2023-10-23

Coupla classics et al.

.

Not all classics are created equal is surely true but what's even more true is that no classic is for every person. One here was for me. One was not. Which is a theme of the poetry collection as well. And other stuff.

I'm fairly skilled at picking things I like and I've given myself permission not to finish what I don't, so the bias of liked is no surprise, but is it okay? Should I read more that I do not like? And if so, which dislikes should I engage?

Anyway, here's some stuff, most of which I liked:

.

110) A Cluster of Noisy Planets by Charles Rafferty, finished October 6

This is a pretty great collection of prose poems. One small paragraph per page. Lots of wonderful lines and juxtapositions. But sometimes an excellent one would be spoiled by a prosaic final sentence. Or a prosaic one would shock with a brilliant close. A couple would have been better served by being poem poems rather than prose poems. Sometimes an interesting rhythmic choice was murdered, intentionally or not, who can say?

Anyway. It's what he likes to write. And I liked reading them. That sees like enough.

a week


111) Ramona Forever by Beverly Cleary, finished October 7

I love these books. The baby's getting impatient with my needing to pause to compose myself, but this volume had a funeral and a marriage and a baby. Tears are gonna flow!

The ones were reading have fresh 2020 illustrations which is good and all but these are definitely period pieces. I mean---the baby goes home from the hospital on Mom's lap! That feels criminal in a 2020 illustration!

Anyway. Beverly Cleary did a terrific job. These are certainly kids books but reading them as an adult you can sense the adult wisdom carried by the adults and the narrator, even though we're in Ramona's p-o-v. But Ramona does a lot of growing up in each book—and gets a whole barrelful of growing-up epiphanies in the final pages—and I imagine a child reading these books feels the seepings of wisdom as well.

like ten weeks
 

112) The Mysteries by Bill Watterson and Bill Kascht, finished October 10

What a delightful surprise to discover on my portch, months after ordering it then forgetting all about the glorious fact that Bill Watterson had a new book.

The book is strange and wonderful. And it's not about what, partway through, it seems to be about.

In the end: it is about mysteries.

a sit
 

113) The Sandman: A Game of You by Neil Gaiman et al, finished October 12

A returning character from A Doll's House stars in this story, another strong one. I do wonder how Gen Z responds to the trans woman in this story. I'm reminded of Just Julie's Fine because I would not be surprised by some Gen Z blowback, but what can I say except that is what 2005 was like? You can say something similar here. This is what the late 80s / early 90s were like. People did what they could.

I don't know, but I can't help but wonder if this was the first trans character I ever read. It's very possible.

The story is set up much like many of my favorite X-Files episodes where Mulder and Scully are minor characters. Thus it is here, for Dream.

a week
 

114) The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder, finished October 13

I picked up this copy some time ago. I don't recall if I was aware of the book's reputation or just the author's (whom I know as a playwright, having read Our Town in high school and The Skin of our Teeth in 2017; incidentally, that review makes me believe I was on the lookout for the book when it finally turned up).

Anyway, I finally decided to read it when the great Margaret Blair Young blurbed the upcoming Just Julie's Fine like so:

Reading this lovely novel had me chuckling, nodding, and periodically gasping. Though BYU student Julie is the center (or at least an important context) of most of the action, we get to know the quirks and endearing phrasings of several others connected to her in some way. The book reminded me of Wilder’s Bridge to San Luis Rey, wherein we get glimpses of several lives about to end (the bridge will collapse as they cross it), and of the events that led them to the bridge. Just Julie’s Fine does not end with everyone’s death, but with the compelling initiation of the title character into a new life—not the one she had always imagined. [Th: I could stop here, but let's keep going!] Julie, who is perpetually pursued by young Mormon men in search of a beautiful and {parenthetically} good wife, realizes that she wants to be an engineer, even though she will lose many of her accumulated university credits. This may seem like a simple thing, but it is a true rite of passage, a change of trajectory, and emblematic of the cultural changes happening around all of the characters.

Just Julie’s Fine is also a fascinating time capsule in which we see BYU students grappling with the standard coming-of-age issues, but also with feminism, sexuality, faith, and duty.

I found every character to be likeable—except [one character who, alas, it based on a real experience I, Theric, had at BYU], who seemed vacuous. The clever dialogue felt real and inviting. The writing itself flowed beautifully.

This is a fun novel, and I think Jepson enjoyed writing it [I did]. The energy of FUN comes through in every page. It is not a comical novel, but the dialogue is often so witty that the reader will certainly smile. It’s not a sad novel either. It’s a slice-of-life novel wherein the reader gets introduced to a variety of fascinating characters who reflect their age and their time perfectly.

Since this is appearing in the front pages, I felt I ought to've actually read Bridge in case anyone asked me about it.

The basic structure of Bridge is that a bridge fell and five people died and three chapters reveal these now-dead to us. They sometimes share connections (they do, after all, all live in Lima) or even know each other, and now they are dead.

But I knew that much coming into it. So far I see where Maggie's coming from.

As I read the novel (which I loved and kept wanting to return to even though I had library books) I tended to think the comparison to Julie made less and less sense. And then it ended and Bridge struck me as much more a mini Middlemarch than anything else.

And that's certainly true, but as I sit with Wilder's writing and accomplishment I'm starting, more and more, to see Sister Young's point. And she's right. And I am deeply, deeply flattered.

Anyway, it's a tiny masterpiece. You should knock this one out.

perhaps a month


115, 116) Cymbeline by William Shakespeare, finished October 16, 17

Fine to do with a class, but not as delightful as the most fun plays (Hamlet, Romeo & Juliet, Merchant of Venice, Richard III, Measure for Measure, Coriolanus, Julius Caesar, Macbeth, Titus Andronicus....)

What a weird one, too. Complicated and strange. Shame the Victorians decided it was no good and thus we've mostly forgotten it. Maybe then we would have enough dialogue to convince me.

over a week


117) Kaya: Book One by author, finished October 21

This is a fabulous new fantasy world people by simply drawn (metaphorically) characters that still have real depth and personality. Their adventures and situations are exciting. And, at least so far, it's all-ages, so share away!

two short bursts broken up by a couple weeks



 118) White Noise by Don DeLillo, finished October 23

Don DeLillo is one of the midcentury male American authors I've never had any interest in reading, perhaps simply because I cannot distinguish among them (DeLillo, Roth, Mailer...).

But then Noah Baumach made a movie and I ended up reading quite a bit about it and the novel it's based on. This is the article that talked me into reading the book. And now I have. And I get all the praise and whatever but I didn't like it. I found it screamingly difficult to continue caring about page after page after page after page. Part of the problem is that the book is "funny," but the narrator is funny in the same way each funny character is funny. It's the same joke page after page after page. And while there are a couple transcendent moment, egad, it just goes on and on and on and one. It's only three hundred pages but I suspect I'll remember it as much, much longer.

That said, I think it will make an excellent Noah Baumbach / Greta Gerwig movie. I'm looking forward to watching it.

months




 

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 J├╝rgen 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

The sex-and-metaphysics Venn diagram

087) Banana Sunday by Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover, finished August 2
088) Falconer by John Cheever, finished August 3
089) Still Life with Woodpecker by Tom Robbins, finished August 3
090) Homunculus by Joe Sparrow, finished August 5
091) Cuckoo by Joe Sparrow, finished August 9
092) Fatal by Kimberly Johnson, finished August 16
093) The Unsinkable Walker Bean by Aaron Renier, finished August 17
094) The Infinite Future by Tim Wirkus, finished August 22
095) Super-Infinite: The Transformations of John Donne by Katherine Rundell, finished August 23 

What, is this nothing but comics?

096) The Unsinkable Walker Bean and the Knights of the Waxing Moon by Aaron Renier, finished August 24
097)
Just Julie's Fine by Theric Jepson, finished August 26
098) Bea Wolf by Zach Weinersmith and Boulet, finished August 28
099) Assassinistas by Tini Howard / Gilbert Hernandez / et al., finished August 31
100) Wonder Woman Historia: The Amazons by Kelly Sue DeConnick / Phil Jimenez / Gene Ha / Nicola Scott, finished August 31
101) The Sandman: Preludes & Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman et al., finished September 6
102) Slapstick, or Lonesome No More! by Kurt Vonnegut, finished September 11

We got mysteries, we got apples, we got St. Paul. . . .

103) The Sandman: The Doll's House by Neil Gaiman et al., finished September 14
104) Hallowe'en Party by Agatha Christie, finished September 2023
105)
The Sandman: Dream Country by Neil Gaiman et al, finished September 27
106)
Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty, finished September 29
107)
Paul Among the People: The Apostle Reinterpreted and Reimagined in His Own Time by Sarah Ruden, finished October 1
108) Cymbeline by William Shakespeare, finished October 5
109) The Sandman: Season of Mists by Neil Gaiman et al, finished October 5



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