Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Meme

Bunch of memes to end the weekend.

Sunday Stealing:

One Thing …..
that makes you smile:

that makes you cry:
Expressions of kindness.

that you love to do on the weekends:
Sleep in.

that you do for only yourself:
I’m going with swimming at the beach, even though I haven’t done much of that since the end of January.

that you have in your underwear drawer that’s NOT underwear:
Cobwebs. I don’t put my clothes in my dresser anymore; it’s only got clothes in it that I haven’t worn in years, plus a few spiders.

that you do before going to sleep:
Set the alarm.

that you do within the first 15 minutes after waking:
Check my phone for messages and notifications.

that’s in your purse:
I don’t have a purse, but in my backpack there is a phone charger, among a few other things.

that you actually LIKE to clean:
I like washing my hair after a swim.

that you DETEST cleaning:
Ah. Windows.

that other people would find odd about you:
I hate getting food on my hands, so I eat potato chips from the bag in a peculiar way: usually with chopsticks.

that you would buy if I handed you a $100 bill:
Food first, since this has been a Weekend of Extreme Frugality.

that you feel you HAVE to do before you die:
There’s one thing that leaps to mind but I think it’s inappropriate for this space, so I’m going with publish a novel.

I changed my mind. I feel like writing, but the memes don’t really interest me right now, and there isn’t anything on my mind worth jotting down here. Maybe I’ll just type whatever I’m thinking for a few moments.

My former boss gave me Season 1 of The Newsroom for Christmas and I finally got around to watching the first six episodes (of ten). It’s quite good. I’d seen Alison Pill in a few things before, but I had no idea she had this in her. She’s the frenetic center of a great cast, including Jeff Daniels and a surprising Sam Waterson. Looking forward to finishing the season, then watching it again with the commentaries. Then probably getting myself Season 2.

The new Yes album was scheduled to be released July 8, but Wikipedia says July 16, and Amazon says July 22. So darn. I’m really looking forward to it. The last album was great, one of my favorites, and this one’s got a new singer. Sometimes a thing like that is what a band of old guys like Yes needs in order to jolt it into something fresh.

I’ve had the same two Netflix DVDs in my possession since the middle of March. I decided, when I rejoined the service a couple of years ago, that I wasn’t going to stress about getting my money’s worth, because that’s what ruined the experience for me the first time. I don’t want this concept of getting my money’s worth to dictate what I will watch or when I will watch it. Just having access to the service is worth the few bucks per month it costs me, the way you pay for the availability of cable television even when you don’t watch it. Still, four months is kind of ridiculous. I finally just ripped both movies (Tiger Eyes and About Time) to my laptop and I’ll watch them sometime this week (then delete them, of course). Time to get past this stasis and get something new in my mailbox. Satisfaction (with Justine Bateman) and Winter’s Bone (Jennifer Lawrence) are up next.

I recently finished John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars (I read Looking for Alaska a couple of months ago) and look forward to Shailene Woodley in the main character’s role in the film. Green is a good writer, but boy is his style ostentatious. I’m re-reading Lynne Rae Perkins’s Criss Cross, one of my favorite books, and it is reminding me of what I want to accomplish as a writer. It’s funny, because my writing partner made me read Looking for Alaska, so I made her read Criss Cross. Neither of us likes the other’s book nearly as much as the one we each recommended.

Almost 1:00 in the morning and the laundry is finally done. About to hit the sack. Here’s to a good week.

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Take Me to the Old Playground

madscientistsYou don’t have to know me very well to know that I amass enormous numbers of books that I will probably never get around to reading or that I’ve read so many times I can recite them practically by heart, so all they do is sit on my shelf, like the treasured baseball cards of my youth.

But I am alarmed (alarmed!) by how many of the books I loved as a kid are no longer available in print. When I first began to notice this terrible trend, I didn’t sweat it much because the libraries still had copies, many of them probably the very copies I borrowed. But shoot, that was thirty years ago, and the libraries don’t have them anymore either.

But then there were eBay and and the Amazon marketplace, a fresh source of the old books (especially those darned Scholastic titles, which seemed to be printed once, sold ten million times in those TAB and Troll book order forms, and then forgotten forever). I purchased a few of the ones I really needed, thinking I’d save the rest for later.

It’s later, and now many of those books are going for ridiculous prices, not because they’re in demand, but because they’re in short supply. Most can still be purchased for very reasonable prices, if one is willing to look; however, the trend is clear: except in the rare instances of reprints (thank you, publishers of The Mad Scientists Club), the numbers of these copies are dwindling, and I have to confess a small feeling of panic is settling in. I have to fight that off, because I have a feeling that if I’m merely attentive and patient for the next few years, I don’t have to rush out and buy everything.

As the likelihood of my ever having kids decreases by the day, there should be less panic. With no kids to share them with, I can get rid of the 42 episodes on VHS I still have in plastic cases of Little House on the Prairie (the TV show), and I don’t need all fifteen Danny Dunn books (which are getting more and more difficult to find!). And I still have my original copy of The Wednesday Witch, handed down by my uncle when he was done with it at age 11 and still marked by his elementary-school curly cursive signature on the inside cover. That book, and a few from the same period, have been with me for nearly forty years. Maybe that’s all I need.

wednesday I can, for now, still find acceptable copies of Jason and the Money Tree for $1.50 plus reasonable shipping, but will it be much longer before, if I really want it, I’m going to have to pay $96.36 because that’s all that’s left?

Part of me thinks I’m looking at this the wrong way. The decreased likelihood of my ever having kids is maybe a stronger reason for my getting these books back on my shelf. I can think of very few companions by which I’d rather be escorted into the end of my years than these lifelong friends.

Darn it.

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The Wheel Deal


The unsettled thing that could change any day? It’s sort of back to square one, which on one hand is a bummer, but I think the board is being reset to tilt the odds more in my favor. So while I have to wait for some kind of closure on this thing, the closure is more likely to be the result I want. I’ll explain this all later. Hopefully within eighty-nine days from the end of July.

Uuuuurrrrggggh. It’s a little stressful just typing that. But I’m going to focus on the positives, which are that I’m at least better off than I was a year ago.

I’m making arrangements to have the car towed tomorrow to a transmission shop. If not for a cheerful loan from Bank of Dad (again), I don’t know what I would have done, but I’ve been incredibly blessed to have these wheels for the past year and a half, and even though I try to live a life that’s not automobile-dependent, the switch to bus-commuting this time was going to be really difficult. True, it was going to be a one-bus ride each way, but man is it a long ride. It always takes me some time to get my bus-legs back, and the three days I rode to work (and back), I was getting nauseated a couple of miles from my destinations.

Another major setback, living without wheels, was going to be no more trips to the beach on my way to work. I’ve been stopping on my way to work three or four times a week, having a cold swim and shower at one of the beaches of my childhood, then relaxing for a little, while runners panted past me on the sidewalk behind, and the rising sun slowly warmed the sand and sea before me. It’s been good for my heart and for my poor, tormented soul. That’s just not possible when I’m riding the bus to work, even with enough time to do it, which I most definitely would have. There’s nowhere to stash keys and wallet and clothes and other stuff I need to have with me. And I’m not ready to give that up.

I recently picked up a gig writing word puzzles for an iPhone/Android app. The pay’s good, but I’m trying not to think of how it breaks down hourly. These have been a bit tougher to put together than I anticipated, and although I’m having fun doing it, it can be slightly stressful, knowing I have to deliver a product that someone is paying me for, one that will have my name on it. I’m just about finished with a third of the puzzles I owe, and I get to submit them for review when I hit that mark. Looking forward to critique. Details later, when the puzzles get published.

This week has been stressful with all the car stuff, but it could be a lot worse. The mighty Anto loaned me his car for the week while he’s on a trip, and not having to worry about the bus all by itself makes life so much more livable.

I’ve decided on Faulkner. Picked up The Sound and the Fury the other day. Now I have to figure out when I’m going to read it. I flipped to the middle to check it out, and I like the narrative voice. He’s more accessible than I was led to believe.

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Canon Fodder

At the end of last summer, I made myself read Anna Karenina with the kind of disciplined focus required of me as an undergraduate English major in college. I had to do the reading (usually several works in several courses). I had this much time in which to complete it, and I had to complete it in such a way that I’d have something meaningful to say about it or ask about it when it came time to discuss it in class or write about it in a paper. It was a lot of work, but I finished Karenina with time to spare before seeing the film adaptation in the theater.

I’m considering doing that again, not because of a movie, but because it’s good for me to be able to check that off the list. I once wrote, in a very short essay for one of my graduate classes, that a math major can know all the math, but an English major can’t know all the literature, and there are holes in our knowledge even among the most well-read of high-school English teachers.

There are huge holes in mine: of the Russians, I have only read that one Tolstoy novel. Of the Victorians, only Jane Austen and Emily Bronte, and I remember nothing of Emily Bronte. Of Dickens I have read only “A Christmas Carol” and Great Expectations, and I remember very little of the latter. Except for short stories, I haven’t read any Hemingway or Faulkner.

I have read a LOT. But I haven’t read even more. I think about getting through Karenina and how it really wasn’t that bad, and I’m feeling the need, almost a year later, to do it again.

It should be something canonical, right? How about something from this list? Of the top ten, I’ve read Gatsby, Catch-22, Brave New World (what the heck is that doing so high up on the list?), and of course The Grapes of Wrath. I will read Ulysses some day, but I do not think today is that day. Perhaps Lolita or The Sound and the Fury.

How canonical is Tolkien? He’s seldom mentioned on these lists, but I do not know very many English teachers (or professors) who have not read him, and I’ve still got The Two Towers and The Return of the King to get through.

Nabokov and Faulkner are starting to appeal. Since I read a Russian last year, maybe an American this year?

Here are the 100 titles on that Modern Library list. I thought it would be fun to highlight the ones I’ve read. I’d forgotten that Doctorow’s Ragtime was on it, something that pleases me a great deal. I’m rather fond of that one. Novels I’ve read are in bold.

  1. ULYSSES by James Joyce
  2. THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  4. LOLITA by Vladimir Nabokov
  5. BRAVE NEW WORLD by Aldous Huxley
  6. THE SOUND AND THE FURY by William Faulkner
  7. CATCH-22 by Joseph Heller
  8. DARKNESS AT NOON by Arthur Koestler
  9. SONS AND LOVERS by D.H. Lawrence
  10. THE GRAPES OF WRATH by John Steinbeck
  11. UNDER THE VOLCANO by Malcolm Lowry
  12. THE WAY OF ALL FLESH by Samuel Butler
  13. 1984 by George Orwell
  14. I, CLAUDIUS by Robert Graves
  15. TO THE LIGHTHOUSE by Virginia Woolf
  16. AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY by Theodore Dreiser
  17. THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER by Carson McCullers
  18. SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE by Kurt Vonnegut
  19. INVISIBLE MAN by Ralph Ellison
  20. NATIVE SON by Richard Wright
  21. HENDERSON THE RAIN KING by Saul Bellow
  23. U.S.A. (trilogy) by John Dos Passos
  24. WINESBURG, OHIO by Sherwood Anderson
  25. A PASSAGE TO INDIA by E.M. Forster
  26. THE WINGS OF THE DOVE by Henry James
  27. THE AMBASSADORS by Henry James
  28. TENDER IS THE NIGHT by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  29. THE STUDS LONIGAN TRILOGY by James T. Farrell
  30. THE GOOD SOLDIER by Ford Madox Ford
  31. ANIMAL FARM by George Orwell
  32. THE GOLDEN BOWL by Henry James
  33. SISTER CARRIE by Theodore Dreiser
  34. A HANDFUL OF DUST by Evelyn Waugh
  35. AS I LAY DYING by William Faulkner
  36. ALL THE KING’S MEN by Robert Penn Warren
  37. THE BRIDGE OF SAN LUIS REY by Thornton Wilder
  38. HOWARDS END by E.M. Forster
  39. GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN by James Baldwin
  40. THE HEART OF THE MATTER by Graham Greene
  41. LORD OF THE FLIES by William Golding
  42. DELIVERANCE by James Dickey
  43. A DANCE TO THE MUSIC OF TIME (series) by Anthony Powell
  44. POINT COUNTER POINT by Aldous Huxley
  45. THE SUN ALSO RISES by Ernest Hemingway
  46. THE SECRET AGENT by Joseph Conrad
  47. NOSTROMO by Joseph Conrad
  48. THE RAINBOW by D.H. Lawrence
  49. WOMEN IN LOVE by D.H. Lawrence
  50. TROPIC OF CANCER by Henry Miller
  51. THE NAKED AND THE DEAD by Norman Mailer
  52. PORTNOY’S COMPLAINT by Philip Roth
  53. PALE FIRE by Vladimir Nabokov
  54. LIGHT IN AUGUST by William Faulkner
  55. ON THE ROAD by Jack Kerouac
  56. THE MALTESE FALCON by Dashiell Hammett
  57. PARADE’S END by Ford Madox Ford
  58. THE AGE OF INNOCENCE by Edith Wharton
  59. ZULEIKA DOBSON by Max Beerbohm
  60. THE MOVIEGOER by Walker Percy
  62. FROM HERE TO ETERNITY by James Jones
  63. THE WAPSHOT CHRONICLES by John Cheever
  64. THE CATCHER IN THE RYE by J.D. Salinger
  65. A CLOCKWORK ORANGE by Anthony Burgess
  66. OF HUMAN BONDAGE by W. Somerset Maugham
  67. HEART OF DARKNESS by Joseph Conrad
  68. MAIN STREET by Sinclair Lewis
  69. THE HOUSE OF MIRTH by Edith Wharton
  70. THE ALEXANDRIA QUARTET by Lawrence Durell
  71. A HIGH WIND IN JAMAICA by Richard Hughes
  72. A HOUSE FOR MR BISWAS by V.S. Naipaul
  73. THE DAY OF THE LOCUST by Nathanael West
  74. A FAREWELL TO ARMS by Ernest Hemingway
  75. SCOOP by Evelyn Waugh
  77. FINNEGANS WAKE by James Joyce
  78. KIM by Rudyard Kipling
  79. A ROOM WITH A VIEW by E.M. Forster
  80. BRIDESHEAD REVISITED by Evelyn Waugh
  82. ANGLE OF REPOSE by Wallace Stegner
  83. A BEND IN THE RIVER by V.S. Naipaul
  84. THE DEATH OF THE HEART by Elizabeth Bowen
  85. LORD JIM by Joseph Conrad
  86. RAGTIME by E.L. Doctorow
  87. THE OLD WIVES’ TALE by Arnold Bennett
  88. THE CALL OF THE WILD by Jack London
  89. LOVING by Henry Green
  90. MIDNIGHT’S CHILDREN by Salman Rushdie
  91. TOBACCO ROAD by Erskine Caldwell
  92. IRONWEED by William Kennedy
  93. THE MAGUS by John Fowles
  94. WIDE SARGASSO SEA by Jean Rhys
  95. UNDER THE NET by Iris Murdoch
  96. SOPHIE’S CHOICE by William Styron
  97. THE SHELTERING SKY by Paul Bowles
  99. THE GINGER MAN by J.P. Donleavy
  100. THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS by Booth Tarkington

That’s not that many, but you know what? The fact that Catcher in the Rye is so high up on this list and there is NO MENTION of Huckleberry Finn makes me think this list is a farce anyway. Huck Finn should be in the top five of American novels. I’d put it second among American novels myself. But then I haven’t read the overwhelming majority of these, so maybe I don’t know jack.


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A Scout is Brave

I’m on spring break. For reasons I hope to explain later, I’m not exactly thrilled about that this year. Still, I will make the best of it, and that’s one reason I’m up at 5:00 in the morning scribbling a few thoughts.

The other reason is that I got up to use the bathroom and was more in the mood to listen to a little bit of music than I was to return to sleep. I’ve got last year’s xx album, coexist, playing now, which I always thought of as a late-night album, but it seems to work pretty well in the early mornings too, a nice accompaniment to some of the online reading I just did. It’s not as good an album as the band’s first; it’s still quite a good album. There just isn’t one of those standout holy-moly songs a really great album needs to have. Or perhaps the novelty has worn off. I’d like to think that’s not the case.

I’ve begun to reread The Fellowship of the Ring. It was always a somewhat exaggerated annoyance of R’s that I never read the Lord of the Rings trilogy, something that was always a somewhat exaggerated source of amusement to me. I know my geek cred and my lit cred are called into question by my not having read it. Goodness knows I’ve tried, even getting about two hundred pages in the last time I made the attempt (about thirteen years ago), and I’ve always appreciated Tolkien’s writing style. I guess I’ve always just found Tolkien too easy to put down and not pick back up.

Hopefully this spring break is the charm. My interest has been sharpened by the excellent The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, a film I thought did not get enough Oscar love. I think about that film all the time, something I cannot say of any film I saw last year except (for professional reasons, which I hope also to explain some other time) Pitch Perfect.

I’m also midway through Sheila Turnage’s Three Times Lucky, a 2013 Newbery Honor book. If it finishes strongly, it’s already better than The One and Only Ivan, a book I find somewhat overpraised. And I’ve begun The Name of This Book is Secret by “Pseudonymous Bosch.” For now I’ll just say I’m not as eager to get back to that as I am to Three Times Lucky. It’s remarkably similar to those Unfortunate Events books by Lemony Snicket, in all the irritating ways as well as the few good ways. Ugh. I do not know if I have it in me to slog through it.

Another spring break goal is to finish this story I began about a year and a half ago. Three friends I know from Twitter invited me to participate in a writers group, and this story, “The Scout Law,” was the result. We haven’t met again, ‘though we keep talking about it, and I’m not sure we will for a while. One of us has a new online project that’s taking a bit of his time, and another is getting married soon. Things like that tend to make writing difficult to find time for. I reread the story last night and liked a lot of what I saw, so I am going to try and finish it. I’ll think about what I want to do with it when it’s complete.

Someone wanted to see my responses to this week’s Friday 5, so here are a couple.

March 22:

  1. At a gathering of your usual social group, who’s almost certain to show up last?
    If it’s the Village Idiots, it’s me. If it’s my HBA colleagues, whom I still consider a social group even though I seem never to see them anymore, it’s Ross.
  2. Of chores that must be done this weekend, which will you probably complete last, and why?
    Probably the laundry, ‘though I’ll give cleaning out the car a puncher’s chance. The car is a chore I prefer to do in daylight hours because my carport is full of mosquitoes. The laundry just seems to wash better at night, something I’m 100% sure I imagine. If I procrastinate on the car, it will either not get done (because it’ll be dark outside) or I’ll do it anyway and thus it’ll be last.
  3. Some TV remote controls have a “last” button. If you were to turn your TV on now and hit the “last” button on the remote, which channel would you be taken to?
    It’s on ESPN right now, so the last button (which my remote does not have) will take it either to the local NBC station where my TiVo recorded last night’s SNL rerun or to the local PBS affiliate, where my TiVo simultaneously recorded last night’s Austin City Limits rerun. I’ve already deleted the SNL show (I watched it last night up until Weekend Update). Looking forward to the 2011 The National performance, which I missed somehow when it first aired.
  4. Your task is to try one scoop of ice cream per day until every one of thirty-one flavors is consumed. Which do you save for last?
    When I wrote this question, I was interested in what people’s strategies would be: best first, or best last. I think it would be more fun to eat them either in alphabetical order or the order in which they appear in the display case. So I can’t say which flavor would be last, but it would be whatever is in the last spot of the last case.
  5. When did you last have an awful meal in a restaurant?
    I had a plate of lau lau that was just horrible at Kenecke’s in Waimanalo last October. I ate less than half of it and tossed the rest. Part of the problem is that Kenecke’s has the grossest dining area I’ve ever seen, but the macaroni salad was sour, the rice was hard, and the luau leaf was strangely off-tasting. Ugh, ugh, ugh.

    I’ve also had two lousy lattes from the cafeteria at work. Worst lattes I’ve ever had. Bleah.

March 15:

  • What’s the longest line you’ve ever stood in?
    When I was fourteen, the line for Return of the Jedi at the Cinerama Theater was ridiculous. I waited with my friend Tien and we weren’t too far from the front, so our experience of the line wasn’t bad. The line itself was crazy long. A couple of other really long lines I remember were concert ticket lines for Sting (I wasn’t far from the front for that one either) and Motley Crue.
  • When did you have the most fun waiting in line?
    I once (twice, actually) waited with Penny at the front of the line for the annual Friends of the Library Book Sale. That was kind of fun. Not really worth being first. And while I can’t think of a specific line, waiting with R was almost always fun. One of the things I miss most about our friendship was how well we kept each other company in normally boring or frustrating situations.
  • What line, no matter how long or short it is, always drives you crazy?
    I’m really not a fan of waiting in line in a restroom. There’s something demeaning about it. And I know I have a better answer than this, but I can’t think of it for some reason. There is one line that I know drives me up a tree every time. I’ve even said so to someone recently. I just don’t remember what it is.
  • When did you last behave in a manner that was over the line?
    I was cruising through pictures by Hawaii people on Flickr when I saw a photo of the guy written about by my friend Ryan here. As something of a political junkie, I was amused by the photo and left a snarky comment. The photographer took exception to my unkind words (aimed not at the photographer but at the subject), and I immediately apologized and deleted my comment. I thought what I wrote was pretty funny; the photographer thought it was over the line. “There is a time and a place for what I wrote,” I wrote in a follow-up comment, “and this was neither.”
  • What are some lines of poetry you can recite from memory?
  • As an English major, I’ve got so many lines of poetry committed to memory that I cannot go through them all; they often pop up and surprise me, caught unaware that I even knew them by heart. Two lines that have frequently come up in my thinking lately are by Robert Frost:
    From what I’ve tasted of desire,
    I hold with those who favor fire.

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    Review: Rules by Cynthia Lord

    Rules (2006) by Cynthia Lord.
    a 2007 Newbery Honor book

    rulesCatherine’s little brother David is autistic, so social cues and expectations are a puzzle to him. In order to help David with social appropriateness and to avoid his embarrassing her in public, Catherine has written several rules about behavior. David takes most things very literally, and rules are something he can understand, as with “Late doesn’t mean not coming,” or “Keep your pants on in public.”

    David’s need for near-constant attention can be trying, even for a family who obviously loves him. Catherine often feels like a second thought in her family, and her father’s extended working hours mean more of the load is carried by her mother. The strain on David’s family in just managing him from day to day feels like those ever-tensing rope-bridges in movies, coming slowly undone, fiber by fiber, until something catastrophic happens. Or something heroic.

    Catherine doesn’t seem to be aware of it, but however forced-upon the responsibility of caring for David has been, it has taught her an uncommon sensitivity for others, something that emerges when she strikes up a friendship with Jason, a wheelchair-bound boy around her age who can’t speak. Jason “speaks” to others through the use of a book containing word-cards, pointing out sentiments like, “Tell. Girl. Stop.” Their friendship begins roughly, but it blooms when Catherine asks if she can add a few more words to Jason’s book, words that make it possible for Jason to communicate beyond the utility of literal meaning.

    I bought this at a book fair without knowing much about it, and when I read the synopsis on the back, I was pretty sure I was going to hate it. I doubted the writer could write a book about a girl with an autistic brother without making it all Afterschool Special. The world does not need books about how to live with an autistic sibling; it needs books where autistic children are characters in real people’s families; in other words, David would need to be a character and not the plot.

    But I really, really like the first eighty percent of this novel, and it’s because Cynthia Lord creates a main character who, for all her expected pre-teen flaws, is a decent human being who has not only the inclination to do nice things for others, but the assertiveness and creativity to do them in ways that seem like natural expressions of her personality. This is not a novel about living with an autistic sibling; it’s a novel about one believable character, driven by her specific experiences and needs. And because Catherine is so well-developed, nothing feels especially preachy or teachy.

    Until the last part of the novel, which just seems to happen too quickly and too nicely. I don’t mind the lesson Catherine sums up in her rule about the aquarium; what I mind is that it feels like a “Hey, in case you missed it, here’s what I learned through all of this” message, and it’s completely unnecessary. Not only that, but it feels unearned. Lord could have taken a few more chapters to deal with Catherine’s anguish and then given us the aquarium lesson with just a bit more subtlety. The result is a novel that feels almost great, which is only a shame because it felt like it was leading to true greatness.

    Still, Catherine’s voice is so well formed that I would beg Lord to visit her again in a few years and let us know what’s going on with her in high school.

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