The sex-and-metaphysics Venn diagram


What good times we are having in Reading Land! Silly gorilla! Sex of all sorts! Wild science fiction! Metaphysics! Baby, it does not get better than this.


087) Banana Sunday by Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover, finished August 2

I've bumped into this husband/wife creative team before. This was their first outing (newly colored and reprinted) and it definitely feels like a) a first work and b) work by people who will find their greatest success writing for younger teens. (That's not a slam.)

Girl has to bring talking monkeys to school. Chaos ensues. That's all you need to know.

several days

088) Falconer by John Cheever, finished August 3

Crummy upper-middle class guy addicted to heroin kills his brother and heads to prison (the Falconer of the title) where he hears many, many stories, gets clean, stagnates, gets clean, takes part in a revolt that does not happen, falls in love, and finally has a classic midcentury epiphany of . . . something, to close it out.

I'm not sure I've ever read Cheever before. Best known for his short stories (though you can find people who will call this his masterpiece and of course it is, that's why he wrote it, only novelists get to have masterpieces).

It's well written and a fine (if essentially plotless) novel. It's loaded with unpleasantness (the sex, the violence, the guards, the drugs, the rich people, the poor) but somehow I never found it nihilistic, which is a fancy trick.

under three months

089) Still Life with Woodpecker by Tom Robbins, finished August 3

I've been told to read Tom Robbins for almost twenty years now and I totally get why. He funny. And the games he plays with language are akin to the games I play—I've just spent a lot of time building a governor. But I absolutely loved watching the man break everything. This is the book you can write when you're the hottest thing going (this came out in 1985).

Part of the reason I haven't read him is that I find his name intensely forgettable. Somewhere on Thutopia I've written about a paragraph from Even Cowgirls Get the Blues which I would link to know except certain posts Google just chooses to ignore for unknown reasons and that's one of them. Should you find it, you'll see me being unimpressed by some writing Lady Steed was appalled by. And out of context, his writing is, essentially, nonsense.

But it's fun to read, even when I feel he's being too cute by half.

He also takes great delight in writing about sex in new and fanciful ways. And that is frankly more interesting than aliens or travels inside Camel packaging or explosions or anything else that happens because sex is famously difficult to write about interestingly. So good on him making the effort and largely succeeding. (Although repeating peachfish and placing a peachclam on the same page of one may be evidence that creativity can only get you so far.)

One thing about the authorial voice in this book is how it allows for lots of riffing on theme (eg, love) but also riffing on literally anything (eg, blackberries, cocaine, mongooses, pyramids).

Get one for the horny/comedic redhead in your life.

two years, more or less

090) Homunculus by Joe Sparrow, finished August 5

I picked up this and a companion Sparrow volume earlier this year. Can't remember why. But this short tale about an AI that survives the apocalypse is simple and charming and maybe even beautiful.

one sitting

091) Cuckoo by Joe Sparrow, finished August 9

This longer story improves on the skills we saw hinted at in Homunculus. In this one, a girl has an interaction with an alien in her backyard and years later, certain effects begin to take place. The story is aesthetically fascinating and plays some old alien games in delightful new ways.

I honestly don't want to say much more than that. Better to let you discover it on your own.

saturday and wednesday

092) Fatal by Kimberly Johnson, finished August 16

Johnson's book composed on the occasion of her husband's death consists of poems alphabetized by letter, each of which begins with the letter F, interspersed with alphabetized forms of American death, also beginning with the letter F (eg, fatigue), from the year 2001, the year her son was born and "suddenly, the whole world seemed fatal" (79).

The poems are individually successful, a few trends of form or content make veins through the collection. Although there were hints throughout, it wasn't till "Funerals" that the (then) pending death of her husband took control of the narrative. I think that poem is the keystone of the collection (though perhaps this metaphor is off as it appears so near the end), providing the strength that turns all the other poems toward its power.

One poem that seemed particularly timely to me, having just seen Oppenheimer and as I am currently reading a John Donne biography, was "Fission" which discusses Oppenheimer and how Trinity's name was inspired by Donne. One section of the poem, in fact, is an erasurelike poem created from Donne.

under a week

093) The Unsinkable Walker Bean by Aaron Renier, finished August 17

The style of art, the youthful protagonists, the cross of fantasy and pirates—all that, I admit, led me to have low expectations for this graphic novel. And the book hit everything I expected but it delivered each at such a high level that it just amazed me. This is a great book!

three days

094) The Infinite Future by Tim Wirkus, finished August 22 

This could have different covers and attract different audiences. Some cool pulp cover with people approaching a mountain cabin while in the background a star battle rages. It could be a list of names (eg, The Infinite Future / starring Irena Sertôrian / in Household Tales of our Sertôrian / by Gretjen (?) Bombal / in The Agony and the Ecstasy of Sister Úrsula / by Sister Úrsula / by Eduard Salgado-MacKenzie / as created by the Cooper siblings / translated by Danny Laszlo / in The Infinite Future / by Tim Wirkus) in a delightful and pushy font treatment.

It's a complicated book. But it largely has the conviction of its complications. Most of its run time is an introduction (by Laszlo) to a science-fiction story (by Salgado-MacKenzie) which makes up the last, oh, 40% of the book. The intro is largely designed to suggest that, for those who have eyes to see, Salgado-MacKenzie's work is brilliant, potentially life-changing. If you have eyes to see.

It may take a while to sink in but I suspect I do not have eyes to see. I like the games Wirkus is playing here and the individual pieces are good but the introduction is simply much more enjoyable than the recovered text it introduces. The afterward works at crosspurposes to the intro, suggesting that those who find intense value in the text are probably wrong.

This isn't me trying to tear the book down. I loved Wirkus's first novel and I'm glad he's still stretching himself, whether I loved it or not. Much hay was made in MoLit circles about the Mormon Studies character and rightly so. She's a terrific creation. And the characters all are generally well constructed and lovely to spend time with. The science-fiction notions are wildly creative and delightful. I think if the surrounding text had spent less time both building them up and tearing them down they could have stood just fine on their own feet. In a way, this is like a Vonnegut novel chocked full of descriptions of Kilgore Trout novels and then the last, oh, 40% of the book had been a Kilgore Trout novel. Vonnegut made Trout a bad novelist. Wirkus made Salgado-MacKenzie a possibly great one and that's tough to do. How do you write something better than yourself?

I know, I know, it's really only supposed to be different (and because Laszlo wrote both, it doesn't have to be that different). Although Laszlo's afterword seems to swing far from the voice we've experienced throughout.

Anyway. It's ambitious and interesting and I enjoyed it quite a lot. Who cares if it's not a masterpiece?

And seriously. Put it in paperback with a hella pulpy cover and see what happens!

three weeks maybe

095) Super-Infinite: The Transformations of John Donne by Katherine Rundell, finished August 23

I love John Donne. I wouldn't say I've spent much time reading him recreationally, but the times I've genuinely looked at him, so great. This book told me so much about him I didn't know. We can call it a biography, but each chapter is about one of his identities (eg, student, husband) arranged basically chronologically (obviously, identities don't start and stop; they overlap).

Anyway, it's a good read (Rundell, in addition to being a Renaissance scholar, is a YA novelist; this doesn't feel like YA, but storytelling skills be storytelling skills). It's the first book about Donne I've read (there are many! including new ones!) but I dug it. Easy recommendation to make if you like Donne or are the least bit interested.

certainly less than a month


Previously . . . . :

final posts in this series from
  2007 = 2008 = 2009 = 2010 = 2011 = 2012 = 2013
2014 = 2015 = 2016 = 2017 = 2018 = 2019 = 2020 = 2021 = 2022

Earlier in 2023

001) The Dark Room by Gerry Duggan & Scott Buoncristiano, finished January four
002) The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander, finished January 6
003) Rose by Jeff Smith and Charles Vess, finished January 10
004) Acting Class by Nick Drnaso, finished January 10
005) Red Scare by Liam Francis Walsh, finished January 11

006) The Short Reign of Pippin IV by John Steinbeck, finished January 18
007) Filmish by Edward Ross, finished circa January 20

HOW many times?

008) Maddy Kettle Book: The Adventure of the Thimblewitch by Eric Orchard, finished January 24 
009) Fantastic Frights: A Beginner's Guide to Scary Stories, finished January 24
010) Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary, finished February 2
011) Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, finished February 3
012) The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain, finished February 4

013) Is that all there is? by Joost Swarte, finished February 6
014) Edge Case by YZ Chin, finished February 7

If it weren't for a friendly sex talk, everything here would be miserable

015) Double Indemnity by James M. Cain, finished February 10
016) Sex Educated: Letters from a Latter-day Saint therapist to her younger self by Bonnie Young, LMFT, finished February 13
017) Unmask Alice: LDS, Satanic Panic, and the Imposter Behind the World's Most Notorious Diaries by Rick Emerson, finished February 20 

A Bookful Bounty for thee and thine 

018) I'm Glad My Mom Died by Jeannette McCurdy, finished February 27
019–21) The Abominable Charles Christopher by Karl Kershl, finished March 6
022) Displacement by Kiku Hughes, finished March 6
023) The Many Deaths of Laila Starr by Ram V and Filipe Andrade, finished March 6
024) The Homeland Directive by Robert Venditti and Mike Huddleston, finished March 7
025) Titus Andronicus by William Shakespeare, finished March 14
026) Last West: Roadsongs for Dorothea Lange by Tess Taylor, finished March 15
027) 22 Young Mormon Writers edited by Neal E. Lambert and Richard H. Cracroft, finished March 19
028 & 029) Titus Andronicus by William Shakespeare, finished March 23 & March 27

Literarily solving for X

030) X by Sue Grafton, finished March 28
031) Ramona the Brave by Beverly Cleary, finished April 5
032) Camera Man: Buster Keaton, the Dawn of Cinema, and the Invention of the Twentieth Century by Dana Stevens, finished April 5
033) Abe Lincoln in Illinois by Robert E. Sherwood, finished April 8
034) Theology of Play by Jürgen Moltmann, finished April 12
035) The Male Animal by James Thurber and Elliott Nugent, finished April 12
036) Bluffton by Matt Phelan, finished April 16
037) Number One Walking: My Life in the Movies and Other Diversions by Steve Martin and Harry Bliss, finished April 15

From Lolly to Elias

038) Lolly Willowes by Sylvia Townsend Warner, finished April 17
039) The Emperor's Soul by Brandon Sanderson, finished April 19
040) Beware the Eye of Odin by Wager/Odland/Madsen/Dukeshire, finished April 19
041) The Complete Peanuts: 1965–1966 by Charles M. Schulz, finished April 20
042) A Wealth of Pigeons by Steve Martin and Harry Bliss, finished April 22
043) Elias: An Epic of the Ages by Orson Ferguson Whitney, finished April 23

Old Hollywood & Olden Times

044) Straight Lady: The Life and Times of Margaret Dumont, "The Fifth Marx Brother" by Chris Enss and Howard Kazanjian, finished April 25
045) Voices from the Radium Age edited by Joshua Glenn, finished April 26
046) The Ballad of YFB by Aaron Brassea, finished April 28
047) Reynaud's Tale by Ben Hatke, finished May 3
048) Superman: Up in the Sky by Tom King and Andy Kubert, finished May 5
049) Ramona and Her Father by Beverly Cleary, finished May 5
050) Resurrection Row by Anne Perry, finished May 6 

Saying good bye to our friend Kinsey

052) More Gross: Cartoons by S. Gross, finished May 9
053) I Am Blind and My Dog Is Dead by S. Gross, finished May 9
054) Batgirls: One Way or Another by Becky Cloonan / Michael W. Conrad / Jorge Corona / Sarah Stein, finished May 11
055) Batgirls: Bat Girl Summer by Becky Cloonan / Michael W. Conrad / Neil Googe / Robbi Rodriguez / Rico Renzi, finished May 11
056) Y is for Yesterday by Sue Grafton, finished May 12 

The tyranny of getting stuff in the right order

051) On Tyranny by Timothy Snyder, finished May 8
057) Superman Smashes the Klan by Gene Luen Yang and Guruhiru, finished May 13
058) Four in Hand by Alicia Mountain, finished May 17
059) The Glob by John O'Reilly and Walt Kelly, finished May 20
060) Why They Can't Write: Killing the Five-Paragraph Essay and Other Necessities by John Warner, finished May 24
061) Less by Andrew Sean Greer, finished May 25
062) Children of the Woods by Ciano/Hixson/Stevens/Otsmane-Elhaou, finished May 27
063) The Making of Another Major Motion Picture Masterpiece by Tom Hanks, finished May 29

Such quality. Such excellence.

064) Here by Darlene Young, finished June 1
065) Theseus Volume 1 by Jordan Holt, finished June 1
066) Theseus Volume 2 by Jordan Holt, finished June 1
067) Reviews for Non-Existent Movies by Eric Goulden Kimball, finished June 5
068) The Scarlet Plague by Jack London, finished June 6
069) Anne of West Philly by Ivy Noelle Weir and Myisha Haynes, finished June 10
070) Ramona and Her Mother by Beverly Cleary, finished June 10

 Books read: a forensic investigation

073) These Precious Days by Ann Patchett, finished c. June 17
074) Grass by Keum Suk Gendry-Kim, finished c. June 19
075) The Burning Book: A Jewish-Mormon Memoir by Jason Olson and James Goldberg, finished c. June 21
076) The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich, finished June 23

From prehumanity to eternal destiny

077) Tuki: Fight for Fire by Jeff Smith, finished June 28
078) Tuki: Fight for Family by Jeff Smith, finished June 29
079) The Writer's Hustle by Joey Franklin, finished July 8
080) Future Day Saints: The New Arrivals by Matt Page, finished July 16
081) Binti by Nnedi Okorafor, finished July 18
082) Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary, finished July 19
083) Just One More by Annette Lyon, finished July 20
084) The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More by Roald Dahl, finished July 22
085) Somewhere Out There: My Animated Life by Don Bluth, finished July 22

Two women, in comics form

085) Beast by Marian Churchland, finished July 24
086) Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow by King/Evely/Lopes, finished c. July 28

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