Sunday Lowdown #85


  • Although Christos Tsiolkas’s novel The Slap did not work for me, I still had a nice time communicating back and forth with Bill @ Australian Legend. It was our first buddy read, but alas. Once a book makes me feel like I’m “being pursued by penises,” I have to DNF. You can read my thoughts on Bill’s blog! Check out his thoughts, too. I wrote a bit more on Goodreads as well.
  • The spouse and I received our absentee ballots for the General Election on November 3rd. It worked! — I wasn’t sure because Indiana has been awfully flip-floppy and unclear about mail-in voting. We filled out our ballots this morning; never before have I voted straight party, but I did. I filled in that box that said “DEMOCRAT” and instantly started sobbing.
  • It’s getting nippy outside, and Kitty is never cuter than when she’s curled up and frigid. I’m still sitting outside as much as possible, although the ol’ hoodie has come out of the front closet.
  • My mom and I are reading Joanne Harris’s quartet of books about Vianne Rocher, and I’m having fun breaking it down with her. We’re almost done with the first novel, the famous Chocolat, and there are so many scandals alluded to that we’re puzzling out that I never noticed the first time I read. When we’re done, I’m going to have the spouse rig up something so we can watch the movie with Juliette Binoche, Dame Judy Dench, and Lena Olin.
  • Speaking of the spouse, I’m reading The Honk and Holler Opening Soon by Billie Letts to Nick. We ended on a particularly dramatic chapter on Thursday night, and I asked if he was okay with just one chapter per usual. He said yes, but when he woke me up at 11:00PM to ask me to read one more chapter or he would be sad the whole next day, I got the feeling he might be invested in the characters.
  • Typically, over the summer my husband and I head to Silver Beach several times per month. It’s a great place to walk around, put your tootsies in Lake Michigan, and get ice cream. Due to COVID-19 and all those horrible beach pictures of people crowding together, we didn’t go all summer. Last weekend was pretty chilly, so I seized on the weather, hoping the beach would be less crowded. It wasn’t too bad, though we still felt uncomfortable without masks as we walked around. We found our own spot to sit and watch the waves.
  • My nieces stayed the weekend with mom again. They’re really into cooking shows, so they watched us over Google Hangouts as we made Skillet Zucchini and Sausage.
This didn’t taste as flavorful as I wanted it to.


Emily @ Literary Elephant and I read Gutshot by Amelia Gray. If you have a squeamish nature, this collection is not for you. If you like no-nonsense stories, it’s also not for you! If you have a flighty imagination, you’ll likely appreciate Gutshot. For instance, Bill @ Australian Legend sent me a photo of a dingo that sat outside his truck, obviously wanting food. Instantly, my brain adopted this creature, named it Bingo the Dingo and put a red bandanna around its neck, then imagined us riding around in a caramel-colored El Camino, drinking a Slurpee out of the same cup with no lid, and eating Hostess Cupcakes while we scoped out interesting looking people who were hitchhiking and would tell us their cool life stories, like how they just got out prison, but no worries, Bingo the Dingo would keep them in line if they were creeps. I mean, he’s a dingo for cryin’ out loud. What I mean to say, is if your brain works like mine, Gutshot is for you.

Bingo the Dingo. Photo Credit to Bill Holloway.

So many bad things have happened, and are happening, in the United States during my life that I find I’m forgetting some of them for running out of storage space. Valarie Kaur, in her book See No Stranger, weaves her own experiences as a Sikh woman who grew up on a farm that’s been in her family for 100 years with 9/11, patriotism, and anti-Muslim (or anyone who “looks” Muslim) terror attacks. Kaur recounts her physical and mental health issues, relationship navigating, and education in what amounts to a fully-developed, beautiful nonfiction work.


Judy’s just turned fifty. Her husband copes with his chronic anxiety by working a low-stress job and smoking pot. They’ve separated but can’t afford to get divorced. Both feel their thirteen-year-old son doesn’t “like” them anymore, and Judy’s career has stalled. This is when she takes up wearing the family dog in a baby sling — and wears it everywhere. Check out my audio book review of Separation Anxiety by Laura Zigman on Tuesday.

A collection of short stories, Sabrina and Corina by author Kali Fajardo-Anstine shares the most lowly aspects of the lives of women: being beaten, getting wasted, sleeping around, abandoning children, and sexism that demands Latina women find the whitest man they can who has money and get married. I read this one for a book club. Review on Thursday.


I *may* have gone on a wee shopping spree with the Press 53 five-book bundle and Stacey Levine’s books. Levine is doing a Zoom reading at the University of Notre Dame that I’m going to attend. The last one was with Stephen Graham Jones, and while it was nice, not a single ND student actually turned on their camera. It was just my face, Jones’s, and two faculty’s — and about fifteen black boxes.


  1. This has been quite a week here. Yesterday when the First Mate and I heard that RBG died we both sat around in the depths of despair. I hate this year. I will also be voting straight democrat. I starting doing that in 2016 and will continue for the foreseeable future. I have to fill out the absentee ballot today.

    This post brought me some joy. I absolute love the pictures with Nick and Kitty. I love that Nick woke ye up to read another chapter. I have been very much enjoying the book discussions about gutshot and the slap. I loved the dingo story. I want to see a dingo! I very much want to go to Australia one day. And I loved the video of the sea. Arrr!

    x The Captain


  2. And I had a nice time communicating with you Melanie, and I think we came up with a good analysis of the book. You’ll be pleased to know that when I got back to Nullarbor Station on the way home ‘Bingo’ came up to the truck again and assumed a hopeful pose under my window. If you want to fill out her backstory a bit, she’s a bitch and appears to have recently had pups.


    • D’aaawwwwwww, this is even better! Lady Bingo and I will get matching candy necklaces and buckle up the pups in a bunch of car seats and hit the road, Thelma and Louise style! Ohh, it’s gonna be good. Nick says this sounds like a series of children’s books.

      Did you, erm, feed her? *hopeful eyes*

      I know in Indiana we get signs warning about not feed squirrels because they become attack squirrels.


  3. Aw, I love the picture of Kitty!!

    Also, I totally get the Zoom thing. It’s so awkward when no one turns on their cameras and then you feel like you are talking to no one. Me: Hello, um, is my camera still working? Can you hear me? Oh, I just wasn’t sure because it felt like I was talking into the void. Thanks!


    • I know there are concerns about children doing public school through e-Learning who may live in homes that aren’t so great — that those students may feel shame about their living situation or be unable to keep family members from walking past and being distracting. But come on, these are University of Notre Dame students. Don’t let your shyness make for a super weird hour-long reading. There’s another reading coming up, the one for Stacey Levine, and I hope more people make a showing.


      • I get that showing yourself on video can be weird, but when I have meetings I just set it up so there’s a blank wall behind me and nothing too distracting happening. But I think when people log on and no one’s on camera, everyone else decides to go off camera, too. So you really need those first few people to go for it.


          • In my experience, it’s more likely they feel awkward. Or they didn’t put on real clothes for the day. Or they’re hiding the fact they’re not really paying attention and actually doing a surprisingly rigorous exercise routine in the middle of your meeting. JK that last one happened on camera. I’m still confused.


            • Hahahaha, maybe that person was sleepy so started doing some calisthenics. Maybe you’re right about them feeling awkward, but reading attendance is required when you’re in the MFA program — it’s part of why you’re even there — so I wonder why they would not pay attention.

              I really picture the person from your experience either doing toe touches or some new-age yoga that comes off like a stoner rather than a yogi doing it. Both scenarios make me smile.


  4. “So many bad things have happened, and are happening, in the United States during my life that I find I’m forgetting some of them for running out of storage space.”

    Same. These days, it feels like so many horrible things are happening on a daily basis in the United States that I can’t even process it. On a related note, I’m glad your ballot arrived. I’m waiting for mine, and I’m so nervous it won’t come.


    • I drove my ballot first thing to the blue mail box near the library where I work because I know they get mail to places fast.

      I try to have some perspective: other generations had wars and homeland terror attacks and political upheaval. They didn’t have climate change blowing fire in their faces, and they didn’t have 24-hour streaming.


  5. I remember being intrigued by The Slap when it came out so glad to know I can completely avoid it!

    And yay for voting! Congrats! I’m happy it worked because everything I’m hearing about the US election and mail-in ballots seems insane.


    • Who knows what’s going on. I wasn’t sure the ballots were going to come. They look just like they always have in the past. If they didn’t arrive, we were going to vote in person anyway, though I don’t think our regular polling place will be open.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I hate online teaching where no-one turns on their cameras! Especially at the height of the pandemic, when “teaching” just meant “listening to a bunch of disembodied voices shout at me from a black screen about things I can’t control, normally for two hours at a time”. We’ve now made it a requirement that students turn on their cameras in their new code of conduct, unless they separately contact the lecturer to discuss it – which makes it slightly less accessible for students and about 1000% more accessible for staff. I appreciate it because it’s just so weird to teach to a black screen!


    • The conversation in the U.S. is that a lot of children live in homes that they don’t want to show anyone, either because of its condition or the people who may appear in the background. But my beef with the MFA students is that they are at a prestigious college populated by folks who have lots of money and comforts, so taking a stand for kids in poverty because it’s the “right thing to do,” which is how I interpreted it, feels like B.S. If I’m totally wrong, which I could be, that means all 15 of them are super shy. Which, have you ever met a creative person?? They’re not shy. Stephen Graham Jones could have done a YouTube video instead and the effect would have been the same for him.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I can understand that argument for children, but adults can arrange to have a neutral background behind them! I’ve lived in some really terrible places but I think I could always have sat in front of a small patch of bare wall even if the rest of the flat was falling apart. Also, our video conferencing software allows you to either blur your background or replace it with the picture of a neat and tidy office. So the students aren’t ashamed (and I suspect that my students aren’t in solidarity either) – they just want to make things more difficult for the person teaching. Hence the new code of conduct!


  7. YAY mail-in voting!! I’ve heard a lot of worrisome/flip-floppy things about it as well, so I’m really glad to hear it worked! The weather in Indiana sounds very similar to Massachusetts – it’s not unbearably cold or anything, but I’m wearing a hoodie and blanket while writing this comment hahah.

    And you added so many awesome books to your TBR! Very excited to see the Bridesmaids Behaving Badly series on there ^__^


    • There’s another Jenny Holiday that sounds more like dudes pushing women around and women liking it that I didn’t add, but I like the agency that exists just in the title of this series: BRIDESMAIDS behaving badly. Get it, girls!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Yay for mail-in ballots!!!! The rest of the world is so eager to get that man out of office, you did the lord’s work by casting your vote LOLOLOL

    I watched The Slap miniseries on TV and really loved it. Not sure if it’s still available, but it was on Netflix. I really liked the book too though, so the show may not be for you. Also, adorable pictures of kitty! xo


  9. It makes me SO Happy to see Sharks in the Time of Saviors SO HUGE at the bottom of your post. It’s like: JACKIE! SHARK BOOKS! YOU SAID WE WERENT A GENRE! WELL HERE WE ARE! READ US!
    Yes, my Shark Overlords. Whatever you say. ❤

    I'm glad you and Nick made it out to Silver Beach at least once. Now it can be a proper summer. Even if. Uh. It's really Fall. Don't question it.

    Thanks for the heads up on Gunshot. Hard pass for the Jackster.


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