Shall we give thanks for good books?


097) Your Choice, Snoopy by Charles M. Schulz, finished November 17

The fascinating thing, reading these collections with the baby, is how we find totally different things funny. I can never predict what she'll find funny. It will have a sort of strange logic but it will not be a logic I could predict.

Read Peanuts to a toddler. You won't regret it.

two nights



098) Tyrant: Shakespeare on Politics by Stephen Greenblatt, finished November 19

I'm a fan of Greenblatt's and Shakespeare's, and I was upset with the existence of a President Trump, and then I heard about this book. I didn't get around to buying it for about six months and then I mostly kept it at school so reading went slowly, but now that ol' Trumpy's out of office, I buckled down to finish it.

I feel ambivalently about the book. On the one hand, wow! The genius of Shakespeare! On the other hand, crap, every chapter, every gruesome play, is relevant to our now. It was upsetting and marvelous, depressing and brilliant.

In other words, it is a marvelous book and I highly recommend it to you.

Every chapter made me want to grab someone and shake them, make them read it then watch the play and admit that this is our now. This is us. These are our dilemmas and impossibilities.

The book's coda does leave me with hope. Just as every tyrant proves to be bad at maintaining power, the ultimate reason is inspiring. We, this world, are a thing of chaos. And while this means that idealists cannot quite succeed, neither can tyrants. The world is too complex---and ambivalent itself---to allow it.

Another fun side effect is whatever play I was reading about I wanted to teach next. Shakespeare is so great, guys. Don't underestimate the mass entertainers. They know how to be heard. 

almost two years

099) This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone, finished November 22

I'm not sure how I heard of this book. It showed up under my name at the library and, well, there it was! So I guess I put it on hold?

How to describe this book.... It's a love story between two women, one of whom was grown from a seed, the other from a vat, on opposite sides of an eternal war that sends its agents into futures and pasts in multiple dimensions trying to outwit and outmanuever each other.

The book's cover is counterintuitive and absolutely perfect.

Rather than thinking of this as a novel, I recommend thinking of it as a two-hundred page poem written by people who never bothered to master blank verse and so wrote their poem in prose.

a week?

100) Lovely War by Julie Berry, finished November 23

This is one of the books that the AML Awards directed my attention to last spring. I purchased it and started reading it almost immediately, though where I kept it meant I was not often dipping back in. But I settled down to finish the last hundred-fifty pages before Thanksgiving and here we are! Such a lovely book to be the year's 100th!

Because I enjoyed it so much. The characters, most notably, especially the human ones---although the gods did win me over in the end. The structure of the books is the gods (Aphrodite, Hephaestus, Ares, Apollo, Hades) telling the story of these humans during World War One. They bring their different points of view to the story.

The hundred pages led me from tears to tears---even the final meet-up with gods made me cry---even the historical notes made me cry.

(Coincidence: earlier today I posted the Hope & Healing submission guidelines today, then the final sentence of the notes included the phrase "hope, healing"; how about that?)

Anyway. I really loved this book. I'm lending it to my mother but then I'm going to force it on every person in my family. (They've been warned.)

five or six months

101) It's a Dog's Life, Charlie Brown by Charles M. Schulz, finished November 25

This is kind of a strange collection. It cut out the middle of the freeway-taking-down-Snoopy's-house storyline for instance. Why? Why not just include the entire thing? And it split the Mad Punter storyline with about two thirds of the book inbetween. Who edited this thing?

a week

102) I Am Legend by Richard Matheson, finished November 25

I have been wanting to read I Am Legend for a long, long time. I don't know what planted this need in me, but after having the book on a wish list for years and years I finally bought it. Then, a little of a year later, I read it.

(I might have started reading it right away, but I got the movie tie-in cover which slowed me down. No pretending to Lady Steed that book had always been around!) 

Anyway, I was a bit perplexed by the copyright page. Took me a while to figure out have the book was the NOVELLA I Am Legend and the rest a collection of short stories.

I enjoyed I Am Legend. It's hard to say if it's "what I expected" but I love it's major conceit (spoiler alert) that the protagonist will discover he is the monster. That's great and it should happen more often. The science was kind of dumb but within legal limits. Aspects of the science made me want to write some fan fiction set in that world, actually. It's nonsense but its fun and evocative nonsense.

The short stories were pretty good also. "The Funeral" has a similar vibe to  The Lonesome October and it was interesting to see him develop as a writer from the 50s to the 60s (and to see how America had changed---out suspicion of public transportation, for instance). But the weirdest thing was the two Zulu stories, dark African magic attacking middle-class / upper-class white Americans.

(Incidentally, I've started watching the three films based on I Am Legend---here's the first one. But I've also watched an adaptation of one of these Zulu stories, "Prey." I had thought it couldn't be adapted successfully, but then I read about this adaptation in Stephen King's Danse Macabre, looking for what he had to say about I Am Legend. Not much, incidentally. The Matheson novel he spends the most time with is The Incredible Shrinking Man, which I will now keep my eyes out for.)

Anyway, the Zulu stand-in for bizarre otherness was typical at one time but feels uncomfortable now. "Prey" (1969) is just a little-monster story and, although would benefit from more analysis, was less interesting to me in this respect than "From Shadowed Places" (1960). This story is a strange beast instead.

It has, as a character, a young Black woman with a PhD. She is an absolute, stone-cold expert. Her dress is professional---sexless. But over the course of the story, she will take on the role of which doctor and appear nearly naked in exotic garb, revealing, for the first time to the (white) people she is assisting, her "voluptuous breasts, the sinuous abundance of her hips ... [her] physical wealth." She then gets all funky and primitive even to the point of engaging in a ritualistic sex act in order to save the rich white playboy's life from the curse he is under.

It is, in other words, paint-by-colors racism.

But, on the other hand, Matheson is attempting to do something else. By 1960 standards, I think you could even call the story an attempt at anti-racism. Not to say I think Dr. King would have approved, but the attempts to call out racism by using the most racist tropes imaginable are clearly well intentioned. Whether that makes it okay is another question. Consider whether you've cancelled Tina Fey over 30 Rock's attempts to use blackface to explore modern racism before you try on this even uglier set of tools.

Anyway. There's a paper in there if someone wants to write it. 

perhaps a month


books from the recent and distant past

books one through five
001) Titiana in Yellow by Dayna Patterson, finished January 1
002) The Tree at the Center by Kathryn Knight Sonntag, finished January 5
003) After Earth by Michael Lavers, finished January 12
004) Monstress, Volume One: Awakening by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda, finished January 15
005) The Last Hot Time by John M. Ford, finished January 17

books six through eleven
006) The Marriage of the Moon and the Field by Sunni Brown Wilkinson, finished January 25
007) My Parents Married on a Dare by Carlfred Broderick, finished January 26
008) The Garden of Enid: Adventures of a Weird Mormon Girl (volume one) by Scott Hales, finished January 26
009) The Garden of Enid: Adventures of a Weird Mormon Girl (volume two) by Scott Hales, finished January 27
010) Solid State by Coulton / Fraction / Monteys, finished February 9
011) Into the Sun: Poems Revised, Rearranged, and New by Colin B. Douglas, finished February 16

books twelve through sixteen
012) Wag the Dog: A Study on Film and Reality in the Digital Age by Eleftheria Thanouli, finished February 17
013) Flaming Carrot Omnibus: Volume 1 by Bob Burden, finished February 17
014) The Electric State by Simon Stålenhag, finished February 22
015) The October Faction Vol. 2 by Steve Niles and Damien Worm, finished February 24
016) Minus by Lisa Naffziger, finished February 26

books seventeen through twenty-two
017) Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas by Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks, finished February 29
018) Calexit by Matteo Pizzolo | Amancay Nahuelpan | Tyler Boss, finished March 7
019) Emma by Jane Austen, finished March 8
020) Animal Man by Grant Morrison, Book One, by Morrison and team, finished March 14
021) The Chuckling Whatsit by Richard Sala, finished March 16
022) Gloriana by Kevin Huizenga, finished March 18

books twenty-three through twenty-seven
023) Dick Tracy: Dead or Alive by an Allred-led team, finished March 20
024) Homespun and Angel Feathers by Darlene Young, finished March 25
025) Jinchalo by Matthew Forsythe, finished March 28
026) Lost Dogs by AUTHOR, finished March 28
027) The Pearl of Greatest Price: Mormonism's Most Controversial Scripture by Terryl Givens with Brian M. Hauglid, finished March 29

books twenty-eight through thirty-two
028) If Mother Braids a Waterfall by Dayna Patterson, finished April 2
029) Witchy Kingdom by D.J. Butler, finished April 11
030) Prayers in Bath by Luisa Perkins, finished April 14
031) On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden, finished April 22
032) Missile Mouse: The Star Crusher by Jake Parker, finished April 22

books thirty-three through thirty-seven
033) Irreversible Things by Lisa Van Orman Hadley, finished April 27
034) Pillar of Light: Joseph Smith's First Vision by Andrew Knaupp and Sal Velluto, finished May 3
035) Hermana by Becca McCulloch, finished May 13*
036) Best American Comics 2017 by Ben Katchor, finished May 19
037) "Q" is for Quarry by Sue Grafton, finished May 22

books thirty-eight through forty-two
038) Draft No. 4* by John McPhee, finished May 22
039) Salt by Susan Elizabeth Howe, finished May 25
040) Endless Night by Agatha Christie, finished June 5
041) A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L'Engle, finished June 8
042) Caldera Ridge by Jack Harrell, finished June 10

books forty-three through forty-seven
043) God's Man by Lynd Ward, finished June 13
044) Zot! 1987–1991 by Scott McCloud, finished June 17
045) Big Fish by Daniel Wallace, finished June 20
046) Skeleton Key by Anthony Horowitz, finished June 24
047) Exhalation by Ted Chiang, finished June 28

books forty-eight through fifty-one
048) iZOMBIE: Dead to the World by Chris Roberson & Michael Allred (et al), finished July 4
049) iZOMBIE: uVAMPIRE by Chris Roberson & Michael Allred (et al), finished July 4
050) iZOMBIE: Six Feet Under & Rising by Chris Roberson & Michael Allred (et al), finished July 6
051) iZOMBIE: Repossession by Chris Roberson & Michael Allred (et al), finished July 6

books fifty-two through fifty-six
052) Remember the Revolution! by James Goldberg, finished July 14
053) Future Day Saints by Matt Page, finished July 19
054) Animal Man: The Hunt by Jeff Lemire & Travel Foreman, finished July 22
055) Superman: Before Truth by Gene Luen Yank & John Romita Jr. & Klaus Janson & Dean White, finished July 27
056) Castle Waiting: The Lucky Road by Linda Medley, finished August 1

books fifty-eight through sixty-two
057) Alive: New and Selected Poems by Elizabeth Willis, finished August 4
058) Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson, finished ~ August 7
059) Beyond Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language by Gretchen McCulllch, finished August 9
060) Sisters by Raina Telgemeier, finished August 11
061) Marble Season by Gilbert Hernandez, finished August 15
062) Frogcatchers by Jeff Lemire, finished August 17

books fifty-eight through sixty-two
063) Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell, finished August 21
064) Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay, finished August 24
065) Martian Manhunter Vol. 1: The Epiphany by William, Barrows, et al., finished August 28
066) Martian Manhunter Vol. 2: The Red Rising by William, Barrows, et al., finished August 28

books sixty-seven through seventy-six
067) Marble Season by Gilbert Hernandez, finished September 3
068) Half Magic by Edward Eager, finished September 4
069) Lux by Elizabeth Cook, finished September 12
070) Rachel Rising 1: The Shadow of Death by Terry Moore, finished September 12
071) Rachel Rising Vol. 2 : Fear No Malus by Terry Moore, finished September 12
072) Rachel Rising Vol. 3 : Cemetery Songs by Terry Moore, finished September 14
073) Rachel Rising Vol. 4 : Winter Graves by Terry Moore, finished September 15
074) Rachel Rising Vol. 5: Night Cometh by Terry Moore, finished September 17
075) Rachel Rising Vol. 6: Secrets Kept by Terry Moore, finished September 17
076) Rachel Rising Vol. 7: Dust to Dust by Terry Moore, finished September 18

books seventy-seven through eighty-six
077) A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, finished September 19
078) Echo by Terry Moore, finished September 21
079) Bone by Jeff Smith, finished September 21
080) The Resisters by Gish Jen, finished September 22
081) Knight's Castle by Edward Eager, finished September 26
082) Drama by Raina Telgemeier, finished approximately September 28
083) Leaving Megalopolis by Gail Simone and J. Calafiore, finished October 2
084) Don't Hassle Me with Your Sighs, Chuck by Charles M. Schulz, finished October 2
085) The Hard Tomorrow by Eleanor Davis, finished October 2
086) Smile by Raina Telgemeier, finished October 8

books eighty-seven through ninety
087) The Twilight Children by Gilbert Hernandez and Darwyn Cooke with Dave Stewart, finished October 9
088) Sloth by Gilbert Hernandez, finished October 10
089) Poppies of Iraq by Brigitte Findakly and Lewis Trondheim, finished October 15
090) Hot Comb by Ebony Flowers, finished October 18

books ninety-one through ninety-six
091) East of Eden by John Steinbeck, finished Oct 28
092) Impollutable Pogo by Walt Kelly, finished November 2
093) The Regrets by Amy Bonnaffons, finished November 3
094) The Complete Peanuts: 1950 to 1952 by Charles M. Schulz, finished November 9
095) You Are Too Much, Charlie Brown by Charles M. Schulz, finished November 14
096) David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism by Gregory A. Prince and Wm. Robert Wright, finished November 16

1 comment:

  1. .

    I woke up thinking about that Matheson story again and now I have more to say.

    I realize that the character who saves the day is a deliberate Christ figure. Yes, she's a PhD and a professor, but she also belongs to a downtrodded part of society and in the course of the story, any respectability she has is quite literally stripped from her.

    Jesus was tossed into ignominy, then stripped, tortured, and finally killed. She too is embarrassed, stripped, tortured by unseen forces, and nearly killed. Her ignominy comes from bare breasts and genitals barely covered by strings of knotted hankerchiefs, but these are also signs of her godlike powers.

    Jesus is pierced by nails; she is pierced by a penis. His torture is orchestrated by the powerful in society. She is penetrated by the character who represents the wealth, power, and prestige of 1960 America---and the only character to demonstrate clear racism.

    But in the end, she is the hero. She is character who passed below all things in order to save another and it is she who ends with even more respect than she started with.

    That Matheson accomplishes her ascension through these means is a painful irony. Which was probably his point. Again, ymmv.