July 9th, 2021

storyteller doll

Second Quarter 2021 - Books, Movies, Goals

I have a bunch of things to write about. Let’s start with the quarterly update, because that is (relatively) quick to write.


  1. Randy Johnson, Hiking the Blue Ridge Parkway I’d bought this as a gift for a friend, bt I feel obliged to quality test books I am giving people. This is a mile by mile guide to the Blue Ridge Parkway, with brief descriptions of towns on (and nearby) the road and more detailed descriptions of hiking trails. I suspect I could still manage to get lost on some of the trails, but I have a notoriously bad sense of direction. Overall, I think this is useful as guidebooks go.

  2. Rosamund Pilcher, Flowers in the Rain. This is a collection of short stories. It probably tells you a lot that many of them were published originally in magazines like Good Housekeeping. The most common theme is people reconnecting after many years and falling back in love. But there are other stories that relate to mature relationships, e.g. one involving a couple who are fighting over whether or not to sell their large rambling house and move into a cottage in town. There are also a few stories about people discovering gifts they didn’t know they had. There’s not really anything profound here, but they make enjoyable diversions.

  3. Alex Michaelides, The Silent Patient. This was for book club. The plot is focused on Theo, a psychotherapist, and Alicia, a patient in a mental hospital who has remained silent since she killed her husband. Theo investigates the murder, which could be interesting. But the shocking ending is disappointing. There’s a lot of time shifting which acts only to create confusion. Frankly, I just didn’t believe the whole scenario. (Nor did most of the other people in my book club, by the way.)

  4. Dorothy Cannell, The Thin Woman I read this book when it first came out in 1984 and thought it was screamingly funny. Alas, it did not stand up well to rereading. The basic problem is that multiple characters behave in completely unrealistic ways. There are other annoying aspects to the plot, but those pale in comparison to the sheer silliness.

  5. Alexander McCall Smith, Your Inner Hedgehog. The return of Professor Dr. Dr. von Igelfeld is always a delight. In this book, he has to deal with a new deputy librarian who wants to use the Senior Coffee Room. Then, on a trip to Oxford, he meets a young American who has actually read his great treatise on Portuguese irregular verbs. Nothing really happens, but that nothing happens in a delightfully ridiculous way, creating lots of mirth and delight.

  6. Laline Paull, The Bees. I talked my book club into this novel, which follows the life of Flora 717, a sanitation worker bee who has unusual abilities and aspirations. The society of the hive, which follows a strict hierarchy, based on worship of the queen, was fascinating (and, apparently, behavioristically realistic, though actual bees don’t go around muttering, “Accept. Obey, Serve.”) There are also interesting interactions between the workers and drones, as well as between the bees and other bugs. Highly recommended.

  7. Nancy Pickard, The Blue Corn Murders. Pickard continued the Euguenia Potter mystery series after Virginia Rich died. In this one, Mrs. Potter finds a piece of pottery on her ranch and decides to go to an archaeological camp in Colorado to learn more about it. Inevitably, one of the other women at the camp is murdered. Then the archaeologist leading the group falls off a cliff. Also, a group of teenagers has disappeared. Mrs. Potter figures it all out, of course. This is standard workmanlike mystery fare. But it also has some interesting recipes on the cover pages, including one for a tricolor corn bread I plan to try.

  8. Greg Stones, Goodbye, Penguins. It isn’t really clear whether or not I should count this little picture book I bought at an art fair in Alexandria, but why not? Fifteen penguins set out on a walk and meet various fates,from misjudging a zombie to stumbling into a time machine. It’s somewhat reminiscent of Edward Gorey and thoroughly charming if you have any taste for the macabre. Apparently, he has several other books available, too.

  9. Gene Weingarten, One Day. Weingarten had a day chosen at random, which turned out to be December 28, 1986, and collected stories of things that happened that day. They include a heart transplant, a couple of murders, deaths from AIDS, a young girl getting her first exposure to video games, a baby being rescued from a house fire and surviving with terrible burns, the use of replay in a football game, and so on. His interviews 30+ years later reveal a lot about how seemingly small events can be important and how unexpected the outcomes of even major events can be. This is a great read if you like magazine style journalism. (Weingarten writes a humor column for the Washington Post Magazine section, but has also won a couple of Pulitzers for his longer pieces.)


  1. Queen Bees: I went out to breakfast and a movie with a friend a couple of weeks ago and we chose this movie, which was aptly described as a cross between Golden Girls and Mean Girls. The main character is more or less forced into staying at a senior citizen residence while her house is being repaired after a fire. There are three women there who are the queen bees of the facility, and the “B” definitely stands for “bitch.” She ends up learning about their live and challenges. There’s also a charming man courting her, but he may not be what he seems. This was reasonably good, largely because of its cast, but was more of a drama and less a comedy than it had been billed as. I also would have liked to know more of the backstory of one of the characters.

  2. An American Pickle: I watched this on a flight from IAD to PDX. Hershel Greenbaum is an Orthodox Jewish worker in a pickle factory who falls into a barrel of brine and is preserved for a hundred years. He ends up being cared for by his great grandson, Ben, a millennial working on an app to rate ethical companies. Both Hershel and Ben are played by Seth Rogen, who is not adept enough an actor to make this more than an intergenerational collection of Jewish stereotypes. Overall, an interesting premise, inadequately executed.


I didn’t enter the Style Invitational at all this quarter, so I’m still at 2 entries so far this year.

No progress on storage or organizing, though I have made progress on clearing out household paperwork (which I didn’t list as a goal).

I’ve now read 17 books so far this year, so am behind the pace I need to get to 52.

I have a lot of books to go out, but just haven’t gotten around to a used bookstore run. Maybe this coming week.

I got one more story to tellable condition. And I will have 3 more tellable within the next month - or, at least, I hope to since I have commitments to tell them. So I will easily meet my goal of 4 new stories.

I finished the Smithsonian World Art History certificate program. Some day I might even get around to writing about it.

Things I Still Need to Write About Here:

  • Art and Soul (art workshop in Portland, Oregon)

  • National Puzzlers’ League con

  • that Smithsonian art history program

  • June prompts

  • a bunch of storytelling things, including some shameless self-promotion

  • travel plans

  • my plans for total world domination. Oh, wait, I’m not supposed to talk about that

This entry was originally posted at https://fauxklore.dreamwidth.org/493260.html. Please comment there using OpenID.