Evil Smiley Face, et al.


You never know how things will fall down. I would not have guessed my new batch would be nothing but comics or books aimed at children, but so it is. And I have no regrets. Everything here is of good report and praiseworthy, and some of them I even liked!


125) The Sandman: Worlds' End by Neil Gaiman et al, finished November 28

This is the one I thought maybe I hadn't read before. When I got into Mike Allred's stuff I discovered that he'd done an issue of Sandman and I could not recall the weird smiley-face guy who came up in searches.

And I was right. I have not read this volume.

It's a Decamerony sort of book, travelers trapped by storms at the inn at the worlds' end come together and tell stories. Brian Talbot's muddy art bookends each issue, with another artist telling the story itself. Allred's is based on a character I had never heard of before. My favorite story might have been that of the girl sailor drawn by Michael Zulli, but Mike's art's my favorite art.

Incidentally, in Gaiman's afterward, he talks about picking Mike Allred for his art, his "clean and simple shapes." Which is crazy because the story digs into many of the theo/cosmological concepts I associate with Allred's later work. I would need to see exactly where this falls among all the Madman comics, but my gut tells me Gaiman's straight up predicted where his artist was headed with his own tales.

(This'll back me up.)

Anyway, just four more volumes to go! Wonder if I'll read any more for the first time.

a week

126) Boys Weekend by Mattie Lubchansky, finished November 29

The Washington Post turned me on to this book and luckily my library had it. I put it on hold and it came right away. And it was . . . fine.

I like many things about Boys Weekend: I liked the weird near-future setting, I liked the mundanity of trans experience, I liked the color palette, I liked the pacing, I liked the dumb jokes.

But there were things I did not like as well. For instance, that near-future world was a bit confused. Is this our new future? The protag was born in 1999 and she's, what, thirty? Maybe thirty-five? So this is ten years from now? Not likely. So maybe it's some other world? Honestly, before I saw the birthday, I was assuming this was a hundred years out and my main complaint then would have been that surely the current awkwardnesses between trans folk and their cis friends would at least have evolved into something new. But it feels pretty 2023 to me.

But Theric, you might say, this is a satire! So of course it's really about our current world.

Sure, but you see: near-future is my jam. I care very much about its execution. I can't help it.

My other big complaint is the character design. I feel like this look, new so recently, is deeply overdone by now and I'm over it. I suppose this may be petty. But it's how I feel. Sorry.

Anyway, someone whom I thought had begun transitioning perhaps a decade ago (revealed late in the book to actually be less than a year ago) is invited to Las Vegas on a floating island (everything's legal!) to be the best man at her college-era best friend's weeklong bachelor party. Self-discovery ensues as we pass through satires of tech, techbros, capitalism, morality, and more more more!

Again: lot to like. I do believe lots of people really like this book. Alas that I am not one of them. (Insert sadface here.)

in bed one night

127) Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang, finished December 15

I've seen this book at the library before. it's hard to miss. It's a bright orange basketball of a book. And although I love Yang's work this is a long one. And it looks like a bright orange basketball.

But I finally picked it up which I needed to stand next to the shelves it was on for an extended time and I started reading it and, no surprise, it's excellent.

It's the true story of Bishop O'Dowd's 2015 run for the state championship / the end of Yang's teaching career / the history of basketball / dozens of other things small and large. The book is also about its own creation. But it takes the endnotes to really get behind the process of how the artist sculpted reality into a story. I recommend the endnotes.

And I recommend the whole dang 446 pages. It doesn't take that long to read and you'll be glad you did. A lot of pages gives an artist of Yang's caliber the room to stretch his muscles, to create meaningful motifs and expound themes. Sometimes a longer book is the right choice.

And maybe he'll even do to you what he did to himself—make you like basketball.

since Friday

128) Ramona's World by Beverly Cleary, finished December 6

We did it! The almost-eight-year-old and I read all the Ramona books! Behold:

Ramona and Beezus
Ramona the Pest
Ramona the Brave
Ramona and Her Father
Ramona and Her Mother
Ramona Quimby, Age 8
Ramona Forever
(links to Blogger only as that's where I have anchors for better linking)

And now Ramona's World in which, by reaching age zeroteen, she is a teenager.

Ramona continues to grow. She makes new kinds of friendships and desires new kinds of responsibilities. She becomes better capable of empathy but also is moving into an adolescent capacity for embarrassment. Not everything is resolved (her dad, for instance, still hasn't been able to get a job as a teacher) but in life, not everything is.

This was the last novel Cleary published. It came out in her early 80s, and though she made it to juuust shy of 105, she never wrote another. Her skills are still strong in Ramona's World but, well, she'd earned her retirement.

Frankly, these eight books are a terrific accomplishment and we here enjoyed them very much. They're the real stuff.

Thank you, ma'am.

perhaps two months

129) A Child's Anthology of Poetry edited by Elizabeth Hauge Sword with Victoria Flourney McCarthy, finished December 7

This is anthology of poems that work for children. Not necessarily for children. There is some children-intended verse, sure, but there's also a lot of Blake and Frost and Dickinson and Yeats and the like.

This was originally published in 1995 and I don't think a new book making a similar attempt would make some of the same choices. For example, it includes Countee Cullin's "Incident" and one might say rightly so. I forget when I first read it, but I was not an adult and that poem changed me. I think all my understanding of racism and its ugliness can be traced to reading "Incident" in my youth. But it's not going into a book for kids in 2023. And I'm sympathetic to why not. But I can't be sure it would be the right choice. Because changing you—may that not be a primary purpose of poetry?

Of course, a, ah, "funny" thing about leaving incident out in our imaginary 2023 volume is that this is something the left and the right would agree on in almost identical language.

The great thing about a book like this is that no matter how late it is, we still have time for a poem. Even if there's no time for a chapter of Ramona, there is time for a poem. And so reading a poem is now an expected certainty for the almost-eight-year-old.

I know what we're reading next.

let's guess a year and seven months but really that's just a guess


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

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
The Sandman: Dream Country by Neil Gaiman et al, finished September 27
Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty, finished September 29
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

Coupla classics et al.

110) A Cluster of Noisy Planets by Charles Rafferty, finished October 6
111) Ramona Forever by Beverly Cleary, finished October 7
112) The Mysteries by Bill Watterson and Bill Kascht, finished October 10
113) The Sandman: A Game of You by Neil Gaiman et al, finished October 12
114) The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder, finished October 13
115, 116) Cymbeline by William Shakespeare, finished October 16, 17
117) Kaya: Book One by author, finished October 21
118) White Noise by Don DeLillo, finished October 23

Lots of unicorns here

119) The Sandman: Fables & Reflections by Neil Gaiman et al., finished October 27
120) The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle, finished November 3
121) Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog) by Jerome K. Jerome, finished November 3
122) The Last Unicorn: The Lost Journey by Peter S. Beagle, finished November 5
123) Have Spacesuit–Will Travel by Robert A. Heinlein, finished November 14
124) Romney: A Reckoning by McKay Coppins, finished November 16
125) The Sandman: Brief Lives by Neil Gaiman et al., finished November 21

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