Sunday Lowdown #51

This Week’s Blog Posts:

Was it a memoir or a writing advice book? I’m not completely sure, but I’m leaning toward a memoir with fortune-cookie like bits of advice for novice story crafters. Dani Shapiro’s book Still Writing didn’t capture my attention as I wished it did.

If you characterize yourself as someone who “struggles with food,” you may wish to know more about why. Christy Harrison’s argument to “burn diet culture to the ground” is explored in her brand-new work, Anti-Diet. This is still a contentious conversation, one that isn’t easy to get into or hold to because society is completely against anti-dieters.

Next Week’s Blog Posts:

While my attempt to read Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life by Ruth Franklin was a failure (I felt the biography got bogged down in everyone Jackson ever met), there was more success with the 1989 biography Private Demons by Judy Oppenheimer. My review will be posted Tuesday.

To be both excited and bored by an audiobook about a comic movie star who falls in love with a Tennessee wildlife ranger in. How strange. I’ll explain more in my review of Grin and Beard It by Penny Reid on Thursday.

Book I’m Reading Aloud to My Spouse:

How strange it is when a classic novel seems as if it could have been written today. Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier crosses lines that were set in stone during her life, and yet there they are, crystal clear. Not implied, not hinted it, but laid bare on the page. We’ve reached the point in the novel during which I would fear for Mary Yellen’s life were she not the narrator. Pins and needles, indeed.

I’ve mentioned on a few of your blogs how I’m also reading a bit of Brad Gooch’s biography of Flannery O’Connor every night (after I read to the spouse). Though I was worried I would mix up information about Shirley Jackson from her bio and O’Connor from hers, I’m now see how two stubborn, weird little girls are splitting off very differently. Quite an engaging read thus far! I do have plans to review Flannery O’Connor’s complete collection of short stories later this year.

Books Added to the TBR Pile:

Thank you to my manager at the library and Jaclyn @ Literary Treats for their suggestions!


    • I’m not sure if the Harris book is part of a series. My manager at the library said it reads more on the YA side, but it’s like fairy tales and follows this old poem call The Child Ballad.

      I, too, like the Grin & Beard It cover. Things that mimic cross stitch always get me smiling, especially if it’s something that looks sweet but isn’t.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I’m really enjoying the commentary following your review of Anti-Diet. Food and eating is such a serious issue for many of us these days (though whether it should be is another matter). Re memoir/writing advice, I saw the new Little Women movie a couple of days ago and thought it was structured more or less as a memoir of the writing of the book.


    • I’m growing weary of the Anti-Diet conversation, though one of my best friends told me that it’s important to have. Perhaps someone who needs to hear the support and hope I have will find Grab the Lapels, and if I don’t have those conversations, well…..the internet is largely a scary, mobbish place.

      I haven’t seen the new Little Women yet, as I want to read the book first. It’s not a story I’m totally familiar with, but I’m going to keep an eye out for the way it’s structured. The team who put the film together are a some status-quo punch ladies, and I expect no less that something spectacular.


  2. Ooh, I’m excited that you’re planning to review Flannery O’Connor’s short stories this year! I’ve read a very little of her work but have been meaning to read the complete collection of her short stories for ages- I have a copy! I should really pick it up.


  3. Oh, I’m excited to hear more about Woods’ fiction when you read it! I like O’Connor’s short stories quite a lot and last year I read her Prayer Journal which cast a really fascinating light on her life and work for me.


    • I didn’t realize O’Connor had a prayer journal. I’ve read her novels and one or two of her short stories, but that’s it. Reading her biography is shedding light on what kind of person she was: a Southerner who wasn’t enamored with the Civil War nor all that religious (at least that’s the impression I’m getting? I’m not terribly far in). I’ll check out her Prayer Journal.

      Liked by 1 person

      • She was Catholic, which I feel would be sort of an odd-man-out state in the south. Apparently she wrote a lot of articles and reviews for some Catholic journals. Interesting that her biography didn’t go into that because I feel like in religious circles, O’Connor is often mentioned as a Christian.

        Her Prayer Journal was published well after her death and it shows that she struggled with her faith and wanting to be a great writer. I don’t know that much about her life otherwise so you might find it interesting to read after having read about her life.


        • Oh! I was only around page 60 in the O’Connor biography, and then last night I realized I was mixing up the childhoods of O’Connor and Jackson, so I started over again. I’m sure there will be lots more about her faith as the biography goes on. Basically, I read that where she lived in Georgia, being a Catholic was illegal for quite some time, and the community WAS unusual. That’s all I know so far!

          Liked by 1 person

          • Ok, that makes more sense to me! I was wondering if maybe there was an overemphasis of her Christianity within Christian groups but her prayer journal certainly shows that she saw it as very tied to her writing.

            Liked by 1 person

  4. You’ve got a truly impressive currently reading shelf! And I love the title of the last book “what to do when you’re goth in the country” lol!


    • Thank you kindly! The author of the Goth book, Chavissa Woods, used to have this great pic on Facebook of her sitting on the ground, back against a fence, lighting a cigarette with a tiny American flag. This sounds odd, but it felt so patriotic to me, lol.


    • Remind me, do you have the complete short story collection of O’Connor? Another blogger and I were talking about reading it together later this year, and you could join in, if you’d like.


  5. I’ll be interested to read along with your thoughts on O’Connor’s short stories. This month, I’ve been reading through A Good Man Is Hard to Find (I’ll be reading my last story in it tonight, actually) and it’s certainly been a curious experience. I didn’t have any idea, really, what to expect, having never come across anything in school along the way, so it was quite a surprise, the turns things take. There is an interesting video biography that I watched recently, too…it’s from 2017 and has a rather generic title (and I believe there is a new film out about her now too)…and it contains images (handwriting, too) of the journal referenced in comments above. Also, you can see footage of her homes and some photographs of her time at Iowa – I loved that. (Maybe not as good as that awesome Hurston video, but, still, good.)


    • My plan is to review The Complete Short Story Collection instead of sharing thoughts along the way. If you like what you’re reading in A Good Man is Hard to Find, feel free to read the chunky tome at the same time as the rest of us! We haven’t picked a month yet, though.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hmmm, I’m not sure yet, but thanks kindly for the open invite. Flannery is already claiming a lot more of my reading time than I’d expected, as I continue to read browse through the library’s offerings on her and her work, and I think I might be content with just that single collection now that I’m immersed in her letters.


        • I came up with a Flannery plan and will announce it in March, so if you want to jump in anywhere you could. I just finished Wise Blood on audio, which made me remember that I tend to like O’Connor’s short stories more than her novels, which kind of feel like a bunch of short stories that don’t fully go together.


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