2015-11-30

Lost Songs: "Louisiana Saturday Night"
¡and free bonus!

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Last Saturday, passing through Bakersfield, I put on the radio hoping to find some older country to listen to and lo and behold! on the first non-Spanish station! "Louisiana Saturday Night"! darn near the very beginning!

This is a regular on my internal jukebox. And one I've been meaning to write about for this series for a long, long time. Why haven't I? I'm not sure. It's just so fundamental to my sense of what a good song is that I guess it just never felt urgent to revisit. I won't forget it. Even if I haven't heard it in maybe twenty years. (Sort of like how I should probably call my parents more than I do.)

Anyway, looking it up, I've learned a few things. First, it's not an Oakridge Boys song. This is lucky. I almost bought Oakridge Boys greatest-hits albums via Columbia House or BMG on the assumption this song would soon be in the mail.

Nope. It's Mel McDaniel. A name I don't know.

And the first recording was by Don Williams! Everything sounds good when Don Williams sings it. Let's listen to that version:

We can, in short, listen to it as many times as we feel like. Which may be a lot. It's short and its sharp and it takes up so little time it'll leave us hungry for more: the perfect (country) pop song.

Speaking of perfect (country) pop songs by Mel McDaniel whose name I never even knew, let me tell you about the karaoke machine my parents bought me circa age ten.

My favorite song during my late single-digits was Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the U.S.A."---it was the first single I ever owned (and only vinyl) (the B-side was a disturbing [to me] adultery song---the mental disconnect between feel-good patriotism and slimy sluttiness was rough) and when my parents gifted me a karaoke machine one Christmas, it came with "God Bless the U.S.A." and a couple other songs (I think two per side of the cassette tape---or maybe two cassette tapes, one song per side?) only one of which I knew, which was the ever-catchy "Baby's Got Her Blue Jeans On."

"Baby's Got Her Blue Jeans On" is another song in permanent rotation on my internal jukebox (much to my beloved's chagrin). Looking it up now (again, perhaps twenty years since hearing it) it's got a lot more tok!tok!tok! than I remember, but it's still "Baby's Got Her Blue Jeans On", goldernit!

Both of these McDaniel hits were written by Bob McGill---another name I don't know. And although his Wikipedia page isn't all that helpful, I see he's written songs for Waylon Jennings and Juice Newton and Anne Murray and Joe Cocker and Ray Charles and, wait for it, Don Williams, so he may have already been featured in this series and may well be featured again.

It is nice to meet you, sir. May we meet again.

In the meantime, let's kick off our shoes, throw them on the floor, dance in the kitchen till the morning light: Louisiana Saturday Night.

2015-11-23

Th. &c.

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115) Men, Women & Dogs by James Thurber, finished November 21

I probably could not overstate the influence Thurber's had on my own work. In large part because I likely do not know the full influence he's had on me. The shock I had a few years back! opening my own chemistry folder from high school and finding me practicing Thurber's occasional Th signature on his cartoons! I mean---my thet of theudonyms doesn't date back to high school. And yet. On some subconscious level. It appears they do.

This is a collection of cartoons.


This is the stuff little therics are made of.
two days



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114) Bunnicula Meets Edgar Allen Crow by James How, finished November 21

The first four Bunnicula books are seminal bits of lit from my childhood. I am, however, now an adult, and so it is difficult to compare this volume to those---I'm far from the same person reading them. Certainly there were funny bits, but I have a hard time imagining hilarity ensuing were we to all read this together, as my mother read Bunnicula to us one road trip long ago. I believe I spent my own money buying books 2 and 3 and 4.

It's weird to me, the adult reader, that Harold is getting old and arthritic while Howie is still a puppy (for instance). But I also admire how kids lit can be both grounded in its own reality while loose with the concept of reality generally. Even adult fantasy doesn't quite have that freedom. Being a kid is rather postmodern---but kids have always been this way (cf the first book I started November 20). Adults can't own it the same way.

Anyway, new characters are introduced and things get nutty and never scary, but I enjoyed spending time with the crew. Probably would have enjoyed more a return to one of my old faves, though, Howliday Inn and The Celery Stalks at Midnight.
two days



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113) Oh The Moon by Charlyne Yi, finished November 15

I've had this book for months and its back copy intrigued me, but it was thick and it seemed like to much to begin. Little did I realize it's mostly sketches and whitespace.

Geez. Open a book, why dontcha.

Anyway. Lady Steed was digging under the bed for some other book and pulled this out and in a moment of distraction I picked it up and a couple minutes later I was dozens of pages in. It's pretty quick reading.

Early on, I'm amazed at what a good agent can get published. Frankly, much of what's in this volume is the sort of absurdist silliness that passes for Big Ideaing that high-school students get into. I certainly did. And a lot of what I came up with then, I wouldn't be ashamed to let anyone read. I might, however, be ashamed to make anyone pay for it.

Really: much of this is extremely high-school in nature. Including the pages whose purpose is, in part, look! I can draw trees real good!

The other reference point for me is those text/linedrawing books from the 70s about love and stuff. You know, from Love Is... to Shel Silverstein's more adult works to a million points both beyond and inbetween. That stuff.

Another: It seems to me that part of the reason this may have been published is to bring the success of Wimpy Kid (and its million imitators) to the adult market.

Anyway. Enough with the speculation and the complaints (which is, let's be frank, hypocritical of me---have you seen my YouTube channel?---and I am fond of her aggressive style of antihumor). Although the book begins in absurdity and meanders through halfbaked surrealism, etc etc, Yi isn't just trading her B-grade celebrity for a brief shining moment on Barnes & Nobel's $3.99 table. In fact, she is attempting something rather ambitious, with interweaving and symbols and crap like that. That, in my opinion, it mostly doesn't come off matters less to me than that it was attempted and that it's interesting and it is, remember, ambitious. And the almost-last story "Strange Love" is actually very good. I hope BAC gives it a shot for their next goround.

Um.
one eventide



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112) Beauty by Hubert and Kerasco√ęt, finished November 14

This is probably the best modern fairy tale I've read since The Bloody Chamber.

The tale starts with young Coddie, a genuinely ugly girl who words as (and smells like) a professional fishscale-scraper. Treated cruelly by all those around her, when she does an accidental kindness to a fairy and is offered a gift in return, she wishes to be beautiful. And her wish is granted. Her actual person has not changed, but she appears as the perfect woman to all who see her. Almost immediately this seems to be a curse as her godfather attempts to rape her, followed by the men of the village attacking her and requiring her to flee her home.

She is renamed Beauty and Beauty's beauty swings wildly between blessing and curse. She begins to use it to abuse and corrupt and manipulate. She is torn many directions. By virtue of being Beauty, she is inoculated from her own ignorance and others' poverty. Destruction follows in her wake. It seems certain we are reading a tragedy.

And then---somehow---Beauty finds salvation.

It is a remarkable story. And the art is stunning. The swinging back and forth between seeing Coddie as she is and Beauty as others see her keeps us both complicit in others' evil and aware of their errors as they themselves often cannot be.

Just amazing.

two days



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111) "E" Is for Evidence by Sue Grafton, finished November 13

This one had the most thrills-per-pound yet. And while there's always the question in a detective series whether book or tv if one detective can really see this much action, who cares? Kinsey is nice to hang out with and I like to see her win. Even if she has to weather a couple explosions in the process.
perhaps two weeks





Previously in 2015 . . . . :

2015-11-18

Preparing for Hail, Caesar!

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Like all sentient beings, I am looking forward to the Coens' new film, Hail Caesar!---and so I'm preparing a homework assignment for myself and all others who would like to join in.



ASSIGNMENT ONE: THE COENS DO OLD HOLLYWOOD

Barton Fink is a wonderfully haunting film, bizarre and troubling and grounded in the history of Hollywood. It gets bits of everything the Coens do best---darkness and mystery and uncertain hilarity---and wraps it around John Turtorro before throwing him off a rather attractive cliff. I will watch this movie with you anytime. I have a hard time finding people to watch it with me for some reason....






ASSIGNMENT TWO: THE COENS HAVE GEORGE CLOONEY PREEN

The primary selection here is Intolerable Cruelty, a film unfairly knocked by many Coen fans as one of their weaker offerings. I suggest they just haven't watched it enough times. The film is a screwball marvel and Clooney's is just one of its brilliant performances. His fixation on his teeth is what makes this your primary assignment.



The secondary assignment (replacement if you can't see the second, or supplemental if you have time for both) is O Brother, Where Art Thou? The time period's a bit closer to Hail, Caesar, but its a bit short on glam. Still: great movie.






ASSIGNMENT THREE: THE COENS PRESENT COMEDIC KIDNAPPING

Here we get to films I'm less familiar with. I'm ashamed to admit I've seen both of these films only once each. Because of this, I'm less certain that the primary/secondary arrangement is correct. At any rate, the primary selection is The Great Lebowski (which I didn't really like after first viewing, but you don't hear me knocking it---in fact, I've been meaning to revisit it) and the secondary selection is Fargo (which I did like on first viewing and have always meant to revisit---though right now the tv show feels more urgent)



2015-11-16

Svithe: "There was a young man who thought...."

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On November 15, 2015, our sacrament meeting was centered around the question "Why is NO POOR AMONG THEM a requirement for Zion?"

This is my introduction to the speakers.


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There was a young man who thought he had this religion stuff all figured out. He was checking boxes left and right. The letter of the law? He put the stamp on it and stuck it in the mailbox of righteousness. He was pretty amazing. I mean, obviously, right? Because he was rich too and what better sign is there of God's approval than dripping in dinero? Anyway, he heard about some hip new rabbi and went to check him out. The guy seemed legit, so the young man told the rabbi how on fleek his life was and asked if there was anything else someone this awesome could do to impress God.

The rabbi listened and nodded. Obviously he was crazy impressed. Then he said, "If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me."

And the young man, the scripture says, went away sorrowful.

This rabbi's brother taught that pure religion and undefiled is this: To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction.

When faith gets sticky or confusing---when the details seem unclear, contradictory, uncertain---we can know that one of the teachings of Jesus is always plain and available:

Sell that thou hast, and give to the poor.

This is not an easy doctrine. I have certainly walked past the poor. I have certainly pulled off the freeway, the only prayer in my heart that I don't get caught at the stoplight right next to the guy who hasn't showered in a couple months, asking me for change. And he doesn't even mean that I should change my heart---that would be Jesus talking---he's just asking for a quarter.

Inasmuch as I have withheld a quarter from the least of these, Lord, I have withheld it from thee.

This is a hard doctrine. But it is essential to building Zion. And it's a good place to start.

Today, we'll be reasoning together on this notion of Zion.



previous svithe

2015-11-15

Svithe: /baptism/

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For reasons clear to anyone familiar with the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, late 2015, this is a difficult time to write a baptism talk to be given at a child's baptism. For those familiar with he Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at all, every time is a great time for a baptism.

Yesterday, Large S was baptized. It was beautiful and moving and important. It was clarifying. Baptisms are remarkable events and I'm so grateful.

The following is the talk I gave just before the ordinance.


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Hey, Large S. I know you don't like things to be normal and so I'm going to start my talk with a scripture I've never heard at a baptism before. Ready?

This is D&C 68.25.
And again, inasmuch as parents have children in Zion, or in any of her stakes which are organized, that teach them not to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands, when eight years old, the sin be upon the heads of the parents.
So according to Jesus, my job as your parent is to teach you to understand faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism by immersion, and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands. No matter what else is right or wrong in my life---and I'm sure you can tell everyone I'm not perfect---you understanding faith, repentance, and baptism is still my responsibility. Jesus said so.

Look: We all make mistakes. I was baptized over thirty years ago and I'll bet I've made a mistake every day since then. Some mistakes, I'm sorry to say, come very easily to me. Some mistakes come pretty easily to you as well. And you know what? Baptism doesn't magically turn us into different people.

But it will make you a new person.

See, when we get baptized, we promise that we will remember Jesus and try to live as he taught us to: loving everyone and acting out of love. And Heavenly Father promises to send the Holy Ghost to be with us. And that is how you're a new person---you act in new ways and you have the Holy Ghost to help you. And that's why the Church has always taught baptism is so important for kids like you. All of us need all the help we can get.

Jesus called getting baptized being born again.

What does that mean, that baptism is being born again?

What does it mean that in ten minutes you'll be a new person, even though you're the same person?

What does that feel like?

Here I'm going to pause to let the Big O tell you about when he was baptized and what it felt like.

///here his brother spoke about baptism
///followed by my testimony
///in which I made certain to cite the importance of the sacrament

previous svithe

2015-11-11

The Peanuts Movie

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Look. I have issues with this film. Putting Peanuts in the title seems disrespectful for starters (Schulz hated the name and it's never appeared in any of the dozens of previous films---in fact, except for three that were named for Snoopy, they've all had Charlie Brown in the title). The Meghan Trainor song was as ill-advised as we'd all feared (not only is it a bad song, the movie already feels aged by it). I'm troubled by all the kids being at the same school (though I get it), I don't like Linus and Lucy being the same age (really?), including Fifi seems weird (SHE WILL BREAK SNOOPY'S HEART!!!!), and I would have loved to see a production brave enough to never show the little red-haired girl (though even Bill Melendez broke that rule), but over all I accept this film. Nice job, Blue Sky.

First, although the early images freaked me out, in fact this film might show more respect for the original art than anything else done so far. That's a big statement and I'm not prepared to stand by it, but the use of Schulzian lines and animated strips and use of motion lines and sound effects etc were noble. And I have to admit the animated signature of Schulz writing itself across the screen at the end about did me in.

In fact, I was emotional through much of this movie. Largely because as long as it wasn't doing dirt on the gang, no one is more primed than me to see and love and know what they gave (see this recent post for more of my reading and my thinking on this topic). So although I was freaked out to hear about Charlie Brown winning, it wasn't too much winning. So although I was terrified Snoopy would overrun the show, in fact, it was just the right amount. And speaking of Snoopy, can we give a huge round of applause to the filmmakers for bringing Bill Melendez out of the grave/vault to do the voices of Snoopy and Woodstock again? That was a hero move, in my opinion. And the moving truck was a nice little homage as well.

Another thing I like about this movie is that there's no plan for another. Partially I like this because the whole LRHG plot made a sequel a disastrous possibility, and entirely because good things should not be driven into the ground for money.

So no, it's not a perfect movie. But yes, it's pretty wonderful all the same.

What I really want to do next is watch it frame by frame to figure out when Charlie Brown's hair switched directions and how they got the walking right.

2015-11-10

The important thing is Peanuts.
But Peanuts is always the important thing.

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110) The Complete Peanuts: 1993 to 1994 by Charles M. Schulz, finished November 10

With The Peanuts Movie out now, it's easy to just bump into good articles about the strip. Here are a few I've liked that were easy to refind:
"The bleak world of Peanuts, one of the 20th century's greatest works of art, explained" by Todd VanDerWerff
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"It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is a Christmas special wearing a Halloween costume" by Caroline Framke
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"The Peanuts Movie is surprisingly good, but it gets one big thing wrong" by Todd VanDerWerff
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"On ‘Krazy Kat’ and ‘Peanuts’" by Umberto Eco, translated by William Weaver
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"The Exemplary Narcissism of Snoopy" by Sarah Boxer
Only the first and last two in that list are focused on the comic, but the high points of the tv specials join the comic as high points of 20th-century American culture and the movie is what's happening now. So there you go.


The above is from the book I'm reviewing now (though I swiped it from the Internet---click that link and you can read the Complete Peanuts, legally, for free). It was originally published on my birthday, shortly after I graduated from high school. I'm sure I read it in the paper that day, though I have no memory of such. It's not, in fact, a particularly remarkable example of what makes Schulz's work great, but then again, to quote Eco,
...you could never grasp the poetic power of Schulz’s work by reading only one or two or ten episodes: you must thoroughly understand the characters and the situations, for the grace, tenderness, and laughter are born only from the infinitely shifting repetition of the patterns, and from fidelity to the fundamental inspirations. They demand from the reader a continuous act of empathy, a participation in the inner warmth that pervades the events.

(Incidentally, this is why I don't understand the genius of Krazy Kat---I've never immersed myself.)

Eco wrote this as Peanuts was midway through its second decade and if you read his analysis, that's easy to tell. The above strip appeared midway through the fifth and final decade of its run. Plenty had changed in those thirty years, but that core observation remains untouched. If that strip was your first or fifth or twentieth connection to Peanuts, it seems like a throwaway bit of laziness. In fact, as I read this volume, I often read strips that should have seemed as soulless as those that appear in generic, soulless, corporate strips like Garfield or Hagar the Horrible, but didn't. Even though the punchline might not have been very punchy, there remains a soul that's impossible to miss.

One thing many analyses suggest is that the growth of Snoopy's imaginary world (and the consequent addition of other animal characters) was the downfall of Peanuts. Indeed, many movie reviews make snide remarks to that effect. As someone currently reading strips well into that development, let me just say that those analysts are dead wrong.

For one thing, for all his battles with the Red Baron and weighty court cases and ability to type, Snoops never ceases to be an earthbound dog. He relies on the filling of his supper dish and loves sleeping indoors with Charlie Brown. He's an unusual, strange, remarkable dog to be sure, but he's just a dog. No character forgets that. Not Marcie who joins in his fantasies. Not Charlie Brown who has him type his homework. Certainly not Snoopy.


Not many years left for The Complete Peanuts. A small number of books left to add to my shelf.

Then I will start over. And I'll need to pick up some scholarly analysis of the strip. And I will agree or I will disagree, but I will know whereof I speak because these are the words of mortal life, drawn with an economy of line unmatched.
a few measured, treasured weeks



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109) Ball Peen Hammer by Adam Rapp and George O'Connor, finished November 7

Bleakness upon bleakness. And you can tell Rapp is a playwright because it's bleakness is very much the sort one would expect from a son of Beckett (why are the killing children? because.). Limited settings (mostly two rooms in the same building), lots of dialogue with little action beyond mere business. All paths to redemption cut off.

I guess it was good. But I've read enough bleak stuff in my life that I'm not super stoked to add to my store.

O'Connor's art reminds me of Paul Pope's work.
one night



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108) Magic Trixie Sleeps Over by Jill Thompson, finished November 6

Like the first book, this reads much like a picture book. The basic structure is the same, just with more iterations and more variety within the iterations and thus more room for Trixie to undergo meaningful change. The art is lovely and the writing is oxygenated and what better way to move from David Shannon to Adam Rex?
morning



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107) "D" Is for Deadbeat by Sue Grafton, finished November 5

If you read these posts regularly, you may have noticed that I don't really read series. I'll read the first one to get a taste, then I stop. And if a series---no matter how excellent---betrays me, I'll stop. And here I am, ready to move onto book five of Grafton's series. I don't quite understand what keeps me coming back. Part of it is the Favorite Brand of Potato Chips Theory, but I dunno. I don't really have potato-chip loyalty either.

More bulletins as events warrant.
a few weeks





Previously in 2015 . . . . :

Missing m'Moonps

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It's been a while since I've written anything sustantive about one of my most favorite bands of all time, Moonpools & Caterpillars. At that time, most of the early WWW stuff had disappeared off the web and I felt the need to bring back a presence, which meant that post and a couple other little things here and there.

This past week I've been listening to 12 Songs in the car and I just can't get over how much I love their music. Even when it's about breakups or crummy cars, each song is just infused with a sense of joy. And it's a joy I've always felt like no one shares.

I'm wrong, of course, but more on that in a second.

A while ago---maybe two years?---Lady Steed discovered on one of those Utah girls' everything-is-wonderful blogs gorgeous photos of a wedding at which Moonpools lead singer (and friend of the bride) had performed. This led my back online discovering, for instance, previously unknown tracks on Myspace (insanely exciting, natch) and the gradual discovery that what I've got on my hands is a Mormon band.

I found the Moonps when I was 18, just a year before my mission. It was the soundtrack of that year and, when I returned home in '97, the first American music (along with Blondie) that I was able to listen to. I wonder how my experience would have been different, in those formative years, if I had had that Mormon detail on hand.

Now, I don't know hardly anything about their spiritual paths etc etc so don't look for that here. I had thought about approaching them for an interview but, frankly, I'm chicken. Rather like how I froze up when I had the chance to interview John Cleese, I'm just not sure I have this in me. The idea of talking with Kimi even through email is pretty intense. There's something about what you love with your whole soul as an adolescent that is Just Different from anything else you experience or consume at any other time in your life. It's foundational.

Anyway, that 2007 post gets more into the personal-history stuff if you're interested.

What kills me now is:

I just got online to make a throwaway tweet about my 12 Songs listens of late, but found this en route:


Needless to say, ?!?!?!?!?!??!?!

Honestly? Would absolutely have been worth a trip to LA just before school starts back up.

They followed that up with a trip to the Philippines where everyone knew every word:



So you see, I'm only alone because I live in San Francisco.

Anyway, although I bet they were insane in 1994, twenty years on, they still look pretty awesome. I'm glad they have more than me appreciating. I just rather wish they had me as well.


2015-11-02

Pleasures of the mind

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106) The Secret of the Stone Frog by David Nytra, finished October 18

This is a very intelligent comic for kids. With art a cross between Little Nemo and Cursed Pirate Girl, this version of Wonderland stars a brother and sister who wake up in a weird forest and have to trust their instincts regarding whom to trust and whom not to trust. Always, of course, trusting each other. Beautiful and kind.

off and on on an evening



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105) The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood, finished October 27

It's hard to know how to elevator-pitch this book. Towards the end, I was planning to tell you "It's Nineteen Eighty-four meets The Stepford Wives" but then the denouement made that feel too simplistic and almost silly.

One reason this novel is so hard to pin down in terms of comparisons to other dystopian/postapoc novels is that the female characters are both richly drawn and voluminous in number. The second primary reason is that although this novel seems rather dystopostapocish, it ain't either, in fact. This world is so close to 2015 as to be the uncanny-valley version of today's news. It's like the unpleasant version of the final season of Parks and Rec. Early on it seems further away, but the deeper into the book we read, the closer and closer the world comes to our own. That also is rather upsetting.

And who do the characters remind us of? Charmaine seems quite a bit like Lenina Crowne of Brave New World, but at the same time I've never seen a better depiction of the banality of evil. So banal, in fact, that we can forgive her. Because hey---we might have done it ourselves, given similar circumstances. We would want to be forgiven.

Part of what makes the book real is the casual evil those with money inflict upon those without. It's not such a leap to imagine those who bleed us financially going literal. Especially if they're confident no one will know.

Other than their fellow bluebloods of course.

The style of the book is light---almost flippant---which can make it harder to get into, because it's not acting like a thriller. That tone does, however, make it feel all the more likely and possible and maybe why not even know?

No one in this novel is blameless. In fact, it's hard to find anyone really worth cheering for. Even those who don't commit crimes are rather awful people. Take Stan. Not a bad fellow. Sure, he shouldn't have plotted to cheat on his wife, but largely the thoughts he has that make us like him less are thoughts we've all had to one degree or another, more or less often. And yet---we end up liking him less than his wife. Who, as I said, could reasonably be called evil.

This is a novel that doesn't let you rest comfortably knowing bad guys from good guys. And it doesn't even allow you to arrive at the end knowing what we have all learned today.

In that respect, it's almost more like a news story than a bit of fiction.

A really "funny" and painfully grotesque news story.
eight of ten days



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104) Magic Trixie by Jill Thompson, finished October 18

Although I suspect that Jill Thompson is best known as a creator cutesy "girl" comics, I always think first of her connection to Sandman. The stuff she writes and draws herself is great though. Trixie is a, mm six-year-old witch? Eight? Anyway, she's young and her Monstersorri schoolmates are a mummy, a frankenstein cobbling, a couple vampires, a werewolf. Deftly laid out personal dynamics there and at home. Although this is almost a hundred pages of comics, sections feel like stand-alone picture books. Thompson's made a nice transitional text for littluns.

The message at the end is both expected and dangerous enough to make its sweetness earned.
briefly



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103) Binky Under Pressure by Ashley Spires, finished October 17

This is technically too short to qualify for this list, but I found it too charming not to share and I write too many books posts as it is without writing extras. So there it is.

This isn't the first book in the series, but I take it that Binky---maybe all cats?---believes that he is an astronaut of sorts, that his house is a spaceship, that his job is to protect his people from aliens (insects). Anyway, another cat shows up and things get complicated. The jokes are adult funny and the gags are pure kid. In short, great stuff.
early afternoon



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102) Humor, Horror, and the Supernatural by Saki, finished October 15

I love Saki. You love Saki. Everyone loves Saki.

This particular volume is a Scholastic Book Services edition from the '60s. Where it's been since some child got it until I got it, I can't say. What's certain is that everyone should read Saki in their childhood.

Saki's still enjoyable as an adult---I particularly enjoyed discovering "Sredni Vashtar"---but he can get a bit tiresome. And if this collection is any indication, his work's highlights aren't enough to fill a book on their own. Most of the better stories were ones I'd read before. And the final story was an is-it-or-is-it-not-surely-it-is-anti-suffragette curiosity.

Largely, Saki is clearly a product of his time and place. We all are of course, but I feel that his work is aging rapidly with its casual acceptance of empire and violence to animals and use of the word "toilet" and sexual politics and suchlike. That said, at the top of his game, no one provides a half-dozen pages of pure pleasure like Saki does.
about eleven days





Previously in 2015 . . . . :