I finally finished Middlemarch!
(also, some other books)


082) Beyond the Light by Ryan Shoemaker, finished September 17

Ryan sent me his collection back in May and I've been reading it off and on. I have mixed feelings about his stuff. His funny stuff is hit/miss for me (the shorter the missier) and his serious stuff largely involves taking awful people and letting them be awful. I do prefer ones with a hint of redemption ("Great Heights") or that are willing to be surreal without succumbing to the silly ("Lost in Furniture Land"---which [absurdism aside] is almost an identical tale to "Great Heights" and follows it immediately in the book, which is a strange editing choice...). I appreciate the craft of his awful people behaving awfully stories, but sometimes the push credulity ("Our Students"---although this story might just push my buttons because it takes place at a high school; Ryan has it out for high school, both students and teachers).

One thing I find interesting about Ryan's CV is how he ... I don't want to say recycles, although that's not unfair, but how he revisits works, like Magritte painting rocks in the air over and over and over. I don't just mean publishing the same story in two places---that's great and more outlets should be willing to do that. Nor do I mean really liking the name Hector.

The sort of recycling (I'm going for it) is "Brigham Kimball: Mormon Missionary Extraordinaire" also appearing as "Parley Young: One Mormon Life"---a longer (and, in my opinion, better) version of the same. (The two version appear to have been published just months apart.) Or taking "Bing," originally published in Irreantum, and giving it a new title ("Beyond the Lights"), sending it successfully through Santa Monica Review's slushpile and republishing it. (Full disclosure: Ryan told SMR that it had been previously published.) Again, I don't have problems with these reuses, but in neither case is the first-publisher-under-an-alternate-title cited in the Acknowledgments. Which seems a bit weird to me.

I'm intending to write a longer review exploring the good and the hmm about Beyond the Light for AML, but that largely depends on my health and catching up on all my other responsibilities that have slipped while I've been sick.
almost four months


083) Space Cat Meets Mars by Ruthven Todd, finished September 22

This ... I dunno if I'm accurate here (and I returned the first two to the library), but this felt slighter. Perhaps it's just because there's less intentionality on the part of our heroes. They went to the Moon on purpose. They went to Venus on purpose. Then they're captured by an asteroid's gravity and have some mechanical problems and making an emergency stopover on Mars. That sounds good, but....
I like the faux pre-Apollo science of these books, but Mars is pretty far to walk for a gallon of gas. I dunno.

Anyway, Flyball meets the last Martian cat and she's coming back to Earth (via the moon) with them, after which they'll get busy, but the whole thing felt shorter and lesser. Charming, but insubstantial. In comparison, I mean. I'm not claiming the first couple are great literature or anything. But I liked them.
two days


084) Invisible Gifts by Maw Shein Win, finished September 24

I intend to write a longer review of this (I hope for Whale Road Review) so I'll hold off for now.
perhaps fourth months but actually two separated bursts


085) Middlemarch by George Eliot, finished September 29

I began Middlemarch long, long ago. And I loved it from the very beginning. But then the main character made a very upsetting decision at the end of book one and I ... just set it down.

I picked it up again when our ward Relief Society book group (ambitiously) picked it to read earlier this year, so I read along with Lady Steed.

No one finished it in the month. Well, like two people did. So book group discussed the first four books only. But Lady Steed and I kept reading and we both finished it this week.

After book one, the idea of a "main character" seems almost laughable. Its subtitle is "A Study of Provincial Life" and it truly does take us through and around an entire town. The characters we spend the most time with connect, but every spot and soul of Middlemarch is fair game.

However, with the last two paragraphs of the novel, we are thrown a reference that (with one exception) we haven't heard since the prelude. And it is the prelude and those final paragraphs that make Dorothea---that first-book main character---the heart of the entire novel. Her goodness drives hope and possibility; her strength is what makes us believe humanity should yet continue.

Dorothea is a complicated character but she's motivated by a pure goodness that makes her one of my favorite characters in fiction. I love her because I cannot be her.

Other characters I more clearly see myself in. For a few pages, I was certain Casaubon and I were the same person. (Happily, we are not.) And Bulstrode's justifications for his sins rang much, much too true.

My failures are much like Lydgate's, but I'm in a better marriage. (Fun fact: Occasionally I give my students an essay prompt originally part of the 2011 test that includes a passage from Middlemarch; all but two or three of the best readers always misinterpret it, and believe that Lydgate is abusive and cruel towards his wife. I don't know if this is a comment merely on my students' reading ability or if it somehow revealing of modern entitlement....)

In short, Eliot understands people. I loved Silas Marner and I love this too. It's a loving look at humanity while clawing its criticisms deep. If we're unhappy with Dorothea's fate, it's not because of any failure of hers. And she is happy. But in a better world, she, a woman, could have been everything we know she could have been.

I understand why people read and reread this book. It feels borderline irresponsible to not. But no doubt decades will pass before I return. And I will be different then and I will understand it in new ways.

I'll see you then.

[Final note: Although I'm generally skeptical of narrators waxing philosophic, I would never deny Eliot that freedom.]
possibly over five years


The other books of 2018

1 – 4
001) Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet Book 3 by Ta-Nehisi Coates &‎ Brian Stelfreeze & al., finished January
002) The Complete Peanuts 1950-2000 by Charles M. Schulz & al., finished January
003) The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien, finished January 10
004) El Deafo by Cece Bell, finished January 12

5 – 9
005) Cleopatra in Space: Target Practice by Mike Maihack, finished January 13
006) Nabokov's Favorite Word Is Mauve by Ben Blatt, finished January 15
007) Glister by Andi Watson, finished January 18
008) Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke, finished January 20
009) The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun by J.R.R. Tolkien, finished January 21

10 – 11
010) The Vision by Tom King et al., finished January 23
011) Miles Morales: Spider-Man by Jason Reynolds, finished January 24

16 – 16
012) Anthem by Ayn Rand, finished February 8
013) The City in Which I Love You by Li-Young Lee, finished February 14
014) Many Waters by Madeleine L'Engle, finished February 21
015) It Needs to Look Like We Tried by Todd Robert Petersen, finished March 7
016, 017) Fences by August Wilson, finished March 8

18 – 20
018) The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton, finished March 13
019) Star Wars Super Graphic: A Visual Guide to a Galaxy Far, Far Away by Tim Leong, finished March 22
020) Superman: Secret Identity by Kurt Busiek and Stuart Immonen, finished March 25

21 – 25
021) M Is for Malice by Sue Grafton, finished March 28
022) Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by Jack Thorne, J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany; finished March 31
023) It All Started with Hippocrates: A Mercifully Brief History of Medicine by Richard Armour, finished April 6
024) Don't Bump the Glump by Shel Silverstein, finished April 14
025) Coriolanus by Wm Shakespeare, finished April 16

26 – 32
026) The Trouble with Reality by Brooke Gladstone, finished April 24
027, 28) Coriolanus by William Shakespeare, finished April 26
029) The Secret History of Twin Peaks by Mark Frost, finished April 28
030) Twisted Tales from Shakespeare by Richard Armour, finished April 28 or April 29 depending on when midnight happened
031) Bless The Child: A Romance of Redemption and Glory in the Ancient World by David J. West, finished May 1
032) The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody by Will Cuppy, finished May 3

32 – 34
032) Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, finished May 9
033) Stargazing Dog by Takashi Murakami, finished May 9
034) Vader Down by Jason Aaron and Mike Deodato, finished May 18

035) The Book of Mormon: A Reader's Edition edited by Grant Hardy, finished May 23

36 – 50
036) Bad Kitty Camp Daze by Nick Bruel, finished May 24
037) I'm Just No Good at Rhyming: And Other Nonsense for Mischievous Kids and Immature Grown-Ups by Chris Harris, finished May 24
038) The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer by Sydney Padua, finished May 30
039) Princess Leia by Mark Waid et al, finished May 30
040) Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony & Rodrigo Corral, finished June 12
041) Everything You Need to Know About a Mission by Ralph Thomas, finished June 13
042) The Invisibles by Grant Morrison et al, finished June 14
043) The Fifth Head of Cerberus by Gene Wolfe, finished June 15
044) Material Volume 1 by Ales Kot & Will Tempest & al., finished June 23
045) Love & Misadventure by Lang Leav, finished June 30
046) The Rain in Portugal by Billy Collins, finished July 7
047) Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier Vol. 1: The Man On The Wall by Ales Kos, finished July 7
048) Monster Verse: Poems Human and Inhuman edited by Tony Barnstone & Michelle Mitchell-Foust, finished July 10
049) Poems Dead and Undead edited by Tony Barnstone & Michelle Mitchell-Foust, finished July 10
050) Mary's Monster by Lita Judge, finished July 11

51 – 57
051) Bel Canto by Ann Patchett, finished July 18
052) Hostage by Guy Delisle, finished July 21
053) The One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg, finished July 22
054) Paper Girls, Vol 4 by Brian K Vaughan and Cliff Chiang, finished July 24
055) Chocolate: The Consuming Passion by Sandra Boynton, finished July 25
056) [Aelian's] On the Nature of Animals translated by Gregory McNamee, finished July 27
057) Blue Yodel by Ansel Alkins, finished July 27

58 – 63
058) The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime That Changed Their Lives by Dashka Slater, finished July 31
059) Bandette Volume 1: Presto! by Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover, finished July 31
060) Legends of Zita the Space Girl by Ben Hatke, finished August 3
061) Darth Vader: End of Games by Kieron Gillen & Salvador Larroca, finished August 6
062) How to Read Nancy by Paul Karasik & Mark Newgarden, finished August 10
063) The Selected Poems of Donald Hall by Donald Hall, finished August 14

64 – 68
064) The Encyclopedia of Early Earth by Isabel Greenberg, finished August 15
065) The Humans by Stephen Karam, finished August 15
066) Space Cat by Ruthven Todd, finished August 16
067) Strip Search: Revealing Today's Best College Cartoonists, finished August 16
068) A Contract with God by Will Eisner, finished August 18

69 – 73
069) Space Cat Visits Venus by Ruthven Todd, finished August 19
070) Served: A Missionary Comic Anthology edited by Theric Jepson & Mike Laughead & al., finished August 22
071) Precious Rascals by Anthony Holden, finished August 24
072) The Peanuts' Guide To Life by Charles M. Schulz (sort of), finished August 25
073) Batman: The Doom That Came To Gotham by Mike Mignola et al., finished August 28

74 – 81
074) My Favorite Thing Is Monsters by Emil Ferris, finished August 29
075) The Customer Is Always Wrong by Mimi Pond, finished August 30
076) Bandette: Stealers Keepers! by Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover, finished August 30
077) You're All Just Jealous of My Jetpack by Tom Gauld, finished September 6
078) Baking With Kafka by Tom Gauld, finished September 7
079) Mooncop by Tom Gauld, finished September 7
080) Goliath by Tom Gauld, finished September 7
081) Educated by Tara Westover, finished September 12

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

* the most recent post in this series *

final booky posts of
2007 = 2008 = 2009 = 2010 = 2011 = 2012 = 2013 = 2014 = 2015 = 2016 = 2017

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