Sunday Lowdown #65

Starting With a Basic Pandemic Update:

  • I’ve been sheltering-in-place for 48 days.
  • Indiana did not renew the shelter-in-place order.
  • I’ll be returning to work May 11th — and wearing a mask (properly, FFS).
  • When I go into stores, I pretend like I’m Grace Jones so I feel brave.
  • The spouse will continue to work from home and entertain Kitty.
  • Reading has become loads easier because I’m trying to forget real life.
  • I no longer do as many jigsaw puzzles or drag my stick around the yard.
  • Perhaps I need some new bad habit to focus on.

A Month of Flannery O’Connor: read-along

On May 1st, as scheduled, I started my book of Flannery O’Connor short stories. So far I’ve read “The Geranium” and “The Barber,” and I’ll read “Wildcat” tonight. After I finish the story, I journal my thoughts on it so I’m taking a moment to reflect and engage. If you hurry through O’Connor, sometimes the surface view seems wonky. Thank you to everyone who let me know they’re following along, and to Bill for this lovely post.

This Week’s Blog Posts

I wanted so hard for the interactive romance novel by Kitty Curran and Larissa Zageris, My Lady’s Choosing, to be a winner, but I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to write my own damn book that involves the reader. One night it randomly sprang into my head that the story I was struggling to write because I didn’t know what direction to take it could go in all the directions.

On Thursday I tuned in for a live stream of Samantha Irby chatting with Jia Tolentino, who were scheduled to discuss Wow, No Thank You, which I reviewed the same day. Although I loved the book, I felt like the direction Tolentino took the conversation was rarely book-related, and she swore a lot in a way that wasn’t so much impactful as it was trashy. Around 1,400 people tuned in to watch, and Tolentino spent an hour not answering the questions we posted in the chat (there were only about a dozen Q’s!). Still, check out the memoir!

Next Week’s Blog Posts

Published in 2016, around the same time as Kevin Kwan’s smash trilogy, Jade Chang’s book The Wangs vs. The World might have gotten lucky. Ever notice how many “Girl” novels there were after Gone Girl was so successful? Girl on the Train, The Girl With a Dragon Tattoo, The Woman in Cabin 13, The Woman in the Window, etc. My review of Chang’s novel about Chinese-Americans and their immigrant father’s cosmetics empire crashing to the ground will post Tuesday.

Because the pandemic can make us lonely, I’m working harder to read books recommended to me almost immediately — a little connection, right? Thus, my audio book review of How to Be Fine: What We Learned by Living by the Rules of 50 Self-Help Books by Jolenta Greenberg and Kristen Meinzer, which was recommended to me by Hannah @ Books and Bakes, will be published Thursday.

Book I’m Reading Aloud to My Spouse:

Jenny Lawson’s humor can be uneven in places in Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, which is emphasized to me when I’m reading aloud. She’ll have a great joke and then repeat the funny line no fewer than four times, all within a page or two. Maybe this patter worked better for me when I was reading to myself, but verbally my brain is thinking, “Editor, please edit!”

However, the chapter on Lawson’s time working in Human Resources was a hoot, being mainly compilations of all the times she’s had to ask employees, “Is this your penis?” because a photo got caught in the content filter put in place by the employer. Or, some dude would print a photo of his penis and forget it on the printer. And this is HR for a non-profit religious organization. Thou shall not share thine penis unrequested must be a commandment, right? I do remember this being one of my favorite chapters, and the spouse loved it, too.

Hamlet von Schnitzel, actual taxidermy mouse the author owns.

Books Added to the TBR Pile:


  1. Though shalt not share …! What’s in the water over there? You’ve been in iso too long GTL, and not long enough probably, if you have a GOP governor and I suppose you do.
    Happy to do my bit to spread the word. Getting late here, I’ll read The Geranium before I turn out the lights.


    • Maybe there are penises in the water? I don’t know. For some reason, dudes think they should send women photos like that all the time. I do have a GOP governor, and I feel both okay and not good about his plan to open the economy. It’s a gradual process, which benefits no one. We’ll be out in public, but because businesses can only open at 25-50% capacity through May, there’s no way that actually helps them. Restaurants aren’t designed to stay in business at 50% capacity. Thus, it’s both risky and not helpful.


  2. It’s a little scary, I think, that you’re being asked to go back to work. Do you know if you’re going to do something like curbside pickup, or do they want to open the library fully? I know many libraries have been afraid to close because they don’t want their politicians to think of libraries as “non-essential.” However, I do think lawmakers and library directors have to realize that libraries are particularly vulnerable spaces because their very mission has always been to serve as many people as possible throughout the community. I hope they are putting policies in place to protect both staff and patrons!


      • I just saw a bunch of librarians on Twitter saying they’re opening next week, but don’t know what’s going on. I would hope the library had policies in place before deciding to reopen. It’s really quite scary.


        • I’m sure they have policies. It takes a lot of time and money to hire on new people, and if employees are too afraid to return to work, it would hamper opening in general because how do you open under unusual circumstances with someone who is untrained? I also find libraries are places of compassion and research, so I have confidence that they’ll use the information we have about COVID-19 and open with staff and patrons in mind.


          • I would like to think that, but it seems odd that I stumbled upon a whole Twitter thread of librarians who hadn’t been informed of what those policies might be. Frankly, I’m not sure how they can reopen again just considering the fact that I haven’t been able to find cleaning supplies for the past eight weeks, but maybe they have a stockpile somewhere. Who knows.


            • I know there are supply chains that don’t provide to the public because they have those giant toilet paper rolls and enough cleaner to disinfect an entire business.

              Regarding the librarians: I wonder if they haven’t been informed YET, or if they work for a very small library that is basically counting on them to devise the policies — the kind of library where the director is also collection services and a librarian and works 20 hours per week.

              Liked by 1 person

  3. Good luck returning to work!! I also feel brave every time I go to the grocery store; I’ve been treating it like a treacherous journey 😂😂 Looking forward to your reviews of The Wangs vs. The World & How To Be Fine! And all the titles on your TBR except for Big Summer are new to me, but intriguing – looking forward to those reviews as well.


    • I saw Big Summer was coming out on my birthday, and though I have never read Weiner I know her works support positive portrayals of fat women living life like everyone else, which I support.

      My manager told me she pretends she’s Mad Max or a desperado or the last person on Earth foraging for goods, and that helped me.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I remember seeing The Wangs Versus the World when it came bout but I didn’t read it then so will be interested to hear about it. Motherhood So White looks fascinating but is really expensive here so I’ll wait to see what you write about it before pursuing it. And is that a NEW Sweet Potato Queens book??


    • I’d never heard of this author before; she co-wrote this fiction novel with Karin Gillespie, an author whose work I’m listening to now and really like. However, this whole potato queen thing sounds fun! The author has a ton of nonfiction books on the subject; the one I added to my list is fiction.

      Liked by 1 person

      • OK, so I forgot the original book was meant to be non-fiction and now this is the back story! How funny, I did enjoy the original, I have been to Alabama and met Southern Ladies and was fascinated by them (and I’m so ungroomed!) so I think my reading of it came out of that.


        • I don’t know much about the author. Just to clarify: are the other books all nonfiction about different elements of being a southern belle, and this one is a novel that has a potato queen as the main character?

          Liked by 1 person

  5. Good luck with work—since the shelter in place was not renewed, does this mean you required to go in everyday? We will soon be placed under a “general” community quarantine instead of an enhanced one, which might still entail a measure of work from home and a skeletal workforce.

    The “is this your penis?” thing is hilarious, plus the guy printing his penis on a non-profit religious org’s WORK printer and forgetting it 😂

    Too bad about the interview w Tolentino. I enjoyed her essays in Trick Mirror, but found them a little long and rambly. Sounds like she might be similar as an interviewer.


    • If I want to not go to work, I will have to use the couple of sick and vacation days I get each year, but that would run out fast. My county just received notice that we’re required to wear face masks in enclosed public spaces, so that makes me feel better to a degree. The governor asks that if people can telework, they should, but at the library that’s not really possible.

      In one image there were two penises, and two men were in her office. She asked, “Are these your penises?” and one guy said, “Actually, just this one is mine.” Which is a WEIRD and funny answer!

      Rambly is a good way to describe how I felt about Tolentino.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh my GOD 😂😂😂 That is just GOLD. I’m so encouraged by your posts that I’ve picked this up again, and I’m already chuckling at the Introduction. (It’s also a great break from the book I’m reading, Zadie Smith’s On Beauty, which I’m really disliking but reluctant to DNF because of how famous it is. It’s making me grumpy so Lawson’s memoir is perfect.)


        • I’ve read On Beauty. It’s a retelling of Howard’s End, which is pretty dry itself. I find that I like Smith’s writing, but that her stories don’t work for me. I enjoyed more of White Teeth than On Beauty, but the book also rambled along like a three-wheeled jalopy. Read something you enjoy, dear Gil!

          Liked by 1 person

          • “I like Smith’s writing, but that her stories don’t work for me.” This is a very accurate way to put it. I’ve finished it and while it wasn’t BAD, I just couldn’t warm up to the characters or a story. On to a better book!

            Liked by 1 person

  6. I will be so interested to hear more about how your library handles going back to work. Good luck and be safe!

    I love your idea about pretending to be Grace Jones. I need to find someone to channel when I go out… my husband has been doing all grocery shopping since mid-March! I haven’t been inside a store since then!


    • I keep hearing about husbands being the shoppers. When did this start? Are the husbands going to continue to be the shoppers after the pandemic? Are they braver than we are? I have so many questions!!

      I just found out that my county ordered everyone to wear a mask if they are in an enclosed public space, so that makes me feel better a little.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. It’s been ages since I read the Jenny Lawson books but I do remember finding them pretty funny (but uneven is a good word for them as well).

    I’m with you re: too much swearing. It make things funnier when used sparingly, but when it’s too often it’s trashy! Perfect word to describe that too.


  8. Wow, going back to work must feel weird. Our province is taking things really slow, even compared to the rest of the country and I have to say, I am completely fine with that. We’re kind of unique in that non-essential businesses were never ordered closed but most chose to. I hope you feel safe at work. I went grocery shopping for the first time since the beginning of March and I felt super nervous but it was surprisingly ok and I had some nice interactions with people.

    I’ve read Furiously Happy by Lawson and my overall feeling was that she was trying very hard to be Funny and Quirky.


    • In Lawson’s first book it’s obvious she’s trying REALLY hard to be funny/quirky. Oddly, there is less of that in Furiously Happy! Now that I’m rereading Let’s Pretend, it is wearing on me a bit, especially the way she’s obsessed with stabbing.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Mostly what I remember about Furiously Happy was that she really though taxidermied animals were hilarious and I just…don’t. Also her relationship with her husband didn’t seem that healthy but it also seemed like she was exaggerating for the sake of humour.


  9. Honestly, thou shalt not share thine penis unrequested SHOULD be a commandment!! Or a law. Now curious whether people generally follow laws or religious orders more reliably…

    I’m on track with O’Connor so far, according to your schedule! Looking forward to chatting about the stories in your review/discussion posts! 🙂

    Also eager for your review of The Wangs Vs. The World, which has been on my radar since it released though apparently I was never quite enthused enough to pick it up. Hopefully your review will help me decide once and for all whether it needs a place on my TBR or not.


    • Oh, I definitely think my review of The Wangs will sway you.

      I’ve been reading one O’Connor story per day because I don’t want them to blur together. Typically, I read short story collections quickly and don’t take the time to process. I’ve been journaling about each O’Connor story after I finish, and it’s making a huge difference. This is something I should probably try in the future with other collections.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Great! I saw you posted it today, I’m looking forward to checking it out. 🙂

        I’ve also been keeping up with one story per day so far, though I was intending to take notes on each and haven’t kept up with that. I should probably still make that attempt, especially since you’re finding it so helpful! They haven’t started blurring yet for me, but I’m sure they will as the month progresses. So far The Crop has been my favorite!


        • I’ve been writing a bit of what happens in the story and questions I have, and what I’m realizing is that my questions help me think about what the story is about, otherwise, why would I have had that question. I’m exciting to write the first post!

          Liked by 1 person

  10. Going food shopping is the only in-person interaction I ever have any more, so unlike most people commenting I relish it and have to restrain myself from going three times a week! I look forward to it like I used to look forward to a trip to the cinema or a meal out.

    As for the “is this your penis?” thing, I used to work in an office that did a lot of research into incontinence devices for men diagnosed with prostate cancer – so there were always high-resolution glossy images of penises sitting on our work printer, or on people’s desks. But those were research penises and therefore weren’t being shared without context, which meant it was less startling to come across them.


    • Research penises are always acceptable. It’s not the penis that offends, it’s hubris that makes a man think everyone wants his penis. Heh. Research penis. That’s going to be a new favorite phrase at my house, I can tell already.

      Liked by 1 person


    Okay. It’s currently May 8th. How many “pages” behind am I? This will help me determine if I’m just kidding myself or not about participating. Because, as you know, reading is hard. Except Brightly Burning which I read in two days flat and I now have a book hangover for. My life is confusing.

    I loved Lawson’s Furiously Happy, but I listened to the audiobook and she narrated it. I recall the repetition then, but it made sense in the tone she read. Comedians, amirite? Let’s Pretend This Never Happened is on my TBR, but I’ve heard it’s not as good. It’s her first book, so that makes sense. While I have ZERO experience in it, I imagine blogging and writing a book are VERY different and required quite a bit of change in writing style to make the two forms work well separately. Do you think some blog-style writing might be the reason her debut didn’t quite work?


    • We are 80 pages into Flannery, so if you read two stories per day you would catch up pretty fast.

      I’m sorry you have a book hangover, but I’m glad you had a connective reading experience. I feel like you lifebonded with the book!

      Furiously Happy was more thoughtful. She explores her emotions more and tries to get at where she’s coming from, kind of like a therapy session. Let’s Pretend seems to be more about hyperbole, meaning she talks about stabbing in almost every chapter. That’s also wearing on me. She’s definitely writing in a blog style, and in one chapter about being stabbed with chicken, she acknowledges that she cuts and pastes from her blog because she can’t remember exactly what happened. I also remember Furiously Happy expanding a bit to say something about all anxious people rather than living so closely in her head, like Let’s Pretend does.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Okay. Two stories a day? I think I could do that. I’ll miss this week’s connection, but I do want to be involved. I’ve never read O’Connor! Here’s hoping I’m successful. 🙂 Thanks for the encouragement.

        Hehe. I like the idea of Lifebonding with a book. That’s cute. But I’ve already Lifebonded with The Night Circus, sorry Brightly Burning!

        Great comparison! I can understand how Lawson’s debut might be a little… grating… Will you two be finishing the book? And does Nick ever read aloud? I feel like he should. 😉


        • You could also skip week 1 and just jump to week 2, if you’d like. I wanted to break it down to encourage participation rather than do a big post at the end of the whole book.

          Nick used to read to me, but I’m not a great listener when it comes to books. I have questions and comments and reactions. If I interrupt myself, no big. If I interrupt Nick, his eyes get big.

          Liked by 1 person

          • I might just jump around at this point. My library doesn’t have eBook copies, so I’ll have to read this via PDF on my computer or something. But I want to participate. 🙂 You’ll see something from me.

            Hahaha. I can just see his eyes getting all big. I love it. Well, I’m glad you two learned what works for you both. That’s often the hardest part.

            Liked by 1 person

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