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A Spool of Blue Thread, by Anne Tyler, read for library book group.

Anne Tyler is good at telling family stories. She'll be telling you the story from one person's point of view, and it all makes sense, and then she takes a step to the left, and maybe it's just a new perspective or maybe there is an enormous thing right there, that the previous perspective overlooked, but everything looks different from here. Not that anyone was lying. It makes sense that the thing that looks so big from here seemed insignificant from over there. Everybody's story makes sense, but they each make a different sense.

Tyler also likes telling stories in which there are two kinds of people in the world. In this world, they are the people who set their heart on one thing and never give up, even if it turns out to be a disappointment, and the people who can never settle to any one thing. It's a lot of work to be in relationship with people who are so fundamentally different. Even when everyone is trying to be kind, and fair, and honest, it's a lot of work.

One member of my book group said it was an Oprah's Book Club-type book, which I guess is true; it provides an easy path to talk about questions like, how do you feel about forgiveness? Or, what do you do with an important truth that you know is going to hurt?
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This book is a delight. An anti-hero with a metal arm. A shapeshifting sidekick. Bad government. Weird science. Best friends turned nemeses, who still love each other. Loyalty. Betrayal. Wildly out-of-proportion revenge. In a cheerful, goofy[*] style that I grew to like.

[*]seriously, why does the shark have boobs?
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A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life by Brian Grazer

Brian Grazer seems like an interesting (though annoying) person, but this is a very boring book. He says he's a storyteller, and maybe in person he is, but the book is mostly name-dropping and trivia. Even the rhythm of the writing is monotonous. He is very fond of making a general assertion, followed by a list of examples, but not in a way that makes an argument: it's just assertion, assertion, assertion.
You have to learn to beat the "no".

Everybody in Hollywood has to beat the "no"—and if you write code in Silicon Valley, or if you design cars in Detroit, if you manage hedge funds in Lower Manhattan, you also have to learn to beat the "no".

Not every paragraph consists of one sentence. Many of them have two. Many of them have three.
Human connection requires sincerity. It requires compassion. It requires trust.

Can you really have sincerity, or compassion, or trust, without curiosity?

I don't think so. I think when you stop to consider it—when you look at your own experiences at work and at home—what's so clear is that authentic human connection requires curiosity.

To be a good boss, you have to be curious about the people who work for you. And to be a good colleague, a good romantic partner, a good parent, you have to be curious as well.

It's not that I disagree with Grazer that human connection requires sincerity. But I don't read books for assertions that I agree with mixed with name-dropping, trivia, and begging the question.
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Serenity Rose, Vol. 1: Working Through the Negativity, as told to Aaron A

This comic book hits the creepy/cute note that a lot of young teens and preteens love perfectly. The art is dark and crowded, but different styles of lettering and speech balloons make it possible to keep track of who is saying what. Variations in format keep adding bits of story from different perspectives: a newspaper article, a school essay, advertisements, Serenity's memories, and fantasies, and comics, and voiceovers from The Narrator. I usually love texts with a Narrator, but this one sneers so much at almost every character that I do not care for him.
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Zombie Spaceship Wasteland, by Patton Oswalt

Patton Oswalt is weird, smart, and funny, and so is this book. It fits oddly in Biography, where my library classifies it, but my favorite pieces are the more memoirish ones. Patton Oswalt is really good at putting into words the way he perceived the world as a child.

There is a lot of gross-out humor, which I suppose is useful to a standup comedian: you want to have some kind of effect on your audience, and this is a reliable way to get some. I throw up easily, always have, so I work hard at not letting my imagination go to work on disgusting imagery. Pines are good. Snow. Rocks. If you'd like to skip the gross-out parts, skip "Punch-Up Notes" and "Those Old Hobo Songs, They Still Speak to Us", and maybe also "Chamomile Kitten Greeting Cards".

A sample: There's a chapter of Oswalt wallowing in contempt for himself and everyone around him which ends "…and thought about how much I suddenly missed my grandma Runfola."
The next chapter is titled "Mary C. Runfola Explains Her Gifts" and it begins
EIGHTH BIRTHDAY
A picture of Chuck Yeager signed to someone named "Jimmy"
Grandma Runfola: Well I know how much you liked that Space Battles movie. And I thought--yes, all right, dear, yes, Star Wars. So anyway, I was at this rummage sale and they had a table--well, one man there had a table, and I don't think he was with the rummage sale people because he had his table set up a little bit off to the side. Well, he had two tables. One table was all these photographs of celebrities. And the other table had a large beach towel over it. And I couldn't see what was under the beach towel but I was standing there looking at the different pictures and every now and then a young man would come up to the man selling pictures. And all of these young men either had these really close crew cuts or blond hair and they looked like if a punch in the face could get up and walk around and wear clothing. And the man selling pictures would let them lift the towel and it looked like all these knives and Nazi stuff. And the punch-in-the-face men would buy a knife or a patch. Maybe they were actors buying props for a stage show.
Oh, but anyway, Chuck Yeager. Well, you liked Sp--yes, dear, Star Wars. Well you liked that movie so much and did you know Chuck Yeager was kind of a space pilot, like that Han Solo fellow? Oh, yes, I know Han Solo, your grandmother didn't just fall off the pickle truck. Han Solo and Mr. Spock and Robbie the Robot and everyone. Well, the signature meant that Chuck Yeager actually held this photo, which makes it even more valuable.

If you like his sense of humor, which I mostly do, you will enjoy this book. If you don't know it, I don't think this is the place to start.

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