Sunday Lowdown #70

PANDEMIC UPDATE

No movie theater parking lot picnic this week because I had to work on Saturday. Recent news says the AMC theaters may be shutting down permanently world wide because there were already struggling a bit pre-pandemic, and now no one is patronizing them (eating in their parking lot doesn’t count).

I have decided people who wear their face mask under their noses are the same folks who donned safety pins to demonstrate they “cool” (i.e. not racist).

A bird bibbidy-bopped over to me after work on Saturday. Like, it was on the back deck on the chair, then the table, the hop-hop-hopped up to me (I was on the other side of the screen), and then alighted on the screen and we shared a moment, ya’ll. I think it knows I’ve been listening to an audiobook about birds.

Photo from Meme Guy

I chose The Meg on Friday for my horror film and kept thinking about the phrase “bigger Jaws,” which I pretty sure I picked up from Family Guy, a show I loathe but used to watch because cable TV, about twenty years ago.

I have been attending lots of online author readings/talks (Google around; lots of large libraries are doing these), including Samantha Irby, Karla Cornejo Villavicencio, and Charles Payne. Charles is a Madison-based slam poet, who has tried nearly every art form at some point, bolstering his poetry. Last year he was in the Madison Mother GrandSLAM, which I was honored to attend. His chapbook just went on sale, and you should get it. I helped edit and wrote a review that appears in this work.

THIS WEEK’S BLOG POSTS

We’re so close to the end of Flannery O’Connor’s complete collection of short stories! Week 4 took us into O’Connor’s characters who praise creativity yet don’t produce much creative-wise, but they often make those around them miserable. Catch up on the conversation here.

We Want Our Bodies Back by jessica Care moore is a poetry collection people will likely call “timely.” Published in March, her words — demanding the return of black bodies from police, from death, from oppression — do resonate with the global protests for George Floyd.

However, to call her collection timely minimizes the history of violence perpetrated on black bodies since people were enslaved in Africa and brought to the shores of a colonized land we now call the United States. To call it “timely” suggests people haven’t been paying attention and are now waking up to the human rights struggle Black Americans and their allies are fighting for because it’s on the news and viewers feel guilty. The struggle and fight is always there.

NEXT WEEK’S BLOG POSTS

The last Flannery O’Connor post will go up on Tuesday. I’ll discuss the last three stories and my overall experience reading her collection and my response to it. I hope you’ll join me one more time as we wrap this thing up.

The newly published The Undocumented Americas by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio has garnered some small attention, and folks on Goodreads appear to love it. But I can never seem to set aside my rhetorical analysis skills when I read nonfiction, and I don’t want to. Unethical argumentation is always dangerous. Curious? Check back Thursday for my review. I also have some notes from Cornejo Villavicencio’s author talk.

Also on Thursday I’ll be sharing my review of Oathbound, the first book in Mercedes Lackey’s trilogy entitled Vows & Honor. Jackie @ Death by Tsundoku and I are back with some familiar faces that we met in the stand-alone novel By the Sword, and it sure is a great place to be. #ReadingValdemar

BOOK I’M READING ALOUD TO MY SPOUSE:

Glory Road by Robert A. Heinlein is a fun quest story, but you don’t know what the quest is because this Amazonian princess/scientist non-Earth woman named Star isn’t sharing too much with our American Hero, Oscar. And the servant Rufo isn’t allowed to give information unless She says he can. This is all fun and good, and the spouse and I laugh at Oscar’s snarky attitude.

However, in the past week, Oscar and Star get married in a tradition of jumping over a sword. The minute they’re wed, she becomes diminutive, while he shushes and threatens to spank her. How did Star turn into an idiot to be scolded when she was the brilliant leader who’s good in a fight? I’m rolling my eyes a bit; I guess I forgot these parts when I originally read the novel in 2004.

See? Star’s right there in the fight! Now she’s fretting over Oscar not skipping meals.

BOOKS ADDED TO THE TBR PILE:

My book club is starting The Bear and The Nightingale next week.

33 comments

  1. Oh – I used to wear a safety pin and have one displayed in my front window still – I did follow discussions and did it carefully so that people knew I was a safe person to sit by on a bus etc while still continuing to speak out and stand between people abusing other people etc. So maybe there were different levels of feeling on that, I will admit I can’t access the article!, like there were about the clapping for the NHS (which has stopped now here – I clapped till the end because I was also campaigning and signing stuff and not being a hypocrite).

    Anyway, a good reading week and it’s so important to maintain critrique of non-fiction to make sure it’s authentic and saying what is should be and can’t be torn down.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I must confess, every time he threatens to spank her, Nick and I laugh because it’s so absurd. Then we get more sober because remember that previous generations felt that women needed to be slapped around if they were “out of control.” Sean Connery said as much in an interview that can easily be found on YouTube, and all I could think was, “boy-howdy, you’ve been watching too much James Bond, sir!”

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  2. Hah, I snort-laughed at your comment about people who wear their face-masks below their nose. And I’m really excited that you’re starting So We Can Glow!! I’m reading this right now and really enjoying it – it will be a slow read for me because I’ve been trying to pause after each short story and let it absorb. Looking forward to seeing your thoughts on it!

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    • The safety pin thing went away pretty fast, and I was glad for that. The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

      Leesa Cross-Smith is a favorite at Grab the Lapels (ahem, me). She’s got interviews and two book reviews on here. If you access my site on a computer, you’ll see the search bar and can type in her name.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. First of all, love that bird story, sounds adorbs.

    Secondly, I so agree with your point that calling books about racism ‘timely’ is offensive to the black community. This has been going on for centuries, white people are just paying more attention now! Us book people know this, we always have because we read stories about it and know it’s not over, and it’s been too long, but I’m glad that others are finally paying more attention. We still have lots of work to do, but the support these past few weeks has certainly been heartening!

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    • I’ve told a few other bloggers that I really recommend they read autobiographies. Yes, fiction makes us feel empathy, but because these are characters we’re likely to pick the story apart. Yes, essays can teach us, but they are often founded in theory and history that the reader may not be able to access deeply. Reading an autobiography, listening to a person’s own story, is where understanding can come from.

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  4. I’ve never read any Heinlein because of his reputation when it comes to female characters precedes him, but I am enjoying reading your thoughts on his work in these Sunday Lowdown posts. He sounds like Isaac Asimov in some ways – I love a lot of stuff about Asimov’s work, but whenever he includes a female character everything suddenly takes a turn for the worse!

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    • As I mentioned to Bill, I feel like in Glory Road the treatment of Star is so silly that Nick and I catch ourselves laughing, even though we know such attitudes were prevalent in Heinlein’s time. It’s not as egregious as other works by Heinlein, which I’ve only read ABOUT because I don’t want to read a book that’s rape-y. Do you enjoy a lot of golden-age science fiction? I do. Some modern sci-fi is too much for me — too smart, that is — because it includes computers of today and images computers 100 years or more from now.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I went through a stage where I read a lot of golden age science fiction, but I went off it because some of the attitudes were so tedious, and then some of it (like The Man in the High Castle) was very difficult to follow. There is still a lot on my TBR but I think I will need to wait for the mood to strike me.

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        • I prefer short stories, especially ones about space before we ever went to space. I also like the science fiction stories that capture anything around the development of chemical and atomic weapons. “That Only a Mother” by Judith Merril is a great example.

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  5. That bird sounds adorable. Also, people should use bibbidy-bopped more often. I love those onomatopoeic words.

    Ah, I just came from your review on We Want Our Bodies back and I am guilty of saying that it’s timely! I’m sorry for that. You’re right—it’s offensive to call it timely when black people have been struggling with police brutality and racism for a very long time now. Thanks for saying that in your post.

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    • I must confess bibbidy bopped is a mutated version of Cinderella’s fairy godmother’s “bibbidy-bobbidy-boo,” lol.

      That’s okay; you’re definitely not alone in saying “timely,” and people are putting like with like. They see something and another thing like it, and they see how they go together. I just want people to be aware that what we’re experiencing is the U.S. is only a “moment” if we have the luxury of seeing it that way. I need to be aware of it too, but I have the luxury of a whole background in black literature and history, so I’m never not aware of it. This is what I studied in college. So, no sweat, Gil.

      Liked by 1 person

      • No wonder it sounded familiar! Now I hear it in the godmother’s voice.

        That’s true. Sometimes I still have difficulty grasping how long the history of the oppression and slavery of African Americans are. It makes me curious to read the works of Hurston and Morrison. I’ve read Hurston before, but I don’t think I was able to fully appreciate it. Would you recommend I start with them, if ever?

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        • I’m a huge Hurston fan, and even visited her hometown in Florida one spring break. She’s challenging because she writes in dialect, but if you read one of her books and listen to the audio, too, you’ll catch on. There’s a musicality to it, and the words are simply spelled as they sound. I write “simply” knowing it’s not simple; it’s like learning to visually recognize another language. Begin with Their Eyes Were Watching God because that book is everywhere in text format and has a great audio version performed by Ruby Dee, whom I talked about in my review of We Want Our Bodies Back (Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis).

          Most people start with Toni Morrison’s book The Color Purple, which is fantastic. I think one thing that would help is if you read a big about The Reconstruction Era (basically, what happened in the decades right after slavery was legally abolished) to get a feel for the relationship between the white and black communities.

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  6. Sharing a moment with a bird sounds like a nice counterbalance to some of the negativity in the world these days! I’m looking forward to your final thoughts on Flannery O’Connor, and also on The Undocumented Americans. I am very curious about your unethical argumentation take on it!

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    • I think this bird was trying to tell me I had on a nice blue dress and that I have good egg-laying hips, or something like that.

      I’m excited about next week’s books, too! I’m a lil nervous about my review of The Undocumented Americans, but it is what it is.

      Liked by 1 person

    • And this is the SECOND bird to do this! One was a tiny brown/gray bird two weekends ago, and this one was a black bird. Maybe it’s because I keep leaving a random almond on the deck? I wanna catch whatever is eating it. I always miss; it’s like some weird adult Tooth Fairy thing happening at my place.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. How is work going? People have been very nice and grateful that we’re open, but I still feel uneasy practically every day. I go outside for fresh air as much as I can. I would feel better if we didn’t let people hang out on their laptops for hours, but that’s an admin decision.

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    • We have a no loitering policy until July 6th, which means no hanging out on laptops or sitting around reading. We had to remove all the seating furniture to do this, and patrons have been understanding. Just like everywhere else, there are people who are unhappy about masks and don’t think it’s problematic to approach others and be closer than 6 feet apart, but like I said, knowing your boundaries and enforcing them is the only thing that will work. When I direct people very specifically (lay your documents on the table and then step back so I can get them and make copies for you — that type of thing) they are excellent about it. I think what we sometimes see as belligerence is just confusion about what it means to navigate public spaces today, and people are grateful for help we provide.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I am looking forward to your thoughts on The Bear and the Nightingale. I really enjoyed it, but my book club did not. It’s slower and atmospheric — at least, for a typical YA fantasy. I bet you’ll have awesome things to share!

    The cover for Glory Road alone makes me want to pick it up. I am so not sorry. But I am sorry about women becoming diminutive upon marriage. That doesn’t feel realistic. Sure, there are times I might come across as quiet or disconnected when I’m around others with David– but that’s because I’m exhausted and I can trust him to take point on things. Not the same thing. Right?

    The fight IS always there. I wish we could resolve this… I really do. Why can’t people just take accountability for the past and make changes to how they manage themselves and their lives? Sigh. It seems so easy… Alas.

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    • I’m enjoying The Bear and The Nightingale, but I also have learned about how Russian names work. Once I shared that with my book club, many of them seemed to relax a little.

      You should read Glory Road. At it’s heart it’s a fun, snarky book that I think you would enjoy.

      Liked by 1 person

      • The back of the book should include an explaination on how Russian names work and a glossary. See if your copy has that and point it out to them if they haven’t noticed.

        I am into fun, snarky books with campy covers. Even if marriage changes the woman. O_o

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        • Well, part of Russian names is a person’s father’s first name because their last name. Men have an added ovich and women an added ova. So Pyotr Vladimirovich is a name whose father’s first name was Vladimir.

          Liked by 1 person

      • Yes! I’m still on an email list from a group that works to release those detained children but it seems like their stories have completely disappeared from the news. And with COVID spreading through prisons now it makes it even more alarming. Our memories are so short. I’m glad you’re out there reminding people.

        Liked by 1 person

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