and wink at my counselors and just keep on keepin' on? Buy one for your local chicken patriarch and let me know.

Regardless, this is a valuable book---and I think most people desire to see the Church grow in the direction of inclusion. Wily as she is, McBaine has grounded her discussion in what is currently allowed by the Handbook of Instructions, those blue and red books leadership is obliged to follow. Her strict adherence to these rules---even though they are merely temporarily immutable---makes her ideas both immediately implementable and, presumably, less horrifying to the conservative.

That she is swearing by the book as currently constituted brings her credibility that gives her ideas weight they can gain in no other way. Thus, when she screws up her following-of-the-book, she risks damaging her credibility. Here's an "unimportant" example---indeed, the only one I noticed:
...a ward council meeting officially includes ten men: the bishop, his two counselors, the executive secretary, ward clerk, high priests group leader, elders quorum president, ward mission leader, Young Men's president, and the Sunday School president. Three women are included: the presidents of the Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary. Priesthood executive council (PEC) consists of all ten men from the ward council, with a potential invitation to the Relief Society president. The Young Men president is a permanent member of the priesthood executive committee, but the Young Women president is not even on the list of potential invitees.... the presence of twenty male voices in the two meetings is counterbalanced by the voice of three female voices (maybe four if the Relief Society president attends PEC). [43-44]
McBaine's point is that men have far more representation in ward-level councils than women. It's an important point that deserves discussion. And so she does. Here's my problem with what she's said (and note I already know I'm being persnickety): Aaaactually, the Sunday School president isn't invited to PEC either. Not according to the Handbook. So it's reeeeally 19:3.

That doesn't change the nature of the problem at all. Not at all. The problem is that if someone's reading this book under duress and looking for reasons to dismiss McBaine's arguments, this sort of petty mistake can lead to all sorts of uncharity.

Another mistake that threw me out was the story of a young Primary girl who wants to sing about the Armies of Shelaman. It's a charming story about a young Provo girl who was sick of being just a girl in a room overwhelmed with stories of boys and who carved herself a place. She's just a kid but she feels neglected, and the story is powerful proof that we need to lengthen our cords.

My problem this time? That story didn't happen in Provo. It happened right here in good old Berkeley.

Now look: I believe these were simple, editorial oversights. And they're the only two such errors I noticed. But the fact I found any makes me wonder how many I missed and any errors---but especially Handbook errors---damage McBaine's grounded-in-the-Handbook ethos. In fact, someone more cynical than me could think of reasons why those errors might be intentional (19:3 might be bad but 20:3 is worse and everything must sound as awful as possible) (this story works better in Provo---admit it was Berkeley and most saints will reject it as hippy nonsense), and the fight against any perception that she's manipulating facts is absolutely vital to the book's success.

But enough about that. Let's speak of the book's successes.

The first and greatest success, I think, is simply the massive collection of stories. We learn from each other, and if a woman would like to participate in her child's name and blessing but has never seen a mother do so before, how will she know she can ask? who to ask? what to ask for? Women at Church shares several different ways women have already participated in this event. Suddenly we have options.

The same can be said of past successes at getting women's voices heard in councils, finding equal(er) footing among their priesthood leaders, supporting women in their stewardships, empowering women to use their strengths within the body of Christ, etc. The book is loaded with useful tales. And some cautionary ones as well.

Stories are vital for building empathy, and empathy is the only way out of this rut we're in. Only by loving our neighbor as ourselves can all of us become one. Jesus didn't teach with stories by accident, you know.

I don't want to get into the (in my opinion) frustrating history of the Relief Society, nor do I want to debate the ultimate value of Correlation---even though both these stories are fascinating and vital---but I do think it worth mentioning that McBaine touches on both. She's not controversial---she more relays the facts than comments upon them---but, even without moralizing, that history helps us understand that our latter-day trajectory is sending us towards women with authority and power, rib-cracking hiccups notwithstanding. I can only believe that Women at Church is best understood as a helpful reminder of where we're headed and a kindly suggestion of where to step next.

This might be the historical "moment when [we] have gone to the edge of the light" and must step "into the darkness [only] to discover that the way is lighted ahead for just a footstep or two." Our wards and stakes might be stumbling forward at different paces, but we can all make sure that the direction is, in fact, forward. And this little book can help.

two-plus months


082) The League of Outsider Baseball: An Illustrated History of Baseball's Forgotten Heroes by Gary Cieradkowski, finished August 25

This is one of the best collection of nuggets I can remember reading. Every story fascinates and Cieradkowski's art is terrific. I just got distracted after that last sentence, adding things I learned to Wikipedia. It's an hour later.

Each story is bitesize---some nibbles, some a full box of nuggets---and all are worth reading. Whether its players everyone knows like Babe Ruth and Roberto Clemente, classic Negro Leaguers like Cool Papa Bell and Josh Gibson, nobodies you'll never hear of anywhere else, and people you know better from somewhere else---like an Eisenhower or a Bush or a Kerouac.

Man it was fun.

Read it slow though---no reason to speed through it and realize that some of these legends collide uncomfortably against each other.

Or that one out of every four greats was called the Babe Ruth of X.

Anyway. Don't wait for the book! Start now by perusing the original website!

over a month

Previously in 2014 . . . . :

Books seventy-fourth through seventy-seventh
081) Saint Cole by Noah Van Sciver, finished August 20
080) That A Guise, John? by Brace Pannier, finished August 19
079) A Blink of the Screen by Terry Pratchett, finished DATE
078) Revival Volume Four: Escape to Wisconsin by Tim Seely and Mike Norton, finished August 16

Books seventy-fourth through seventy-seventh
077) Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, finished August 15
076) Happy Birthday, Wanda June by Kurt Vonnegut, finished August 6
075) The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain, finished August 4
074) The Erotic Spirit: An Anthology of Poems of Sensuality, Love, and Longing edited by Sam Hamill, finished July 28

Books seventieth through seventy-third
073) Dial H: Exchange by China Miéville et al, finished July 27
072) Sir Charlie: Chaplin, the Funniest Man in the World by Sid Fleischman, finished July 24
071) "C" is for Corpse by Sue Grafton, finished July 22
070) Isle of 100,000 Graves by Fabien Vehlmann and Jason, finished July 19

Books fifty-ninth through sixty-ninth
069) Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett, finished July 17
068) Dial H: Into You by China Miéville et al, finished July 15
067) Benny Breakiron: The Red Taxis by Peyo, finished July 15
066) Bossypants by Tina Fey, finished July 14
065) Liberating Form: Mormon Essays on Religion and Literature by Marden J. Clark, finished July 12
064) The Rise of Aurora West by Paul Pope and J. T. Petty and David Rubín, finished July 12
063) Battling Boy by Paul Pope, finished July 11
062) The Last Days of Video by Jeremy Hawkins, finished July 6
061) Arabel's Raven by Joan Aiken, finished July 3
060) Templar by Jordan Mechner and Alex Puvilland and LeUyen Pham, finished July 2
059) Heaven Knows Why! by Samuel W. Taylor, finished June 26

Books fifty-sixth through fifty-eighth
058) Itself by Rae Armantrout, finished June 21
057) Western Wind: An Introduction to Poetry by John Frederick Nims and David Mason, finished June 19
056) Matilda by Roald Dahl, finished June 15

Books fifty-second through fifty-fifth
055) Bad Houses by Sara Ryan and Carla Speed McNeil, finished June 14
054) Star Wars Underworld: The Yavin Vassilika by Mike Kennedy and Carlos Meglia and whoever, finished June 12
053) Batman Vol. 5: Zero Year - Dark City by by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo (et al), finished June 11
052) Deadpool's Art of War by Peter David and Scott Koblish, finished June 10

Books forty-sixth through fifty-first
051) Men of Wrath by Jason Aaron and Ron Garney, finished June 10
050) X-Men: No More Humans by Mike Carey & Salvador Larroca & al., finished June 9
049) Alex + Ada by Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn, finished June 9
048) Miracleman Book 2: The Red King Syndrome by Alan Moore (not credited by name) and a bunch of other people, finished June 6
047) Coffin Hill: Dark Endeavors by Caitlin Kittredge and Inaki Miranda, finished June 6
046) Coffin Hill: Forest of the Night by Caitlin Kittredge and Inaki Miranda, finished June 4

Books forty-second through forty-fifth
045) Castle Waiting: The Lucky Road by Linda Medley, finished at midnight so either June 2 or 3
044) The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami and translated by Ted Goossen, finished June 2
043) The Round House by Louise Erdich, finished June 1
042) Best American Comics 2014 edited by Scott McCloud, finished May 31

Books thirty-seventh through forty-first
041) The Brothers K by David James Duncan, finished May 18
040) Auntie Mame by Patrick Dennis, finished May 18
039) Skandalon by Julie Maron, finished May 1
038) The Final Story by Jeff Shaara, finished April 29
037) Shutter Volume 1: Wanderlost by Joe Keatinge and Leila Del Duca et al, finished April 29

Books thirty-second through thirty-sixth
036) The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis, finished April 27
035) Zero Volume 1: An Emergency by Ales Kot et al, finished April 22
034) Deadly Class Volume 1: Reagan Youth by Rick Remender, finished April 19
033) Animal Man Vol. 4: Splinter Species by Jeff Lemire et al, finished April 17
032) Swamp Thing Vol. 4: Seeder by Charles Soule et al, finished April 15

Books twenty-eighth through thirty-first
031) Small Gods by Terry Pratchett, finished April 6
030) The Frangipani Hotel by Violet Kupersmith, finished April 2
029) The Adventures of Rabbi Harvey: A Graphic Novel of Jewish Wisdom and Wit in the Wild West by Steve Sheinkin, finished March 29
028) Vivian Maier: Self-Portraits edited by John Maloof, finished March 23

Books twenty-sixth through twenty-seventh
027) Passing by Nella Larsen, finished March 18
026) Hangsaman by Shirley Jackson, finished March 17

Books twenty-second through twenty-fifth
025) Ghost World by Daniel Clowes and Terry Zwigoff, finished March 16
024) Hawkeye: L.A. Woman by Matt Fraction and some very talented artists, finished March 15
023) Hawkeye: Little Hits by Matt Fraction and a large number of artists, finished March 14
022) Hawkeye: My Life as a Weapon by Matt Fraction and David Aja and Javier Pulido, finished March 12

Books twentienth through twenty-first
021) Does Santa Exist?: A Philosophical Investigation by Eric Kaplan, finished March 11
020) Babymouse #8: Puppy Love by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm, finished March 11

Books sixteenth through ninteenth
019) The Book of Mormon, finished March 3
018) Cow Boy: A Boy and His Horse by Nate Cosby and Chris Eliopoulos, finished March 1
017) Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle, finished February 26
016) Drawings II by Jake Parker, finished February 19

Books twelfth through fifteenth
015) The PreHistory of The Far Side: A 10th Anniversary Exhibit by Gary Larson, finished February 18
014) Nation by Terry Pratchett, finished February 16
013) Fences by August Wilson, finished February 10
012) Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, finished February 6

Books tenth through eleventh
011) Adverbs by Daniel Handler, finished February 4
010) Death by Chocolate: Redux by David Yurkovich, finished February 3

Books sixth through ninth
009) The End of the World by Don Hertzfeldt, finished January 31
008) Ms. Marvel: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona, finished January 24
007) Drop Shot by Harlan Coben, finished January 18
006) Cardboard by Doug TenNaple, finished January 15

Books first through fifth
005) The Complete Peanuts: 1991-1992 by Charles M. Schulz, finished January 10
004) City of Brick and Shadow by Tim Wirkus, finished January 9
003) Harem Scarem in El Cerrito by Neva Calvert Carpenter, finished January 4
002) iPlates Volume II: Prophets, Priests, Rebels, and Kings by Stephen Carter and Jett Atwood, finished January 4
001) Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut, finished January 3

final booky posts of

2014 = 2013 = 2012 = 2011 = 2010 = 2009 = 2008 = 2007

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