Adam and Even and Mark Twain and Dr. Seuss and people I know and people and don't and movies and music and drawings and more


052) The Diary of Adam and Eve by Mark Twain, finished July 1

This is not a proper "novel." The proper description would be a collection of sketches which Twain never quite spent enough time with. Not because the sketches are bad but because it never became clear what the overarching goal would be. A shame, really.

The bits were first published in 1906 (3), 1923 (3), and, incredibly, 1962 (2). This collection bringing them all together dates to 2002. And it's a good collection. The bits have marvelous moments and the leads are likeable characters. Eve, in particular, is lovely. And the death of Abel is a rough read. So yes it's light and charming and a showcase for innocence, but the darker old Twain is lurking.




053) Witchy Eye by D.J. Butler, finished July 2

It's a novel by a friend and one highly acclaimed by other friends with good taste. Plus, said writer friend sent me a gratis copy before the book was released over two years ago so ... it was about time.

I'm glad to say it holds up to the praise. It's what the promotional copy calls "flintlock fantasy," set in a 19th-century America filled with magic and divided in ways that could have been historical---a French nation based in New Orleans, for instance. But also not, such as a nation of beastmen led by the Heron King. The world is rich and full and sometimes it can be hard to remember what is factual and what comes from old tradition and what is new. By the end of the book, you may have forgotten that Ben Franklin did not, in fact, invent the tarot.

Sarah is a smart Appalachee kid making her way in the world when that world explodes into pieces---nothing is quite as it was, including her own self. I don't like giving much away in these posts, but if you like richly imagined worlds and characters who develop as the pages past, Dave Butler's America is a good place to visit. Volume two is already at my bedside. (Volume 3 [and final] now available for preorder.)
a hair over three months


054) The Tree of Life by Terence Malick, finished July 9

I found and started reading this right after watching its film (which I've watched again midread) and it's a wonderfully strange read. Not a script you're selling for someone else to direct. A script you sell to producers who already believe in you.

It's quite different from the finished film and I'm hesitant to apply anything not in the finished artwork, but it was gratifying to see one of my primary theories explicitly stated on the antepenultimate page:
Now he sees that it was she [the main character's mother] -- his mysterious guide, the guardian of his heart, the source of his moral being. She is the mother of all creation. All flows out of her; she is the gateway, the door. She smiles through all things.

Through her the eternal sought him. From out of her mouth it spoke. Through her life and actions she brought them near it.
Two more quotations from that page:
This is God's world, and not an infinite plain of chaos and sorrow after all.
And in the Mother's own off-screen voice:
Know that I am.
I leave the rest as an exercise for the reader.
three days


055) Becoming Dr. Seuss: Theodor Geisel and the Making of an American Imagination by Brian Jay Jones, finished July 10

I picked this up off the library's NEW shelf intending to read a few bits here and there and get a sense for the book. Then I accidentally read a couple hundred pages and assumed I would read a bit more then pen an Unfinished Books post about it. Then I just finished it.* Out of order, but the whole thing.

Which is not to say it was over licketysplit. It's over 400 pages (ignoring notes and the like) and thus it took hours and hours of reading. But it was time well spent and didn't feel like workish long hours at all.

I do have complaints. Jones occasionally reaches outside his sources to talk about feelings or gestures which do not appear to be supported by the (voluminous) footnotes. He feels a need to both justify and claim that justification is impossible when talking about things such as his subject's use of racist caricatures early in his career. (Which was in the news only recently, as you may recall.) (If you are of the Dr.-Seuss-is-racist camp, I encourage you do consider his growth as a person and if you are willing and eager to condemn everyone who grew beyond their milieu back to their milieu. Few writers opened more people to better thoughts during the 20th century. Obviously he had to start with himself. If you reject him, make sure you do it thoughtfully and not just because it's cool to cancel.) The book is clearly well researched but it's also clearly aimed at a popular audience. I suspect that other one-volume Seuss biographies might be more rigorous.

I also wish that some things were explained better. The last half of the book treats this stuffed dog as a long-established fact. But looking for it as I then read the first half, it's not. I still don't know if it's a toy dog or a taxidermied dog or what. The first it arrives, it's already beloved and already been around.

This sort of underexplaining-what-Theric-wants-answered thing is common of course in nonfiction, but some of the oversights seem serious. For instance, it talks about how sometimes Ted Geisel would get frustrated with one of the other authors working with Beginning Books and rewrite the book himself, them publishing it under the Theo. LeSieg pseudonym. WHAT??? How did THAT work?? Writers were okay with this? Was that how all Theo. LeSieg books came about? I have so many questions here, and they are lightly brushed over with grossly insufficient explanations.

My greatest complaint, however, is the lack of visual support for the text. Over four-hundred pages of biography and only eight glossy pages of images? And three of these limited images are of him sitting in his La Jolla studio. What a waste. Even if they didn't want the added expense of glossy pages, they could at least have included black-and-whites of his work directly in the text. It's an upsetting and egregious oversight.

(As an aside, I was struck by how parallel his life was with Charles Schulz's. Interesting how their paths never really seemed to cross. the most notable difference in 2019, however, is that the good Dr.'s second wife-cum-widow didn't use some of the their money to found a museum / research institute. I suspect he didn't leave anything close to Peanuts money, but that will have a long term effect on their respective legacies.)
four or five days


056) Dr. Seuss Goes to War: The World War II Editorial Cartoons of Theodor Seuss Geisel edited by Richard H. Minear, finished July 26

This is not a full collection of his PM cartoons, but it seems like enough to give a full sense of Dr. Seuss's politics and attitudes.

The only disappointing one is how he fought with great clarity for social and economic equality for Americans of all races and nationalities ... except those with Japanese ancestry. It's clear from his later work that he worked hard to correct that blindspot, but without the aid of serious university research, that path is not completely clear, nor is his final position on the racism/antiracism scale. It seems likely to me that he left that bias entirely behind, but most of what's been published is just some of what exists and expects you to take their word for it. This seemed the fairest take (admission: I just skimmed the essays) but I would still like the full evidence to examine for myself. I'm especially curious if the LIFE photoessay still exists somewhere not in its published form (which he felt didn't give the Japanese people their full due) but as he originally composed it.

Anyway. He was a pretty good editorial cartoonist. And a few of them still seem fitting today. Gun legislation, anyone?

one day


The other books of 2019

001 – 005
001) Thornhill by Pam Smy, finished January 2
002) How to Be Happy by Eleanor Davis, finished January 3
003) Arcadia by Tom Stoppard, finished Janaury 4
004) Third Wheel: Peculiar Stories of Mormon Women in Love by Melissa Leilani Larson, finished January 6
005) Fox 8 by George Saunders, finished January 6

006 – 010
006) SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE by Phil Lord and Rodney Rothman, finished January 8*
007) Latter-day Laughs by Stan and Elly Schoenfeld, finished January 16
008) All We Ever Wanted: Stories of a Better World edited by Miner, Palicki, Chin-Tanner; finished January 19
009) Daytripper by Fábio Moon & Gabriel Bá, finished January 19
010) Evolving Faith: Wanderings of a Mormon Biologist by Steven L. Peck, finished January 20

011 – 015
011) Kindred by Octavia E. Butler, finished January 22
012) Huck by Mark Millar et al., finished January 24
013) Marketing Precedes the Miracle by Calvin Grondahl, finished January 30
014) Uncle Scrooge:The Seven Cities Of Gold by Carl Barks, finished January 31
015) When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi, finished January 31

011 – 015
016) Snotgirl: Green Hair, Don't Care by Bryan Lee O'Malley and Leslie Hung, finished February 16
017) Ghost of the Grotto by Carl Barks, finished February 20
018) When the Wind Blows by Raymond Briggs, finished February 22
019) Temple and Cosmos by Michael R. Collings, finished February 23
020) The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett, finished February 23
021) Fungus the Bogeyman by Raymond Briggs, finished February 24

022 – 027
022) One Dirty Tree by Noah Van Sciver, finished February 25
023) Snotgirl: California Screaming by Bryan Lee O'Malley & Leslie Hung, finished February 28
024) Sabrina by Nick Drnaso, finished March 7
025&026) Macbeth by William Shakespeare, finished March 14
026) Fences by August Wilson, finished Ides of March
027) N Is for Noose by Sue Grafton, finished Ides of March

028 – 033
028) Ethel & Ernest by Raymond Briggs, finished March 20
029) Let's Go Exploring by Michael Hingston, finished March 20
030) Gentleman Jim by Raymond Briggs, finished March 20
031) The Fifth Risk by Michael Lewis, finished April 2
032) No Matter the Wreckage by Sarah Kay, finished April 8
033) Letters to ta Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke, finished April 9

034 – 040
034) King Lear by William Shakespeare, finished April 13
035) Shazam!: The Monster Society of Evil by Jeff Smith, finished April 13
036) The Ghost of Eternal Polygamy: Haunting the Hearts and Heaven of Mormon Women and Men by Carol Lynn Pearson, finished April 15
037) Phoebe and Her Unicorn by Dana Simpson, finished April 19
038) a novel by a friend, finished April 23
039) Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett, finished April 27
040) Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh, finished May 3

041 – 044
041) The Birthday Party and The Room by Harold Pinter, finished May 6
042) When Worlds Collide by Philip Wylie & Edwin Balmer, finished May 11
043) Aquaman: Sub Diego by Will Pfeifer / Patrick Gleason / Christian Alamy, finished May 18
044) The Tragedy of King Leere, Goatherd of the La Sals by Steven L. Peck, finished May 22

045 – 051
045) Eric by Terry Pratchett, finished May 31
046) The Library Book by Susan Orlean, finished June 7
047) Sing to It by Amy Hempel, finished June 8
048) The Emma Press Anthology of Fatherhood, finished June 17
049) Batman: White Knight by Sean Murphy, finished June 28
050) The Great Pie Robbery and Other Mysteries by Richard Scarry, finished July 1
051) "O" Is for Outlaw by Sue Grafton, finished July 1

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