Sunday Lowdown #108

WEEKLY HIGHLIGHTS

The absolutely highlight for me this week was an evening with Terry McMillan, which the county library hosted via Zoom. I’d listened to her novel Who Asked You? and enjoyed myself, so I decided to ask Biscuit if we could read a book I own, I Almost Forgot About You, to coincide with McMillan’s virtual visit. An author visit always makes me excited about their work, which is likely why I own so many books I got at readings (and, erm, have never read).

McMillan struggled with Zoom like any lovely senior citizen, but then next thing you know she was talking about drugs, so she was a total treat. She read from her newest novel, It’s Not All Downhill from Here, which I then immediately downloaded on audiobook and started listening to the next day. That was a bit of a mistake; you can’t read two McMillan books at the same time because she tends to write about four female friends, and I don’t need to mix up my audiobooks and Biscuit book club books. Now I’m cramming the audiobook so I can get back to the book club book.

Anyway, near the end of the talk the audience asked McMillan how she’d been doing with the pandemic, and she is pissed. All the people who won’t take it seriously would do well to avoid Terry McMillan. She also hollered at her girlfriends who said they won’t take the vaccine because they don’t know what’s in it, and McMillan said, “Yeah, but you’ll do some coke!” Both McMillan and her characters are hilarious, and if you haven’t read her work, I would suggest getting at least one title.

And can I just say, as someone who taught rhetoric for eleven years, the fact that people now think they have to learn and understand (using Google, no less) the chemical composition of a vaccine before they put it in their bodies hurts my brain so hard. I’d be happy to talk about why in the comments, but the main answer is “ethos.”

THIS WEEK’S BLOG POSTS

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah is a tough one to recommend because the novel really manipulates the reader’s emotions, but it’s also compelling. At over fifteen audiobook hours, it was quite a long listen, too. Not sure if it’s right for your personal tastes? Check out what folks said on Goodreads to get some more information. I hear Hannah can be loved or hated due to her tendency to write emotionally.

Intrigues by Mercedes Lackey stirred up some good conversation among my co-host (Jackie @ Death by Tsundoku), our participant who has read previous Valdemar books (Kim @ Traveling in Books), and me. I’d love to hear more about your thoughts on the treatment of teen friendship and how it always tends to survive rough patches in fiction — something I think should not be the norm.

NEXT WEEK’S BLOG POSTS

Much like Terry McMillan’s book It’s Not All Downhill from Here, Charlotte Wood’s novel The Weekend has four elderly female friends in their 60s and 70s. Black Americans, Australians — seems like old ladies all get on each other’s nerves. When folks have been friends for decades, it shows. I’ll share with you my thoughts on The Weekend, which was another Biscuit book club pick, on Tuesday.

On Thursday I will introduce you to the writer Mary Saracino, another Pearlsong Press author. Saracino’s novel The Singing of Swans was a 19th Annual Lambda Literary Awards finalist in the Spirituality Category.

BOOKS ADDED TO THE TBR PILE

None!

41 comments

  1. Well done not adding to the TBR. I’m home for a few weeks so I’ll be adding to mine, in fact I’ve only got one or two days before Audible deletes a credit I’ve paid for – why do I put up with that?! – I might add the next Becky Chambers (#2). And I’ll have lots of time – well, some time – to catch up with everyone’s posts that I’ve had to put to one side. Good on Biscuit for choosing Australian.

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  2. Great job on the Sunday Lowdown MP. ☕ 😊Thank you for inviting me to participate in the Terry Mcmillan webinar. I’m truly grateful as well for our buddy book club. (COVID Silver lining) To think I could’ve missed this event causes me some distress. She’s a delightful author and person. I will have to contain myself as I have the potential to become a Terry Mcmillian groupie! Her work entertains me! Btw wish me luck for limited reaction symptoms as I receive my second Vax on Thursday. I despise feeling poorly but I’m certain the alternative would be less than favorable. Write on MP! 😘

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    • Hey Biscuit did you react to your vaccination? Australia is only just getting started. I turn 70 just in time to be vaccinated (to get my first shot) with the oldies in 2 or 3 weeks. I don’t know yet which vaccine we’ll get. I don’t even know yet where to apply. Bill
      (I wasn’t impressed by The Weekend, but most women thought it was an accurate portrayal of women’s friendships).

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      • I had no reaction to the first vaccination other than a tender arm. I am hearing from others who I work with who have reactions to the second one such as tiredness, headache, and muscle aches and pains. Because I work in a penitentiary I was offered it as a frontline worker. In michigan they are inoculating frontline and 65+ individuals. Just this week MP’s two grandmothers (79) received their vax. Unfortunately many glitches (political) have occurred slowing the vax rollout here. Hopefully we’re at the on the down hill portion of this terrible journey. Btw I didn’t enjoy The Weekend. The writing was unrealistic and forced. AND I didn’t relate at all to these “friendships”. With friends like these who needs enemies?

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    • She was a TOTAL hoot, and I just had to include the part about her friend doing coke. I also told the story about the CO who didn’t want the vaccine still eating pickled bologna to Nick, and he about died laughing. I had to speed through It’s Not All Downhill from Here so I could start our Monday book over again and not confuse the characters. It’s Not All Downhill from Here was SO funny in the beginning, but then it….well, kinda went downhill. By comparison, I like the characters in I Almost Forgot About You better.

      I’m wishing you ALL the luck on your #2 (LOL). The worst I’ve heard since we last talked was a young woman who had all the symptoms we’ve talked about (headache, small fever, very fatigued) plus “waves of nausea.” That sucks, but what are you going to do besides get your mint chip ice cream?

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  3. When I posted about getting the vaccine on Facebook, my cousin who is an ex-heroin addict asked me if it was true it could cause a headache and to keep her posted on the side effects…
    Here is the response that I wanted to give: YOU USED TO FUCKING DO HEROIN. I PROMISE THIS IS NOT AS BAD.
    But, she’s been knocked down enough in life so I didn’t have the heart to say it. =/

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    • So, you’re the Terry McMillan in your group, lol. OKAY, but to be a little fair, when people ask about the side effects of the second vaccine, I see where they’re coming from a tiny bit. Here’s where I’m coming from: I’ve worked SO HARD for a whole year to not be sick with anything for fear of people thinking I have COVID that if I get a vaccine that makes me somewhat sick, that seems like . . . not a failure, but scary? I’m totally getting the vaccine and rooting everyone on as I wait my turn, but that little “what if I get sick?” is dancing around in the back of my dumb skull.

      Biscuit had a coworker who wasn’t sure if he should get the vaccine because he doesn’t know what’s in it, and she pointed out that he regularly (you’re from Michigan so you’ll understand) eats pickled bologna. He got the vaccine. 😂

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      • Ahahaha, if you eat pickled bologna, you should fear nothing. 😛
        I do get being nervous about it. I was. I did feel sick but just for a day while my immune system went to war. Which as much as that sucks for me, it means my immune system is working.
        I understand being nervous about getting a vaccine that is new. I just personally decided to ‘sacrifice’ myself for my loved ones. If I could help prevent them getting sick, then I was willing to get sick myself if that’s what it took.

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  4. That’s so cool that your library was able to set up that zoom with that author. What a fun idea! 🙂
    Haha and I love that she wasn’t shy about letting people know how pissed she is with all the idiocy going on during this pandemic. Sounds like it was a good time! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  5. So lovely to hear about Terry McMillen, how cool is she!! Lovely! I must pick up some of hers in my Book Token Splurge, whenever that is. As to adding to the TBR … hm, see my state of the TBR tomorrow!

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  6. Terry McMillan sounds pretty cool! I’m feeling quite grateful, having read your post and people’s comments, that most of the people I know are very pro getting the vaccine – lots of my colleagues have been vaccinated already because they’re over 60/underlying health conditions. My mum had her first dose last week, which I’m thankful for because all the schools are going back next Monday.

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    • The U.S. can’t agree if teachers should have vaccines if they aren’t over 60. In my state people with underlying health conditions can’t get it yet, either. Each state is doing its own thing. My husband pointed out that for every person who feels they shouldn’t get vaccinated when they could, there is someone standing there happy to have that shot. My hope is that those hesitant or anti-vaxx folks will change their minds after the rest of us are happily vaccinated.

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      • Mum only got hers because she’s over 60 with a health condition, not because she’s a teacher. There’s been quite a pragmatic approach here: lots of campaigns about vaccine safety and explaining how the vaccine works, but also if someone refuses their vaccine it will be given to someone else. I think that’s probably a good way to do it.

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        • Absolutely. I wondered if your mom got hers because she’s a teacher. In some states they’re pushing for that right now, but I haven’t heard how other countries are approaching teachers and vaccines. Anthony Faucci and other top medical folks in the U.S. keep pointing out that the most efficient thing to do is vaccinate older folks first. I see what he means, and while I sympathize with teachers, I also ask lots of questions: if teachers, why not library staff. If library staff, why not grocery store employees. Etc. Basically, anyone who is helping society function. It can snowball.

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  7. Terry Macmillan sounds delightful! I love sassy seniors, they make my heart swell and give me hope for the future.

    Sigh, yes vaccine hesitancy is just mind boggling. Like, sure, take your dr’s advice on everything else, but vaccines? Yes let’s make up some crazy conspiracy behind it. Hopefully there are enough reasonable people out there that will get the vaccine that the few who don’t won’t make a huge difference (fingers crossed)

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    • 85% of people vaccinated to reach herd immunity is a tall order. I’m not sure what will happen, but I know I’m harassing the people around me about getting vaccinated! We even have some patrons at the library who seem to decide to get the vaccine simply because we’ve asked if they want information about how to do so. I shouldn’t be surprised, but patrons really trust library employees as a good source of information.

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  8. Glad to hear the event with Terry McMillan went well! Kudos to her for getting shouty with her friends- the hesitancy about the vaccine is so frustrating but it can be so much harder having those difficult conversations with family and friends than, say, strangers on the internet. Before covid I never knew there were so many people worried about vaccines; I thought anti-vaxxers were a small (if vocal) bunch of conspiracy theorists and that most everyone accepted the medicine, so it’s been shocking to me seeing how much opposition there has been. It’s going to be really interesting reading the history books about this time period, someday.

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    • Hearing about new small pox outbreaks before covid gave me a good idea of how resistant some folks were to vaccines. I thought it was a pocket of crazy parents in granola cities, but no. It’s bigger than we think.

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      • It boggles the mind! Vaccines should really be a no-brainer, and it’s frustrating that people will argue they’re not necessary while at the same time basically relying on everyone else to get vaccinated in order for those diseases to phase out of society.

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  9. You’re so right about people suddenly wanting to know the chemical compositions of vaccines, as if that means anything to you if you don’t have the scientific background! I could google for days and still not understand it because I’m not a trained scientist! The doctors and nurses always give a full explanation of how the vaccines work and the possible side effects when I take my kids in and whatever actual disease it is always sounds way worse than the potential vaccine side effects!

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    • True. I know a man who had polio as a boy, and he has been wheelchair-bound ever since. He’s spent a chunk of his life volunteering to be a guinea pig for treatments of people who had polio to better medicine — and I think about him when I think about anti-vaxxer parents.

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      • When I was a kid we travelled quite a bit in Southeast Asia. I’ve never forgotten seeing a man begging on the side of the road with serious physical deformities. When I asked my mom about it she said he probably had had polio. Our generation in the West is fortunate to have been shielded from things like measles and polio but it’s kept some of us from realizing how fortunate we are.

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          • I was born in Hong Kong and we moved to Vancouver when I was five. We visited several times afterwards though, sometimes spending a month or two at a time. Then my parents moved to mainland China after I finished high school and lived there 6 years and I visited them where they lived. I have a few memories of living in Hong Kong but most of my memories of China come from visits when I was a little older. I was probably about 6 when this incident happened.

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              • It was definitely a big part of my growing up! It’s not something that’s so incorporated into my daily life now, though I try and keep certain traditions, like celebrating holidays, so that my kids know a bit of the culture. It’s always a bit strange because it’s not my culture but I feel very connected to it. My dream is to travel back to Hong Kong and China with Peter and the girls in the next few years.

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                • On the news this morning they were talking to the author Viet Thanh Nguyen, who talked about how no matter which country he was in, he felt like a spy for his other country. I have to wonder if you basically feel how refugees and immigrants feel when they live in a country that is different from their own.

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                  • A little bit, yes. That’s something my brother and I have talked about, that we have shared experiences with kids who were immigrants and how many of our childhood friends fit into that category. The term for us is actually “third culture kids”, kids who grow up in a different culture from their parents and feel a connection to it but have no real ownership of that culture.

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                    • Oh, wow. I’ve never heard of third culture kids, but there has to be something to call such folks. For instance, I watched a Newflix movie this weekend that 100% in Thai, and even the white characters spoke Thai. Turns out, the main white guy was also the director. He’s from the UK but pretty much moved to Thailand and stayed and ate up the culture. He keeps making movies in Thai. What would we call such a person. Maybe 3rd culture?

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                    • How interesting! I don’t know if there’s a term for an adult who chooses to immerse themselves and live in an entirely new culture/language. I’ve only heard third culture in the context of kids because one of the definitions is that it occurs during your formative years.

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