Nine swell books (most in the good sense, some in the bottom-of-the-bog sense)


I kept delaying posting this because I was posting about Byuck (1,2) and didn't want to get annoying, and now it's really long and so annoying. Yrwelkm.

Anyway, three extreeemely different works of Mormon literature, plus a memoir, poems, comics. Hooff. Such a smorgasbord! Definitely take at least one of these recommendations.


126) The Darkest Abyss: Strange Mormon Stories by William Morris, finished November 18

Not easy to overstate how successful William was with this project. He's been saying, for what seems like y e a r s, that his new collection would do things we hadn't seen before in the Mormon arts.

At first I was skeptical. Although the first story is terrific and unique, I, ah, had read it before. But let's talk about the collection's penultimate story for a moment: "Certain Places."

In short, a person loses their self and appears in another person making them the same self even though they both existed separately and maintain those memories. And then they both become a third person, while ceasing to be what once they were.

Besides being quite the concept, he plays it very Mormon. For instance, you could interpret the story being about polygamy and/or sealing. Or you could say it is a commentary on the Church's contemporary sexual politics. Just for two examples. But to reduce the story to such commentary is to fight against its core strangeness, and the experience the characters are having. They are living these impossible lives and the "moral" is not their concern. They are motivated by their hopes and their regrets and not by what message we might take from their decisions.

The story that follows it, the collection's closer, "A Mormon Writer Visits Spirit Prison," started out rather annoying, to be honest. The form struck me as needlessly complex (and it did require flipping pages all the way to the end) but it did pay off. This is a writer you can trust, even when he seems just to be messing with you.

Which gets to his commentary on "A Ring Set Not with Garnet but Sardius." He posted this shortly before I read the tale and I was glad, because when I got to the end of the story it made a clear allusion by which I mean it clearly was an allusion, but I had no idea as to what.

But reading of his process was great anyway. Largely for its intended purpose (to expose his process), sure, but also because reading once through for pleasure does not reveal as many details as this sort of story can provide. A few things came up which I had only vaguely noticed.

Which is to say two things:

Chris Ware said it takes a thousand times as long to make a comic as to read one. This ratio may or may not apply to Darkest Abyss but it should remind us to slow down. Waterskiing over the surface is delightful, but the fish! the fish!

And this is unquestionably a volume that will reward rereading.

a month

127) Silver Screen Fiend by Patton Oswalt, finished November 22

I guess this is the perfect book to read when waiting for an oil change or a smog check or anything car-related, or while taking one's daughter to the park, as that is how I read this book.

It's the story of the author's practically clinical four-year addiction to movies or, on a deeper level, how a person finds a passion and then turns it into either a life or an obsession.

He's good company and the book moves quickly. I really didn't plan on reading it—I somehow picked it up and the library and started by reading the appendix of the films he read—but it was the right book to fit the shape of the times I had to read and I'm glad I did.

It's funny how it served as both a dire warning and an intensely attractive way to spend your time.

Which, maybe this is typical of addition memoirs?

a couple weeks or more

128) Ramona and Beezus by Beverly Cleary, finished November 24

The 5yrold's intended next book had not arrived from the library so I grabbed this off our shelves and, no surprise, she loved it. So now Ramona the Pest is on hold at the library. I suspect we'll read them all.

And why the heck not?

almost two weeks

129) The Love Map: Saving Your Love Relationship and Incidentally Saving the World by Carol Lynn Pearson, finished December 1

The Love Map is of that tradition that are technically novels but are just as likely to be shelved by your local library in nonfiction, perhaps under philosophy or self-help, alongside books like Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance or The Greatest Salesman in the World. When Carol Lynn sent me a copy, that’s how she pitched it, as “a very intriguing look at love. Short. Fiction. True—like Jonathan Livingston Seagull is true.”

It’s one of those books that can be dull if it’s not the right moment for you to read it. But if it does happen to be the exact right moment for you to read this book, it’ll be the exact right moment for you to read this book.

In brief, it is the story of a marriage on the rocks. One of these sad people goes on a mystical journey with her “Self with a capital S.” The self keeps the name Joanna and gives her Self the name Sylvia, who then takes her along seven steps through the Four Kingdoms: Survival, Joyous Sexuality, Blast Furnace, Through the Eyes of God. Along the way, Joanna—like all of us—will save the world. 

I'm glad I read it when I did! It'll make a nice addition to a little project I'm working on....

coupla weeks

130) Gardener by Matt Emmons, finished December 1

This was perhaps the comic I was most excited about of all the comics I purchased on Kickstarter during my covid madness. And perhaps that's why it took me so long to start reading it.

The text has a few grammatical errors and the Big Ideas in the plot didn't really sing for me, but certain characters and scenes and moments were absolute wonders. If we judge a book by its highest point, this is excellent.

And I really dug the stuff at the end about him developing the story and the world and the characters. He worked hard on this and that suggests to me he's someone to watch, that he will only get better.

In short, we're on some other planet. Humans arrived here centuries ago and everything's gone to hell since. But, um, there's hope . . . or something . . . or is by the end? I don't know. But when it was good it was great.

maybe a month

131) My Wife Wants You to Know I'm Happily Married by Joey Franklin, finished December 2

My general experience with personal essayists is similar to Lemony Snicket's with poets (scroll down to where he's talking about Campbell McGrath). I rarely finish single-author collections, that is to say, unless I own them and spend years reading them. So. Doesn't happen a lot.

But I've been wanting to read this one for a while and when I discovered that my library had it, well!

I've read Joey before (but none of these essays) and each of these essays on its own is an excellent piece of work. But read altogether, well, you say motif, I say this again? But that's my bad attitude. And I was able to tamp it down every time it arose and that meant I kept being delighted.

Essays on kissing and cockroaches and the name Joey and hyperbole. The sort of polymathic everyday eclecticism you expect from the modern creative-nonfiction professor. Fun stuff to read.

But better read over a coupla years.

  let's guess two weeks

132) Earthborn by Carl Dennis, finished December 8

I read this on Darlene Young's recommendation. I forget what she said exactly, something something Billy Collins but different. That seems like a good enough description. That's certainly how I felt in my first burst of reading.

In my final burst of reading, I noticed he has a couple favorite themes. One is his brother and, although they are all admiring, he finds sufficiently numerous ways to address his thoughts on his brother that each felt fresh.

His relationship with atheism is a bit more monotone. He feels a need to address faith and the tools of faith but he's riddled with fear that you might see him as a believer. He can't even talk about a Muse without emphasizing that he does not speak of her "to pretend / To believe in a dead mythology." Protest too much, maybe?

Anyway, I did like the poems.

a couple months maybe three

133) Fantastic Four: Road Trip by Fraction | Bagley | Araújo, finished December 10

Unsure how I came to put this on hold at the library; my best guess is someone on Twitter suggested that this would be an ideal source text for the upcoming Fantastic Four movie, but who knows.

Anyway, I didn't like it. The kids weren't kids; the story had chunks missing because they appeared on contemporaneous titles; full understanding required too much understanding of Marvel lore. It's very much an insider's book. And I am not an insider.

But one thing I did like was it's attempts (occasionally successful) at capturing the family aspect. Mr and Mrs Fantastic have a marriage that could make them the Nick and Nora of the MCU. I hope so. And while I hope they capture the pathos of Grimm's fate, that's probably something to save for the second movie.

under a week

134) The Complete Peanuts: 1963 – 1964 by Charles M. Schulz, finished December 10

Truly great stuff.

One thing I was struck by in the closing pages is that characters twice broke the fourth wall—not a technique I think of as Schulzian, really, with the exception of Snoopy, I suppose. So check it out:

December 16, 1964 (100%)

October 29, 1964 (final 25%)

(note: these are screenshots from the website; in the book it is art-only, neither the frame nor the pasted-in syndicate information appears)

Of course, Charlie Brown (etc) often make an aside in the final panel, but they more usually look off to the wide or roll their eyes. This is different.

(Previous time read.)

two months


Previously . . . . :

Previous Posts

001) U Is for Undertow by Sue Grafton, finished January 4
002) Far Sector by N.K. Jemisin et al, finished January 7
003) Joseph Smith and the Mormons by Noah Van Sciver, finished January 7
004) The Blank Wall by Elisabeth Sanxay Holding, finished January 11
005) The Art of Perspective by Christopher Castellani, finished January 11
006) Bad Kitty Goes on Vacation by Nick Bruel, finished January 12
007) Remina by Junji Ito, finished January 15
008) The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O'Neill, finished January 15
009) The Tea Dragon Festival here by Katie O'Neill, finished January 15
010) A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett, finished January 18
011) Diana: Princess of the Amazons by Shannon & Dean Hale and Victoria Ying, finished January 26

012) Just Julie's Fine by Theric Jepson, finished January 28
013) The Art of Description by Mark Doty, finished January 28
014) Green Lantern: Legacy by Minh Lê and Andie Tong, finished February 5
015) Serious Concerns by Wendy Cope, finished January 9
016) The Art of Mystery by Maud Casey, finished February 11
017) The Art of Bible Translation by Robert Alter, finished February 13
018) No Longer Human by Junji Ito, finished February 15

019) Zatanna and the House of Secrets by Matthew Cody and Yoshi Yoshitani, finished Febraury 17
020) Fuzz by Mary Roach, finished February 19
021) Deserter: Junji Ito Story Collection by Junji Ito, finished February 25
022) You May Already Be a Winner by Ann Dee Ellis, finished March 4
023) Audience-ology by Kevin Goetz, finished March 4
024) The Writing Life by Annie Dillard, finished March 7

025) Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett, finished March 8
026) The Croquet Player by H. G. Wells, finished March 11
027) Lost States: True Stories of Texlahoma, Transylvania, and Other States That Never Made It by Michael J. Trinklein, finished March 12
028) Nightwing: Leaping into the Light by Bruno Redondo and Tom Taylor, finished March 13
029) Batman: The Court of Owls by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo and Jonathan Glapion, finished date
030) Invisible Ink: My Mother's Secret Love Affair with a Famous Cartoonist by author, finished date
031) Ghosts of Vader's Castle by a slew of folks, finished March 15
032) The Flintstones Volume 1 by Mark Russell and Steve Pugh, finished March 16
033) The Flintstones Volume 2 by Mark Russell and Steve Pugh, finished March 16
034) The Jetsons by Palmiotti/Brito/Sinclair, finished March 16
035) Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles by Mark Russell and Mike Feehan, finished March 18
036) Ballad for Sophie by Filipe Melo and Juan Cavia, finished March 19

You tell me whether it's garbage-in or not

037) Bride of the Far Side by Gary Larson, finished March 23
038) Batman: Night of the Owls by the entire DC bullpen, finished March 23
039) The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin, finished March 25
040) The Pocket Book of Ogden Nash, finished March 25
041) Slaugherhouse-Five or the Children's Crusade: a Duty Dance with Death by Kurt Vonnegut / Ryan North / Albert Monteys, finished March 28
042) The Fox and the Star by Coralie Bickford-Smith, finished March 28
043) Jem by Frederik Pohl, finished March 31
044) The Mundane Adventures of Dishman by John MacLeod, finished March 31
045) Because Sometimes You Just Gotta Draw a Cover with Your Left Hand by Stephan Pastis, finished April 4

Books: extralong edition

046) Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat! Vol. 1: Hooked On A Feline by Leth/Williams/Allegri, finished April 9
047) The Hatred of Poetry by Ben Lerner, finished April 11
048) Weird Al: The Book by Nathan Rabin with Al Yankovic, finished April 11
049) My Year of Flops by Nathan Rabin, finished April 16
050) The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennet, finished April 19
051) Beast of Burden: Occupied Territory by Dorkin & Dyer & Dewey & Piekos, finished April 16
052) Building a Better Life by Stealing Office Supplies: Dogbert's Big Book of Business by Scott Adams, finished April 22
053) On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder, finished April 27
054) Salt Magic by Hope Larson and Rebecca Mock, finished May 5
055) Star Wars Adventures: The Weapon of a Jedi, finished May 6
056) Hemingway in Paradise and Other Mormon Poems by Scott Hales, finished May 8
057) Romeo and Juliet: The War by a team assembled by Stan Lee, finished May 10
058) The Dark Horse Book of the Dead edited by Scott Allie, finished May 14
059) A Little Lower than the Angels by Virginia Sorensen, finished May 15

060) Irredeemable by Mark Waid, et al., finished May 20
061) Stanslaw Lev's The Seventh Voyage by Jon J Muth, finished May 23
062) Sir Gawain and the Green Knight translated by Simon Armitage, finished May 28
063) Heike's Void by Stephen L. Peck, finished May 30

064) Night Weather by JS Absher, finished June 2
065) Will Eisner Reader, finished June 2
066) Pen Pals by Aaron Cometbus, finished June 4
067) I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett, finished June 6
069) Pluto: Urusawa × Tezuka 001 by Naoki Urasawa et al, finished June 16
070) The Gadget War by Betsy Duffey, finished June 16

071) Sensational Wonder Woman, finished June 22
072) Ain't Burned All the Bright by Jason Reynolds and Jason Griffin, finished June 27
073) 5 Very Good Reasons to Punch a Dolphin in the Mouth (And Other Useful Guides) by The Oatmeal, finished June 29
074) Socks by Beverly Cleary, finished June 29
075) The Ultimates Volume 1: Super-Human by Millar/Hitch/Currie, finished June 30
076) In China with Green Day by Aaron Cometbus, finished July 4

077) V is for Vengeance by Sue Grafton, finished July 7
078) Spin by John Bennion, finished July 10
079) The Complete Cartoons of The New Yorker edited by Robert Mankoff, finished July 11
080) The Shepherd's Crown by Terry Pratchett, finished July 23
081) W is for Wasted by Sue Grafton, finished July 25
082) How About Never—Is Never Good for You? by Bob Mankoff, finished July 28

083) Subtract: The Untapped Science of Less by Leidy Klotz, finished July 29
084) Ape and Essence by Aldous Huxley, finished July 30
085) Urban Legendz by Paul Downs / Nick Bruno / Michael Yates, finished July 30
086) The Best Film You've Never Seen by Robert K. Elder, finished August 1
087) It's a Good Life if You Don't Weaken by Seth, finished August 4
088) Spencer Kimball's Record Collection: Essays on Mormon Music by Michael Hicks, finished August 7

089) The Last Man by Mary Shelley, finished August 11
090) Funny Business by Revlio, finished August 13
091) The Sopratos by Stephan Pastis, finished August 15
092) Real Friends by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham, finished August 16
093) Best Friends by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham, finished August 16
094) Friends Forever by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham, finished August 16
095) The Drowned World by J.G. Ballard, finished August 20

096) One Trick Pony by Nathan Hale, finished August 20
097) My Darling from the Lions by Rachel Long, finished August 22
098) Chivalry by Neil Gaiman and Colleen Doran, finished August 23
099) Chouette by Claire Oshetsky, finished August 25
100) Weiner Dog Art by Gary Larson, finished August 26
101) A Bestiary of Booksellers by Aaron Cometbus, finished September 2
102) Slaughterhouse-Five, or. the Children's Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death by Kurt Vonnegut, finished September 9

103) Long Live the Pumpkin Queen by Shea Ernshaw, finished September 10
104) Bug! The Adventures of Forager by a trio of Allreds, finished September 22
105) The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel, finished September 24
106) Fangs by Sarah Andersen, finished October 2
107) The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North, finished October 3
108) Brindille by Frédéric Brrémaud and Federico Bertolucci, finished October 5
109) Shelterbelts by Jonathan Dyck, finished date

110) The Complete Peanuts: 1961 – 1962 by Charles M. Schulz, finished October 9
111) Theseus: Volume One by Jordan Holt, finished October 19
112) Over the Garden Wall by Pat McHale and Jim Campbell, finished October 20
113) Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel, finished October 20
114) A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett, finished October 21
115) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Amazing Adventures: The Meeting of the Mutanimals, finished October 22
116) Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare, finished October 26
117) Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare, finished October 27
118) Love by Frederic Brremaud and Federico Bertolucci, finished October 27

119) What If? 2 by Randall Munroe, finished October 28
120) The Utopia of Rules: On Technology, Stupidity, and the Secret Joys of Bureaucracy by David Graeber, finished October 28
121) Disquiet by Noah Van Sciver, finished November 3
122) Rickety Stitch and the Gelatinous Goo: The Road to Epoli by Ben Costa and James Park, finished November 3
123) 2 A.M. in Little America by Ken Kalfus, finished November 8
125) The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. LeGuin, finished November 16

final posts in this series from
  2007 = 2008 = 2009 = 2010 = 2011 = 2012 = 2013
2014 = 2015 = 2016 = 2017 = 2018 = 2019 = 2020 = 2021

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