This little book went to market
This little book stayed home


067) Wheat: Humor & Wisdom of J. Golden Kimball edited by Mikal Lofǵren, finished August 25

I picked this book up at a short-lived LDS bookstore here in the East Bay once when I was helping chaperone thousands of teenagers without a book. Then it became a nice little number to dip into now and then. It's just a bunch of quotations (all or nearly all) from General Conference. No none of the really wild stuff. I finished it today in my quest to build up J. Golden's Wikiquote page.

Not a bad addition to your own bookshelf, if you're into such things, but largely the sort of book rendered irrelevant by the internet. (Hi, internet!)
a few years


068) Witchy Winter by D.J. Butler, finished August 27

Witchy Eye was a quality novel: a fine read---enjoyable, intelligent, new.

Witchy Winter however, though I didn't realize this until the end, is a step above. It is a deeply satisfying read. Although I like Butler's writing, I'll admit to a bit of skepticism that this novel was better than the steep competition it was up against for the 2018 AML Novel Award, but I now repent. I still haven't read those other two novels but two authors I admire, but it's hard to deny they're now underdogs.

The richness of both the individual characters and the world in which they inhabit is utterly intoxicating. I will admit to a personal interest in various Mormony aspects of the text (two of which I'll discuss in a moment), but the reality of this world and its inhabitants deserves more mention.

This is an America settled not just by Europeans and not finally conquered by Anglophones, but with large African and Egyptian and Dutch areas, Native American nations (plural) with their own interest and politics, as well as more fanciful races (the Ophidians are clearly related to Tolkien's elves). And when we meet someone, such as Ma'iingan (who is Ojibwe) he is full and developed in a way I've rarely seen so-called token minority characters. When we first meet Ma'iingan, we meet him as a loving father and husband, and an engaged member of his community. Then we learn to appreciate him as a spiritual man. Then as a brave adventurer. And with those things in mind, it can take most of the book to pick up on his slyly sarcastic sense of humor.

That's how you do it.

A couple Mormon observations.

I realized quite early that a recreation of Ammon and Lamoni was unfolding before me. But the complexity of that relationship was truly a wonder to behold. And it's conclusion was ... so great. I'm possibly most excited to pick up the final volume just to read more about this minor subplot than anything else.

I like to talk and think about my faith's feminine theology---our believe in God the Mother and so forth---but after finishing Witchy Winter, I am hungry. Because this novel gives a true image of what a religion that really embraces the potential of the feminine divine might look like. If we really accepted our feminine divine as thoroughly as we accept our masculine divine. It's eye-opening and wonder-stoking.

I do think it's better to read book one first (which is also great, remember) to have the full orientation of knowing where you are. (Remember, I'm also the weirdo who thinks The Two Towers is the best Middle Earth novel, but I would never recommend starting with it.) Just know it gets even better.
not quite three months


069) Mary, Mary and other plays by Jean Kerr, finished August 28

Three plays in this collection: Mary, Mary; King of Hearts, Goldilocks. I have mixed feelings about about these plays. Except Goldilocks. Which is terrible.

Mary, Mary and King of Hearts and bright and funny plays. King of Hearts runs on the popular romcom engine of Girl Engaged to Wrong Man When Right Man Shows Up But Haha He's to Be a Tool. Mary, Mary is the Divorced Couple Getting Back Together model. In both cases, casual sexual harassment is coin of the realm. It's a little depressing to watch, even though the female protagonists are smart and witty and unflappable because, you just now, by the end the man will win and you, being a Modern Person, will feel a bit sad and dirty for enjoying the ride.

This makes them sound worse than they are. Ten years ago, me and the writers of Ms. would have been the only people complaining. It's largely subtle and, with charming actors, most people would love them for their caddery. Even though I found those slightly icky aspects icky, I still, overall, enjoyed the two plays very much. With a couple minor rewrites, they could return to the stage without being "problematic."

Goldilocks on the other hand....

It's another Girl Engaged to Wrong Man When Right Man Shows Up But Haha He's to Be a Tool but can't get most of the redeeming elements off the ground because, brace yourself, it's a musical. Which means long breaks of time wasted on half-wit songs. And, frankly, the Big Broadway Musical Budget that spent on all the song-and-dance numbers, extra characters, and scenery! scenery! scenery! are much less fruitful constraints than the single-set limitations of the other two plays. It's depressing to read. (And listening's not much better.)

Most of my complaints that I make about most musicals apply here: The songs destroy pacing as they slam the plot's brakes. The development of relationships are done lazily making the characters seem like quasiemotional idiots. That sort of thing.

I just can't get over the main plot engine. We're really supposed to believe Maggie would throw over her nice and supportive (and rich) fiance for that jackass just because ... I don't even know. Because they're both artists? Shut up.


I'm sad to be writing after reading Goldilocks because I'm enraged at that play, which is coloring my mostly-liked-it experiences with the first two. Sure, I had my complaints, but the plays are about sixty years old and I get that it was a different world. But then I read Goldilocks and there's something about the lazy self-indulgence of so many musicals that just makes me want to scream. Sorry, other two plays.

Worth mentioning: the best of the three plays (Mary, Mary) is the only one Jean Kerr does not share a writing credit on.

Also worth mentioning, the young woman roles from these plays were created by Cloris Leachman and Elaine Stritch and Barbara Bel Geddes.
under two weeks


070) Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders, finished September 5

This is a small but enormously ambiious book. It's a joy to see someone doing something strange and new, but doing it because it is the right way to do what they are trying to do.

I also like seeing someone succeed at something I tried and was meh at. I have a short story I haven't been able to sell that shares some dna with the novel, but I see now my error was keeping it too short and constrained. Even though Lincoln in the Bardo takes place in one night in one cemetery, it is large and expansive and ambitious and human instead of an unsettling notion popped out in a couple thousand words without much character to speak of. Lesson learned.

I really love the incorporation of historical and critical sources, though I would like to see a list of just what was and was not real.

I know I will resent this review later when I come back to it because I will remember having though so much about it.
six or seven days


071) Trish Trash: Rollergirl from Mars by Jessica Abel, finished September 7?

I had high hopes for this book (science fiction from Jessica Abel!) and the vision of Mars is good enough, but I haven't learned to care about any of the characters yet. I honestly don't know if I'll pick up the next volume. It'll have to be easy and soon, methinks.
one evening


072) How To by Randall Munroe, finished September 9

Look: the books is funny and filled with smart stuff like math and physics. All of which make is a rollicking read. But just to say xkcd and this its child are funny and smart and rollicking seems to miss exactly why it's the only longrunning comic I'm still reading every entry of and why it's the only one I seek our related books therefrom. Randall Munroe's work has a deep humanism. Soul. It is inherently good---optimistic about us as a species. What we can be and where we can go. And jokes and maths are really just the trappings of this belief in us, all of us, and our potential.

So yeah, it's great to read just how to build my own moat of lava or how to send massive amounts of data with butterflies, but what sticks is that people are good---and amazing---and we can do anything. And by "anything," Munroe seems to mean possibilities great and good and, dare I say, holy.

Let's come together and make the future xkcd is prophet to.
three or four days


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

052 – 056
052) The Diary of Adam and Eve by Mark Twain, finished July 1
053) Witchy Eye by D.J. Butler, finished July 2
054) The Tree of Life by Terence Malick, finished July 9
055) Becoming Dr. Seuss: Theodor Geisel and the Making of an American Imagination by Brian Jay Jones, finished July 10
056) Dr. Seuss Goes to War: The World War II Editorial Cartoons of Theodor Seuss Geisel edited by Richard H. Minear, finished July 26

057 – 061
057) Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King, finished July 27
058) Your Duck Is My Duck by Deborah Eisenberg, finished July 29
059) The Cat Behind the Hat: The Art of Dr. Seuss, finished August 4
060) Please, Please Call Me to the Bishopric by Jett Atwood, finished August 6
061) How to Hide an Empire by Daniel Immerwahr, finished August 8

062 – 066
062) Giraffes on Horseback Salad by Josh Frank, Manuela Pertega, Tim Heidecker; finished August 10
063) Snow White by Matt Phelan, finished August 12
064) Billie the Bee by Mary Fleener, finished August 16
065) Manfried the Man by Caitlin Major and Kelly Bastow, finished August 16
066) A Fire Story by Brian Fies, finished August 20

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