And with Ursula, 69


I can't believe I made the same terrible joke twice in a row either.

Unfollow me, for sure.


061) The Robber Bridegroom by Eudora Welty, finished June 10

This is a fascinating book. On the one hand, it's a 184-page fairy tale set in the antebellum American South near the then-western border. Every page reads like a fairy tale or a folktale, with a vague sense of magic and spin and the impossible. Amazing things happen and everything is a lie. It's charming and wonderful.

It's also not as timeless as that might make it sound. For instance, I couldn't really teach this to modern highschoolers. They could deal with the violence okay and maaaaybe even the sex. Maybe. The racial elements would be no bueno. In short, while the characters hate most of the people of their own race, the Indians are basically cunning animals and the slaves are nothing but markers of economic prosperity.

And while the book is clearly intended to be satirical, it's maybe not satirical about the things Gen Z would find most deserving of satire.

Or possibly I don't know how to read the book, either. I've never read Eudora Welty before and my reading of Southern writers is not all that deep. She's clearly playing into a tradition but I don't know that I know the rules of the games such that I can understand how she is breaking them.

But it was fun to read!

couple weeks

062) Blood of the Virgin by Sammy Harkham, finished June 11

This is one of those graphic novels that ends up near the teen section but really really should not be.

It's the 70s and we're in Tinseltown. The grimy, d-level, nontinselly part. Our hero is a film editor of cheap horror flicks who aspires to write and direct excellent versions of the same. He's an Iraqi Jew married to an Ashkenazi by means of New Zealand. The story is largely about their parallel journeys. They're frustrated by the grind. They each cheat on one another. They get tired of their shared banality. But it's better than any other banality. But the story also jumps through time. We see the wife's mother's passage through the Holocaust. We see another Hollywood guy find his way from a crap ranch job in Arizona to stardom and an accompanying bitterness. No one ends up happy here.

I liked the book but it's not clear to me what it's about. It seems to be more interested in the milieu of dirty Hollywood. We glimpse a lot of people who feel real and interesting. The art and pacing take their time. We get to see emotions burn slowly in both settings and human interactions. We watch people self-destruct in a variety of ways. But we also see them reach out for something greater. But is artistic integrity at all worth it? Can a marriage possibly survive?

I dunno, man.

a few days

063) Mulysses by Øyvind Torseter, finished June 11

I haven't heard of this famed Norwegian creator of children's book, so I don't know if this is typical. And while I get it as a children's book, that's not how I would shelve it. This is for grownups, imo. It's about a guy who, as the book begins, learns his apartment building is being torn down. All his stuff has been moved into storage and he'll need five thousand dollars to redeem it or they'll destroy it. As time goes on, this fairy tale-ish work features lost loves and capitalism and unremarked-upon smoldering looks.

His art strikes me as a cross between Quentin Blake and Annie Poon (and perhaps Saul Steinberg), although the weird mix of animal features scattered through the human characters is hard to reckon with.

Anyway. It's a fun adventure. And I hope the potential romance both starts and lasts. A lot of sexual tension built up on that boat.

one sitting

064) Between the River and the Bridge by Craig Ferguson, finished June 12

I went looking for this book because of Jeff Goldblum's comments thereon (hidden in here somewhere). And happy to say it was time well spent.

It does have some flaws. For instance, there are some comic bits that probably should have been axed as too tangential. And the Hollywood satire stuff gets a but too broad at times (in this way, but never as bad).

But at the end you've had a true experience. A literary experience. By which I mean you've definitely experienced something. But it's really hard to say just what it means. It requires some pondering. And it feels worthy of the pondering.

The book was given a deeply erroneous cover. A cover that says, "Hey! I'm a funny book by a popular professional funnyman!" And while that is true and probably moved some copies, it's a much deeper and stranger book than the cover implies. Plus, the cover shows one of the final scenes of the book as acted out by someone in a completely different book. Why??

Yes, the book is highly comic, but that's hardly how we'd reduce, I don't know, Vonnegut or Heller, is it? Maybe they did at the time. I don't know. I wasn't there.

The book's ideas would be easy to list out but they would not be easy to summarize. For instance, this book is deeply interested in religion and it would be easy to proclaim it happily atheistic. Except . . . were I to start summarizing the events you would quickly become skeptical of that claim. As a character asks, would the existence of an afterlife prove there is a god? Perhaps now. But it's evocative all the same.

The book follows four male main characters, though I would argue that a fifth character, a woman, is just as important. Perhaps more important than some. The chronology is a bit scrambled but until the pieces start fitting together, you might not even notice.

It's an elegant book with three embedded short stories.

Anyway, I really liked it. I suspect I will keep thinking about it for a long time.

Also, it has more alcohol, other drugs, and sex, than I've encountered in one single volume in some time. So no. There is no way I would teach this to highschoolers. Thank you for asking.

a small number of weeks like maybe three

065) Cranky Chicken by Katherine Battersby, finished June 12

I get why the 7yrold likes it. She's been reading bits of it to us for days.

not long

066) Mile End Kids Stories by Isabelle Arsenault, finished June 12

Three stories collected in one volume. Charming stuff.

one sitting

067) Tiny Titans: Field Trippin' by author, finished June 14

I still like it even though the schtick long ago got old.

two days several months apart.

068) Brief Theological Introductions: Alma 1–29 by Kylie Nielson Turley, finished June 16

Kylie knocked this one out of the park. Largely what I hope for in these books is to have them defamiliarized for me, to have new ways to approach them when I return myself, and to have a couple succinct ideas that can easily be shared with others. This book's loaded with them.

For instance, I'm now convinced that Alma probably thirty or so when the angel appeared, Nehor likely believed Alma would let him off, the Ammonihahites' violence was tailored specifically to mock Alma and he never quite recovered, that Mormon probably quotes Abish directly, and more. It's like Cracked Rear View or What's Going On—they might as well have called it Greatest Hits to start with.

Plus, Kylie's exploration of Alma's (and his people's) trauma, and her analysis of his psalm (yes) moved me nearly to tears.

It's not too late to jump on this train, folks! We're doing this part of Alma right now!

two weeks but mostly today

069) Words Are My Matter: Writings on Life and Books by Ursula K. Le Guin, finished June 16

First, a disclaimer. I'm not certain I read every essay. And a few I skimmed more than read.

It's a terrific collection. It's only real weakness is that sometimes Le Guin makes the same point in similar ways. As the pieces were originally appearing, those similarities would have been separated my months or even years for a reader. Not so in a single volume.

But she's a brilliant thinker and a generous host. The essay about her childhood home alone is worth the price of entry.

a few weeks



 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


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

054) The English Understand Wool by Helen DeWitt, finished May 25
055) Mosiah: A Brief Theological Introduction by James E. Faulconer, finished May 26
056) Lives of the Monster Dogs by Kirstin Bakis
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
058) Our Malady: Lessons in Liberty from a Hospital Diary by Timothy Snyder, finished June 4
059) Dead Man's Cell Phone by Sarah Ruhl, finished June 6
060) The Next Room, or the vibrator play by Sarah Ruhl, finished June 8


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