February 2023 books read

  • The Panic Fables: Mystic Teachings and Initiatory Tales – Alejandro Jodorowsky, 2017. This is a collection of Jodorowsky’s weekly full-page color comics that ran in a Mexican newspaper from 1967 to 1973. We watched El Topo for Far Out Film and have referenced him since (was he interviewed in some other film?), so I grabbed this from the featured new books. It’s… very interesting. If I didn’t find Jodorowsky’s style ugly, I would have enjoyed it more. He’s very creative with speech bubble shapes and parable creatures; what was not so successful was over-analyzing other cartoons and stories, and single-panel guru statements (although the repetition of “what an uncomfortable position!” by the disciple Jodorowsky stand-in is funny). I liked the arguments between cubes and marbles, microbes, and simple head-and-legs creatures of different sizes. His created mythology, including “gragrofes” (useless objects that are craved and then consume others) and the holy idiot Ben-Sara, stick in my mind.
    • “Life without death is immobility”
    • Persian proverb: “Be a tiger – if you are prepared to solve a tiger’s problems.” I really like this but can’t find it documented.
    • Panel where Jodorowsky says “I read this fable in a book by Baba Ram Dass and felt that it was I who had written it” – “anywhere I stood, the chicken saw me
  • Into Every Generation a Slayer Is Born: How Buffy Staked Our Hearts – Evan Ross Katz, 2022. I don’t remember how I stumbled on this – maybe Overdrive suggested it? – but I’d been thinking of rewatching Buffy and this was a good complement. Coincidentally, one of the people interviewed is Claire Saffitz, who I had just heard of the week before I read this book (I found Gourmet Makes down some rabbit hole and enjoyed them very much) – love those little intersections. It’s all over the map and a little too much about the author, but I found the interviews with cast members very interesting and the analysis of the show’s legacy (complicated by Joss Whedon’s trajectory) thought-provoking.
  • Paddle for Water: Canoeing across America with a Message and a Man I Never Intended to Marry – Nancy DeWitte Condon, 2022. I bought this to support the writer, a member of the Nature/Environment book group, and I was delighted at how good it is! A compelling and fascinating story, well-written, and a new classic in the vicarious-enjoyment-of-experiences-I wouldn’t-want-to-do-myself genre ( e.g. Wild, Driftwood Valley, etc.).
  • The Language of Butterflies: How Thieves, Hoarders, Scientists, and Other Obsessives Unlocked the Secrets of the World’s Favorite Insect – Wendy Williams, 2020. Quotes pulled, TBD.
  • Paradise City – Archer Mayor, 2012. Read for the Massachusetts Center for the Book February challenge, “A book set in your home town/city or state” (mostly set in Northampton). My brief response: “I enjoyed the setting of this otherwise-middling police procedural. Mayor did his research – I was especially pleased to see the Amherst College/Five Colleges bunker on Military Road in Amherst featured.” I know the bunker because it’s the Five Colleges library repository, which I’ve gotten to tour (as well as do IT troubleshooting!). There was also a scene set at the Summit House before it was re-opened to the public – I didn’t realize it was boarded up so recently.
  • The Goblin Emperor – Katherine Addison, 2014. Recommended by several Ask a Manager commentators, and they were right – a wonderful fantasy.
  • Girl, Woman, Other – Bernardine Evaristo, 2019. A Second Monday selection but not enough quotes for a separate post. I liked the novel better after the excellent group discussion, but still dislike the writing – it was like reading stage directions.
    • “if she can’t get a proper boyfriend at nineteen what hope is there for when she’s older?”
    • “Dominique can never quite believe that her friend still smokes, that anyone over twenty does”
  • Maia – Richard Adams, 1984. Umpteenth re-read, but I actually marked some quotes this time, so may make a post out it.
  • The Golden Bowl – Henry James, 1904. Quotes pulled, TBD.
  • Planet of Exile – Ursula K. LeGuin, 1966.  Read for Calmgrove’s #LoveHain.

Articles & short stories

  • Robin Wall Kimmerer, one of my all-time favorites, in the New York Times:
    • “Humility that brings that sort of joy and belonging as opposed to submission”
    • “I’ve often had this fantasy that we should have Fox News, by which I mean news about foxes.”
  • New York Times article on the Studio Ghibli theme park:
    • He has long told parents that children should not watch his films more than once a year. (“Whatever experiences we provide them,” Miyazaki has said, “are in a sense stealing time from them that otherwise might be spent in a world where they go out and make their own discoveries or have their own personal experiences.”)
    • “Totoro drops acorns everywhere as a kind of calling card. To love Totoro is to love not just a single creature but a whole habitat.”
  • Short story, “The Third Law of Magic,” by Ben Okri (The Atlantic, March 2023) and interview about it:
    • “Value ought to be related to being and consciousness. In real terms, the sight of one’s child in a moment of unique happiness ought to be greater in value than a fur coat. The joy one feels in the presence of the one we love ought to be greater in value than a new car.”
    • “I have always felt that if we have a proper grasp of what reality is, we will better know what to do with this tremendous gift of life, this infinite energy compressed into a mortal frame. I think all literature at its best tries to do that.
    • “Reality is all we have to work with, but we don’t really know what it is. The truth about reality is that its subdividable aspects can yield results which can be faithfully replicated while we remain completely in the dark about its other aspects or the whole itself. This is odd, for it gives us the illusion of control, when in fact what we have is merely the control of contingent conditions. Therefore, much of our confidence is provisional. One can be wrong and yet some things we do seem to work. One can be right and yet some things that we do appear not to work. Often it is a matter of perspective, of time, of truths concealed from us.”
  • Amazing essay “In the Beforetime” by Yiyun Li (The New Yorker, July 4, 2022) “So rarely do we look at the present, innocent of fresh disaster, as a rosy beforetime: we live in the aftertime of events, some more catastrophic than others.”
  • A short story in the same issue, “A King Alone” by Rachel Kushner: “The magic of a thing you’d normally see only from a distance disappears when you see it up close. But a new magic takes its place.”
  • I digitized two of my father’s articles: “The Decline of Conceptual Thinking” and “The Humanities in a Technological Age.”

One thought on “February 2023 books read

  1. Thanks for linking to my #LoveHain discussion posts, Hilary, much appreciated. And I’m glad you enjoyed Addison’s The Goblin Emperor – it kept being recommended to me several years back till I too was finally jolted into reading it, and it was as good as it was said to be!

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