Sunday Lowdown #72


I went back and looked, and apparently I have been watching a horror movie every Friday night, at home, by myself, since May 1st. The spouse continues to play poker on an app and look at his friends with Zoom, and it’s become a nice Friday tradition. I watched The Birds this week, and can I just say how fabulous Tippie Hedren is?? This wasn’t my first time watching Hitchcock’s film, but I’m always impressed again with Hendren’s ability to take charge, defend herself verbally, and engage in risky behavior without becoming a swooning damsel who, in those days, would get a slap and put to bed.

Look at that self-assured face right before the seagull attacks.

It’s too hot for picnics, but the spouse and I stayed in to watch Twister on Netflix. He sat on the floor in front of me while I did special effects, including blowing on his head during the windy parts, make windy noises, and shaking him and say “peeoww!” every time something exploded.


Do I call it a poetic chicken book? Not sure, but The Egg & I by Betty MacDonald isn’t you’re average farm memoir. Paying attention to lyric sentences and distinct characterization, MacDonald started a career with her book about the agonies of fragile chickens, neighbors who light their barn on fire instead of removing the manure, and bountiful harvests they’ll never be able to eat entirely before the next year’s crop needs canning.

If you appreciate a slice-of-life story, you’re sure to get on well with The Turner House by Angela Flournoy. Before this book, I hadn’t encountered a slice-of-life novel, so if you prefer things wrapped up, try a different work of fiction. But, as some of you mentioned, life is always one slice at a time, and fiction stories are more realistic.


When Emily @ The Literary Elephant asked for recommendations of books by black authors, I decided to suggest some who aren’t commonly named. We all know the giants — Hurston, Morrison, Larsen, Angelou, Walker — but what about more contemporary authors who aren’t as well known? I included Leesa Cross-Smith, whose novel and first collection appeared at Grab, and learned that Cross-Smith just came out with a new collection! I bought it and gobbled it up like a Ring Pop. Come back Tuesday for my thoughts on So We Can Glow.

Birds have been my enemy my whole life. But something about being outside more during the pandemic, wearing my hearing airs more often. . . well, I can’t ignore the birds. Something inside me wanted to engage with these creatures more. Check out my review of The Bird Way: A New Look at How Birds Talk, Work, Play, Parent, and Think by Jennifer Ackerman on Thursday.


We’re all done with Glory Road by Robert Heinlein, and you can check out my thoughts on Goodreads. Beware, though. I’ve included spoilers because I wanted to capture my thoughts for future me.

We started a new book called East Pittsburgh Downlow by Dave Newman, whose writing has always resonated with me thanks to this smear between working-class and academic people that I don’t often see done well or interestingly. Flipping through the pages, the formatting is a bit unusual in a good way, and I’m looking forward to finding out why. Basically, the book is said to be about a former welder who becomes a professor who wants to write a book about a woman who wants to date a the best college wrestler ever.



  1. I saw that bird book too. I’m looking forward to reading it. I like birds…though inexplicably I’ve had two different birds shit ON MY FACE in my life. So I don’t know that birds love me…


    • Lorilin, your comment made me cackle so hard that my husband came running from the other room. I’ve always hated birds. My grandma had a love bird (just one) that she would let out in her house. It would swoop at us and bite my grandpa’s ear, but then it would sit in her hair and preen HER hair. Then, years later, my brother had a girlfriend with a bird, and by then I hated birds. This dumb thing flew at my face, and I jumped so hard that the entire contents of the cup I was holding splashed in my face, like something out of a cartoon. We also have a zoo where these nesting birds attack you when you’re near the lion exhibit.

      But something about the pandemic…..I started sitting on my balcony a lot with my hearing aids in and listening to them. We have mostly robins, cardinals, and blue jays. I started leaving out an almond here and there for them, eager to see when it would disappear. The bird book is very good, and I recommend the audio.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Haha, so we’re having the same luck with birds then… 😂 I feel like I’ve definitely been noticing them more during the pandemic. Being stuck at home, quiet, looking out the window, it’s like suddenly there’s a whole new world out there! I just wasn’t paying attention. I’m looking forward to reading the book. I don’t trust the birds with my face anymore 🤮 but I sure do respect their feistiness, and I want to know more.

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  2. Having a weekly tradition like Friday night horror movies and weekend picnics (weather-permitting) is so nice, especially during strange times like these. I’m looking forward to your review of So We Can Glow!! I might wait a few days to read it, though, because I still haven’t finished the book (I’m reading 2-5 stories every night before bed – it has been slow). Also, I love that GIF you included from The Birds – her facial expressions are wonderful!


    • We ended up going for a picnic today. It was 80, but thanks to a storm coming, there was a colder breeze. The ants sure were out in droves, though!

      I’m not sure how old you are, but So We Can Glow is SO VERY 1990s. It takes me right back to my people. If you’re not digging the short stories, check out her novel, Whiskey and Ribbons. My review is linked in this post.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Nice! I’m a millennial, so I can appreciate some of the 90’s references, but some of it probably goes over my head. I am really enjoying the short stories though – I’ve just been taking them slow 🙂 (but I’ll also check out Whiskey and Ribbons)

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  3. I’m looking forward to your review of the bird book! The birdsong has been so loud here. I know that’s partly because of the drought and partly because all the cars have been so quiet, but it’s been very nice anyway.


    • I didn’t realize birds were so sing-songy and Disney-like until I got hearing aids. I thought that was just a cartoon thing. All I could hear pre-hearing aids is that hideous squawk that some birds make. It’s so loud.


  4. Among the many Australian ‘wild’ animals you worry about, at a distance, you have never mentioned swoopy magpies – magpies which terrorise children and bicyclists around the country by swooping down from their nests in Spring (to protect their young) their fearsome beaks grazing the top of your head.


    • I’ve heard of them before and seen pictures of the clever helmets bicyclists wear to try and deter them, but I learned even more in The Bird Way about how they are more than just pesky, but actually dangerous! She also talks about how they are excellent mimics (I believe they were in the “talk” section of The Bird Way). This video of magpies cracks me up:


  5. How hot is it where you live? Is it typically that hot this early in the summer for you guys? We’re in the low 20s, high teens (celsius) and I miss the humidity, Calgary is so very dry.


    • It was around 90F (32C) and humid. I know people can endure the heat, but once everything is sticky like an armpit at the gym, it’s all over for me. Today, it’s quite nice and we decided to picnic anyway! How do you miss the humidity?! Hair gets so very big in humidity.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I haven’t heard of Leesa Cross-Smith, I’ll definitely check her out. I’ll be interested to read your thoughts on The Ten Thousand Doors of January – I’ve been thinking about reading it for a while but wasn’t sure if it would be my thing.


  7. I like the juxtaposition between you watching Birds and then reading a book to learn more about birds! Are all birds enemies or are certain kinds worse than others? I like birds but I’m wary of crows and how smart they are.


    • I think it was mostly pet birds because people I knew had them and they could be vicious. That translated to all birds. I went to a zoo one time where you could buy a Popsicle stick with bird seed stuck to it and then go into an enclosure full of birds. I about had a heart attack.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Only doing a horror movie and popcorn on Friday night has REALLY given me something to look forward to. If I ate popcorn or watched horror any old night, it would lose the Friday specialness. I didn’t know I needed that. I haven’t felt excited about Fridays since I was in school, which tells you loads about my non-pandemic adult life, too.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Wow, a horror movie every night! My youngest has been watching horror movies, but the current real-life circumstances are horrifying enough for me, so I’ve been sticking to escapist entertainment (when I’m not working, and honestly, I’m working all the time because so much of what I do is COVID-related policy work). It’s nice to develop new traditions, though, especially right now.


    • Oh, not every night, just Friday night. It gives me a looking-forward-to-the-weekend feeling that is really positive.

      I wonder what about horror fascinates small children. I watched horribly gruesome stuff when I was in elementary school, as do my nieces!


  9. I’m ashamed to say I haven’t watched The Birds yet… In my defense I don’t watch movies very often, but it’s such a classic that I really should make the time!

    Happy to see Mystery and Manners on your TBR list, I added that one recently as well! I didn’t think I wanted another dose of Flannery O’Connor, but I keep seeing people say that this is the one of her works not to miss, and it’s been a while since I’ve read a good non-fic about writing. I’ll have to wait for interloan services to begin again at my library before I can check it out, but I have high hopes! I hope you’ll fare well with it also. 🙂


    • Karissa kept sharing quotes from different nonfiction O’Connor passages, so she really got me interested. It’s almost like O’Connor’s stories don’t access the person behind them, a person who is more interesting that her stories. I did read that article in The New Yorker, and it basically confirmed what I learned about O’Connor and racism from the part of her book of letters that I read. If she were alive today, she’d be a scared ol’ white lady with her shot gun, sitting on her porch and terrified someone wants to loot her house because she read about protests in Chicago, or something. I need to get an ILL, too. I can’t find a library around me with it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • “O’Connor’s stories don’t access the person behind them” seems spot on with what I’ve read so far between the stories and your posts and the internet. Usually I like being able to separate the fiction from the writer’s life, but in this case the more I hear about O’Connor as a person the more I think it must play an interesting role in why she chose to write what (and how) she did. I think you’re right that she’d be terrified over the protests if she were alive now! But I bet she’d be saying her piece on the internet as well, and perhaps be “cancelled” by now anyway. As sad as it is, I think her death was very helpful to her career.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. I’m glad that you two have your own new-normal traditions. We did — then farming started in full swing and now every free moment is spent canning or cleaning or prepping food… Yeah, I can relate so hard to storing food that will not get consumed in the next year. It’s just part of farm life.

    I’ve never read a slice-of-life novel, only short fiction. That must have been a unique experience. I look forward to that review… I just struggle to understand how slice-of-life can transfer easily into novel form. Or can it? Dum dum dum!!!!

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