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


If you stick with me to the end, we'll together take a trip to hell. En route, I am afraid we will see murders and imagined murders and ancient battles of the sexes. Are you strapped in?


103) The Sandman: The Doll's House by Neil Gaiman et al., finished September 14

This collection is a deliberate single story and it's a great example of what Gaiman is good at and what Sandman is good at. It has sex and violence, beauty and horror. It has fine lines and opportunity for the artists to play around. Fascinating characters both lovely and despicable, both knowable and inscrutable. It shows people and places that can otherwise be so easy to never see. Deliberately, accidentally, it hardly matters—we simply do not see. The pacing speeds up and down. Major characters take their place in both fore- and background. Minor characters as well. Meaning is suggested and then swayed away from.

He's found his rhythm.

almost a week

104) Hallowe'en Party by Agatha Christie, finished September 2023

The new librarian is attempting a book club with the teachers. I'm game. And the first book is this Hercule Poirot mystery, the movie of which I may have watched last weekend had I not begun the book instead.

I must say the trailer confounds me:

Wikipedia says the movie "transpose[s]" the action from the novel's bucolic village to Venice, but other than some water, a girl, and a friend of Poirot's who happens to be female, what to they have in common? The novel has no seance, no psychics, no locked-room aspect, no supernatural element of any sort, basically nothing that appears in the trailer whatsoever.

Some English townfolk in the '60s are preparing a Hallowe'en party for a couple dozen local kids. One of the kids is murdered at the party. Poirot is invited by his friend to investigate. He does. He wanders around the lovely countryside having conversations.

I still want to see the movie but I haven't much worry that reading the novel will spoil anything for me.

The structure of the novel was fascinating. It's a very slow burn. It really is just Poirot walking around talking to people. The last couple chapters add some suspense and propulsion but otherwise the entire runtime is cozy in the extreme.

Nothing like the trailer whatsoever.

Can't wait to see it.

I hope I enjoy it as much as the book.

But, if I do, I anticipate an entirely separate sort of enjoyment.

just over a week

105) The Sandman: Dream Country by Neil Gaiman et al, finished September 27

Short stories this time, including a couple of my favorites about an abused Muse and Shakespeare performing for actual fairies.

I will certain know if I hit an unread volume because they all come back to me as I read, even though it's been twenty years.

They're not all equally good but they are all good. Onward we go.

under than two weeks

106) Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty, finished September 29

I know the names of Lianne Moriarty's novels from prestige television adaptations and for some reason (petty snobbery?) I find that a turnoff so I never would have read this book were it not for the great pleasure it gave my beloved when her book group read it. I mean---she was having fun, people. So even though it's almost 500 pages, I picked it up as soon as she was done.

And folks, this is a solid piece of entertainment. Well structured, littered with terrific characters, plain but nonagressive points roiling beneath the service---enough to trigger all your layered pleasure centers.

For instance, it has a lot to say about what we inherit from our parents (like it or not) and sometimes it was frustrating how clearly we could see things the characters could not---but, well, that's exactly how people are. It did not make me believe in the characters any less.

As for the structure, I was just complaining about a book that attempted something similar; this one has perfect execution. There's no diminishment of suspense. I mean---I was convinced at one point of [redacted] only to discover [redacted] when I picked the novel back up the next day. What a delightful reading experience!

The opposing emotions this novel forces upon you prevents a simplistic reading of humanity. People are complicated. Yet Moriarty loves humans. You can tell. Even the clearest villain of the novel is treated with grace. Yet part of the reason for this is which character consists of the emotional and ethical core of the story. She's not a saint or anything but her presence---even in her failings and errors---makes everyone else better.

My mother plays tennis.

monthish but I think less

107) Paul Among the People: The Apostle Reinterpreted and Reimagined in His Own Time by Sarah Ruden, finished October 1

One of our Sunday School teachers  brought some of the ideas in this text collected from printed interviews and podcast appearances. I went ahead and hunted down a copy because I was intrigued by some of the details about women wearing veils and such (all cut out of this episode) and I've been reading it on Sundays since.

First, Sarah Ruden is an excellent writer. Her company is very welcome as we take this journey, trying to understand ol' problematic Paul as his contemporaries would have understood him.

In short, almost all the things that drive us crazy about Paul in 2023 AD are because we don't know what the world was like 55 AD. The woman-in-veils thing, for instance. At the time, you weren't allowed to wear a veil unless you were wealthy or married. And not wearing a veil meant you were sexually available to men who felt like so availing. But when a woman comes to church? It doesn't matter who you are in the outside. In church, you can all wear veils. We are all the same here.

She similarly brings us into other aspects of Roman culture, revealing how our default assumptions don't really apply to Paul's acolytes' realities. He was not talking about anything like our world when he came out against gay people or seemed upsettingly ambivalent about slavery. We don't even understand what he meant by words like "father" or "child" or "love" or "faith." Two thousand years of domestication has resulted in doctrines that make us think this is a wolf:

I really can't recommend this book highly enough to any layperson who has been frustrated by Paul and wants to understand how this grumpypuss managed to craft the Christianity we still celebrate today.

Ruden's expertise in, as she puts it, "the literature of food, clothes, sex, family squabbles, petty commerce, local politics, and staying out of the rain," allows her to bring in her own translations from a world so different from hers that you will never read more shocking, upsetting, horrifying stuff in a book I read almost entirely over a series of sabbaths.

His world was not our world.

Understanding that helps clarify just what Paul was getting at.

And how devastatingly radical it was.

Ultimately destroying the Greco-Roman world and building one where such concepts as freedom and equality, the Enlightenment, democracy—our entire modern ideal—could take seed and grow.

Paul showed us the ideals we are upset he doesn't meet, like self-righteous teenagers discovering morality and holding it up to the adults we know.

It's an old story.

Hey—we all still think as a child and see through glass darkly. So perhaps we need to read Paul because we are more like him than we think.

three weeks

108) Cymbeline by William Shakespeare, finished October 5

What a weird one this is. It's like it takes all the things I find strangest about Shakespeare's plot and characters, sticks them all together, then renders them even more absurd. Innogen is a reasonably likeable character but all the other leads are absurd caricatures. This poor woman having to live in a world filled with so many knuckleheads.

I saw a Cymbeline recently, a stripped-down version that leaned into the queer readings without actually making them clearer and played pretty much everything for laughs. (Who knew a headless corpse could be so funny!) A couple of the performances were excellent (Nathaniel Andalis in particular was a revelation) but the play mostly wanted to be easy to like. And it was. Perhaps Jupiter should always play the electric guitar.

I've also read long essays about Cymbeline by Stanley Wells and Harold Bloom who have very different takes on the play. I largely accept both their readings (which should upset them both) in part because the play is so strange it's easy to accept all sorts of possibilities.

Of the other strange plays (the problems, the romances, the whatevers), this is my least favorite. But I hope someday to see a production that makes me feel about it as Wells does. Prior to the Victorians, this was one of the more beloved plays. Maybe it can be again.

over a week

  109) The Sandman: Season of Mists by Neil Gaiman et al, finished October 5

This is the one (if you'll recall) where Morpheus finds himself in possession of hell. Hijinks, naturally, ensue.

It's a good one.

about a week


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
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


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