And a vibrator makes it five dozen.....


I've been reading so many clever women lately! That, and James Faulcolner.

Based on the people I know who count him as a mentor, I suspect he's pleased with the company.


054) The English Understand Wool by Helen DeWitt, finished May 25

I've been looking for the review that led me to this book and I am not having success. Regardless, there was a review [UPDATE: found it] and it led me to this book which I have now read.

It's part of a series of books intended to be read in an afternoon. Which I guess is the 2020s less threatening word for "novella."

Anyway, I almost put it down early on (and may have if I wasn't sitting on a bench with nothing else to read) as it was all about rich people and the way they do things and honestly, it would take real effort to care less. But then it became something more interesting. And as our 17yrold protagonist moves through her own plot rather than merely recounting her past she becomes something rather heroic. And succeeds at doing something I suppose every writers has wished to do.

The author's note talks about the artiste's need to make her work beautiful, even if that artiste is a writer. Illustration and layout etc matter. But honestly the Storybook NDs are kinda ugly. They do have great art (but why this painting, I could not say) but otherwise they feel rather . . . patchworky. Rather like the outfit the editor wears to lunch in The English Understand Wool.

Regardless, I will now be on the lookout for their distinctive covers. The novella—excuse me—the afternoon book is long overdue for a great revival. I love that someone is being intentional about publishing them.

one sitting

055) Mosiah: A Brief Theological Introduction by James E. Faulconer, finished May 26

Most of the books in this series try to find a framework to which all the pieces of the book under discussion may be hung. At the end, you have a coherent whole-book understanding. It's been great.

While chapter one of this book talks about the format and shape and why of Mosiah, the later chapters discuss only chapters 1 and 4 and 15 without trying to generalize them to the whole. And not even the entirety of those three chapters are covered—only five verses are covered of 15!

But this is exactly what I should have anticipated from a Faulconer book. He is the author of the Made Harder series (OT, NT, BofM, D&C) which I greatly admire. (I'd wanted to write similar books myself, but hey—let the expert do it.) In those volumes, all he does is ask questions about individual verses. No answers. All exercises left for the reader. And in this book on Mosiah he demonstrates just how much exercise may be taken, done properly.

A side effect is that this "brief introduction" while the same length as the other books manages to go into much greater depth and is therefore a much more challenging read. This is not the volume to give a skeptical uncle who's not sure theology is for them. This is a heavy lift.

And while I greatly appreciated the analysis of 15:1–5, there's no simple way to distill it into a Sunday School comment. If someone wants to understand what Faulconer has to say about Jesus being the Father and the Son, they just need to read his chapter five themselves.

In other words, smart stuff I'm not likely to retain without multiple rereads that . . . I probably won't do. But at this moment, I am a much smarter Mormon!

about a month


056) Lives of the Monster Dogs by Kirstin Bakis

I remembered the original cover of this book when I read about the author's second novel, just out now, more than twenty years later. My library didn't have it but I proposed they get a copy and they did. And now I have read it and . . . 

I'm underwhelmed.

I get the appeal of walking talking dogs and assembled text and eavesdropping glamour and the sense of magic, but the nature of the text (letters, journal entries, an opera---glued together by our fictional author's memoirs) strikes me as lazy. And I know that's because I personally find it an easier way to make a text, which makes me allergic, and is very unfair, but there you have it.

I kept almost not picking it back up. If it weren't so short, I probably would not have finished it.

perhaps three weeks

057) 100 Essays I Don't Have Time to Write: On Umbrellas and Sword Fights, Parades and Dogs, Fire Alarms, Children, and Theater by Sarah Ruhl, finished June 1

I liked her short poems but I like her short essays even more. She has very smart and interesting and worth-listening-to things to say about the intersections at life and art and whatnot. I added over half a dozen quotations from this book to Wikiquote including this one:

I found that life intruding on writing was, in fact, life. And that tempting as it may be for a writer who is also a parent, one must not think of life as an intrusion. At the end of the day, writing has very little to do with writing and much to do with life. And life, my definition, is not an intrusion.

If that sounds like someone you might want to hear more from, do.

Highly recommended.

about ten days

058) Our Malady: Lessons in Liberty from a Hospital Diary by Timothy Snyder, finished June 4

This is by the author of On Tyranny. It is similarly short and packaged in the same small, square giftbooky form.

In some ways it's a more serious read. On Tyranny consisted of twenty snacksized "lessons." Our Malady is more sustained: only four much longer lessons. But they are wise and they are important.

I wish all our politicians would read this book.

Instead, I'm certain that we will forget the pandemic as quickly as possible and just keep paying more to die younger in the name of freedom.

But aren't we more free when we are more healthy? Why should freedom be defined by the amount of money flowing to our oligarchs?

The book was published in 2020 so Snyder had no idea just how bad things would get. Sometimes he almost comes off as naive, even though he has passed through death and understands politics and has intensely clear sight and the ability to explain what he sees to those of us who don't realize things could be different.

His rage might make it difficult for him to convert those thoroughly convinced things are just as they should be but . . . do those people actually exist? Don't all of us have at least a spot of rage aimed at our healthcare system buried somewhere inside us?

one school year

059) Dead Man's Cell Phone by Sarah Ruhl, finished June 6

Having read her poems and essays (see above) I checked out the two plays my library has.

This one's terrific. A man dies in a cafe and, when she answers his ringing phone, a woman sitting nearby gets pulled into his life. There's lots of fun metaphysics and such. And, as promised in one of those essays, the stage directions are not in parentheses. Also, they are quite delightful. I loved her notes to the director that followed the play.

one day


060) The Next Room, or the vibrator play by Sarah Ruhl, finished June 8

I liked the last play but this one is incredible. No wonder it won a Tony. It debuted here in Berkeley when we lived here. Wish we'd gone!

Anyway, yes, it does involve vibrators and medical orgasms and suchlike that probably never happened, but ultimately such persnicketiness is not the point of art. And this play captures a lot of wonderfully true things. Most of which are really left up to the actors and it's actors who will make this all real. But hey. It's good on the page, too.

 two days



 2024 × 10 = Bette Davis being Bette Davis

001) Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke, finished January 1
002) The Complete Peanuts: 1977 – 1978 by Charles M. Schulz , finished January 6
003) The Sandman: The Kindly Ones by Neil Gaiman et al, finished January 10
004) Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke, finished January 17
005) Touched by Walter Mosley, finished January 19
006) Opposable Thumbs: How Siskel & Ebert Changed Movies Forever by Matt Singer, finished January 20
007) Evergreen Ape: The Story of Bigfoot by David Norman Lewis, finished January 24
008) What Falls Away by Karin Anderson, finished February 1
009) Peanuts Jubilee: My Life and Art with Charlie Brown and Others by Charles M. Schulz, finished February 3
010) Legends of Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke, finished February 3

 A few of my favorite things

011) Roaming by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki, finished February 3
012) The Return of Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke, February 9
013) Things in the Basement by Ben Hatke, February 10
014) A Charlie Brown Religion: Exploring the Spiritual Life and Work of Charles M. Schulz by Stephen J. Lind, finished February 10
015) 1st Nephi: A Brief Theological Introduction by Joseph M. Spencer, finished February 10
016) Dendo by Brittany Long Olsen, finished February 11
017) The Ten Winners of the 2023 Whiting Awards, finished February 12
018) The Peanuts Papers: Writers and Cartoonists on Charlie Brown, Snoopy & the Gang, and the Meaning of Life edited by Andrew Blaune, finished February 17
019) Do Not Disturb Any Further by John Callahan, finished February 17
020) Mighty Jack by Ben Hatke, finished circa February 19
021) 2nd Nephi: A Brief Theological Introduction by Terryl Givens, February 24


Let's start with the untimely deaths

022) The Life and Death of King John by William Shakespeare, finished February 28
022) Mighty Jack and the Goblin King by Ben Hatke, finished February 29
023) Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel García Márquez, finished March 4
024) Millay by Edna St. Vincent Millay, finished March
025, 026) The Life and Death of King John by William Shakespeare, finished March 6, 8
027) Murder Book by Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell, finished March 11
028) A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr.
029) The Last Hero by Terry Pratchett and Paul Kidby, finished March 15
030) Karen's Roller Skates by Ann M. Martin and Katy Farina, finished March 18


Four comics could hardly be more different

031) The Sandman: The Wake by Neil Gaiman et al, finished March 18
032) The World of Edena by Mœbius, finished March 23
033) Three Rocks: The Story of Ernie Bushmiller, the Man Who Created Nancy by Bill Griffith, finished March 23
034) Mighty Jack and Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke, finished March 23


Jacob says be nice and read comics

035) Jacob: A Brief Theological Introduction by Deidre Nicole Green, finished March 24
036) Starter Villain by John Scalzi, finished March 27
037) Mister Invincible: Local Hero by Pascal Jousselin, finished March 30
038) The Toon Treasury of Classic Children's Comics, edited by Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly, finished March 30
039) Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass by Mariko Tamaki and Steve Pugh, finished April 1
040) The Super Hero's Journey by Patrick McDonnell, finished April 5  


Eleven books closer to death

041) The Stranger Beside Me: Updated Twentieth Anniversary Edition by Ann Rule, finished April 9
042) Huda F Are You? by Huda Fahmy, finished April 13
043) Enos, Jarom, Omni: a brief theological introduction by Sharon J. Harris, finished April 25
044) The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson, finished April 27 
045,046,049) The Mysteries by Bill Watterson and John Kascht, finished April 29, 30; May 3
047) The Children's Bach by Helen Garner, finished April 30
048) No. 1 with a Bullet by Sehman/Corona/Hickman/Wands, finished May 2
050) Over Seventy by P. G. Wodehouse, finished May 7
051) The Happy Shop by Brittany Long Olsen, finished May 16
052) Shades of Fear, finished May 21
053) Love Poems in Quarantine by Sarah Ruhl, finished May 21