Dewey Decimal Project: 391.6 YAL A History of the Breast

The 390sNewImage comprise “Customs, etiquette and folklore” which had a lot of books about fashion at my local library. I’m not that interested in fashion, but breasts, on the other hand, struck me as something worthy of spending a book reading about.

Yalom writes here about how breasts became eroticized in eroticized in Western culture, which is an interesting statement in itself as it’s easy to forget that the eroticization of the breast is culturally determined and not a human universal. 

Perhaps most interesting is how Yalom manages to uncover what is at best an implicit narrative in cultural history considering such things as depictions of the breast in art to find the story.


Dewey Decimal Project: 381.45 MIL Reluctant Capitalists: Bookselling and the Culture of Consumption

The 380s: NewImageCommerce, Communications & Transportation. I was tempted to read something about trains when I got here, but then I spotted this, a book about bookselling (with an implicit critique of capitalism in its title!). As my dream in life has been to retire into bookselling, I thought there could be no better option for this part of the Dewey Decimal project.

Written while Amazon was still a niche business and e-books were a perennial solution in search of a customer base, this is still a fascinating time capsule as independent bookstores underwent assaults first from mall bookstores then chains (with Borders and Barnes & Noble being the big bads of this era of bookselling). 

As guardians of culture as well as participants in commerce, booksellers have long been in a somewhat unique place in society and Miller makes a good case for her dubbing booksellers as reluctant capitalists. Even so, it’s startling to see how many business practices that seem like common sense, even to my distinctly non-business-oriented mind, were resisted by the bulk of booksellers. But given the fact that there are few other businesses which have such a broad and thin inventory (the only other instances that spring to mind are also culturally-oriented businesses: the record [sic] shop and the video [sic] store, both of which, if they still exist today are as anachronistic feeling as a cigar store Indian, although I think I might know where to still find one in Chicago). 


Beautiful Sentences: Christine Sneed

Rejection is the relentless, powerful hazing that disables ninety-seven out of a hundred talented people.

Christine Sneed, “The First Wife.”


Dewey Decimal Project: 371.782 COL The Bully, The Bullied and the Bystander

By NewImagefar the best book I’ve read as I’ve worked my way through the Dewey Decimal System. Perhaps it’s because so much of what Coloroso writes echoes and is echoed by other books I’ve read on parenting, discipline and teaching, but it appears that there’s a clear consensus on how to deal with these sorts of situations and Coloroso does an excellent job of presenting the information.

The first useful formulation on the whole “don’t tattle” thing I’ve ever encountered:

Tattling: If it will only get another child in trouble, don’t tell me.

Telling: If it will get you or another child out of trouble, tell me.

If it is both, I need to know.

My kids aren’t of an age where this is relevant yet, but it will be and it’s good to have a succinct and cogent description of when telling is appropriate and when it’s not.

The core of Coloroso’s approach is in what she describes as three different kinds of families: The brick-wall family, the jellyfish family, and the backbone family. The brick-wall family is authoritarian in its nature providing a simplistic and harsh approach to things which effectively manages to also be a breeding ground for bullies. The jellyfish family, on the other hand is permissive and tends to have few if any rules and what rules there are may not be enforced. The backbone family is the ideal structure, authoritative rather than authoritative, with authority used as a means of supporting rather than curtailing as with the brick wall family. 

Coloroso’s most contentious assertion is that there are no innocent bystanders. By standing by and doing nothing in a bullying situation, the bystanders act as effective endorsers of the bullying behavior. As an alterative, Coloroso endorses teaching children to “will good.”


Beautiful Sentences: J. Robert Lennon

The memories this act stirred up were mostly memories of other visits to this cemetery, when her feelings had been more profound. (This is what happens, she supposes, to dramatic events: they create feelings that create other feelings, memories that give way to memories of having them. The older you get, the more life seems like a tightening spiral of nostalgia and narcissism, and the actual palpable world recedes into insignificance, replaced by a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy. The sunshine today agrees: it has rendered the town in high relief, grainy and posterized, the colors too bright. so fake it’s a new kind of real.)

J. Robert Lennon, Familiar.


Dewey Decimal Project: 364.15 In His Sights: A True Story of Love and Obsession

A while ago, one ofIn His Sights my friends experienced life with an ex-boyfriend stalking her. I actually met him at one point when he came to a church picnic with my friend. I didn’t realize at the time that his presence was not entirely desired by my friend and he came across as charming and attentive towards her. This is all to say that the experience of stalking from the outside is not necessarily obvious. As Brennan herself writes:

But here’s what all the facts and all the psychology can’t tell you: what stalking feels like. Only when you’re in the middle do you know what it’s like being trapped in the manic melody of Boléro, building and expanding, constantly repeating itself, with no apparent release to interminable crescendo.
In Brennan’s case, her stalker has a huge amount of resources at his disposal, both financial and logistical as he apparently has contacts with people who can engage in troubling behavior that he would be unwilling to undertake himself. Overall, this is a brilliant look inside the experience of being stalked, written sufficiently well as to generate true empathy in the reader.

Beautiful Sentences: Marilynne Robinson

You can hate thoughts. That‘s interesting. I hate most of my thoughts.

Marilynne Robinson, Home.


Dewey Decimal Project: 355.0213 JOH The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy and the End of the Republic

This was NewImagea fair amount of familiar rhetoric, and largely things that I agree with (although I’m more positive on trade than Johnson, or many on the far left, for that matter). Overall, though, perhaps because it was so familiar, I found it a bit wearisome of a read, not unlike listening to Pacifica Radio, which should be a fit for me and yet is not.


“Bartholomew L. Bartholomew”: The Story Behind the Story

“IImage result for headphones once held the position of Technical Lead…” this part of the story is autobiography. The rest, modulo the occasional detail that I borrowed from my years’ experience in tech, is fiction. The obvious inspiration is Melville (the short title I used for filenames and the like for the story was “Bart LB” and I had this short title before much of anything else).

So many of my employers let process and bureaucracy drive things while I found myself repeatedly having to affirm that things like “story points” have no objective meaning and exist to serve us rather than the other way around until, it would seem, that the only reasonable reaction would be to declare, “I prefer not.”

The first version of this story was workshopped at my third MFA residency with Terese Svoboda, Christina Del Rio, Tiffany Knowles, Chelsea Wait and David Weissblatt. At AWP2016, I won a manuscript critique from Slush Pile Magazine, so I gave them this and got a handful of ideas I liked and a handful I didn’t.

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Beautiful Sentences: Denis Johnson

But I was afraid to make love to her without the conversations and laughter from that false universe playing in our ears, because I didn’t want to get to know her very well, and didn’t want, to be bridging any silences with our eyes.

Denis Johnson, Jesus’ Son