Books I read in 2019

1. (MSTSBGOM) Sex and Rage: Advice to Young Ladies Eager for a Good Time – Eve Babitz
2. * (ICRTIMHC) The Great Perhaps – Joe Meno
3. (GIOG) The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins
4. (SSBWKM) A Gambler’s Anatomy – Johnathan Lethem
5. At Last – Edward St. Aubyn
6. Fludd – Hilary Mantel
7. Every Day is Mother’s Day – Hilary Mantel
8. (DALSOIH) Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn
9. The Ensemble – Aja Gabel
10. Dark Places – Gillian Flynn
11. (TDOB) Startup – Doree Shafrir (review posted)
12. * The Talented Mr. Ripley – Patricia Highsmith
13. * Then We Came to the End – Joshua Ferris
14. * The Senility of Vladimir P – Michael Honig
15. (HAW) (HAEFM) This Too Can Be Yours – Beth Lisick
16. (HAEFM) Home Land – Sam Lipsyte
17. Sharp Objects – Gillian Flynn
18. * (CL) Ronia, the Robber’s Daughter – Astrid Lindgren
19. * (SW) My Year of Rest and Relaxation – Ottessa Moshfegh
20. * (CL) The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge – M.T. Anderson and Eugene Yelchin
21. The Bean Trees – Barbara Kingsolver
22. (NF) Hillbilly Elegy – J.D. Vance
23. (HAEFM) Werewolves in Their Youth – Michael Chabon
24. (SW) The Circus of Dr. Lao – Charles G. Finney
25. (SIACSRTC) Promise Not to Tell – Jennifer McMahon
26. The Shipping News – E. Annie Proulx
27. (HAEFM) The Martian Chronicles – Ray Bradbury
28. * (YA) The Earthsea Trilogy – Ursula K. LeGuin
29. (RLL) White Oleander – Janet Fitch (review posted)
30. (RARWMF) Flashman in the Great Game – George MacDonald Fraser
31. * The Glitch – Elisabeth Cohen
32. (YA) Voices – Ursula K. LeGuin
33. (DD) Sweetness #9 – Stephan Eirik Clark
34. * The Cockroach – Ian McEwan

* = Excellent!!!! READ IT!!!!!!!!!
NF = Non-fiction
RR = re-read
YA = Young Adult
CL = Children’s Lit
DALSOIH = Deserved at least some of its hype
DD = Doo doo
GIOG = Good illustration of gaslighting
HAEFM = Has already evaporated from memory
HAW = Hasn’t aged well
ICRTIMHC = Incredibly compassionate regarding the inherently miserable human condition
MSTSBGOM = More style than substance, but grew on me
PR = Pulitzer? Really?
RARWMF = Recycled after reading, with mixed feelings
RLL = Revolting last line
SIACSRTC = Sigh; I apparently can’t stop reading trashy crime
SSBWKM = Started strong, but went kinda meh
SW = Super WEIRD!
TDOB = Tiresome, defensive, obvious, boring

Books I read in 2018

This is apparently the only type of blog post I can summon these days, so enjoy!
It might be worth noting that my vicious one-star amazon review of A Little More Human got a response from the author, who said it cracked her up. Link included for your edification.
Also note, my goal for 2019 is to read waaaay fewer books.

1. (L)The End of Alice – A.M. Homes
2. (COR) Ready Player One – Ernest Cline
3. * (SW) The Sugar Frosted Nutsack – Mark Leyner
4. (T) (YA) I Am Number Four – Pittacus Lore
5. * The Royal Physician’s Visit – Per Olov Enquist
6. * (SW) Gone with the Mind – Mark Leyner
7. * The Door – Magda Szabó
8. (SFEC) (SW) The Gone-Away World – Nick Harkaway
9. (RR) Einstein’s Monsters – Martin Amis
10. (RR) Confessions of a Teen Sleuth – Chelsea Cain
11. (RR) (GFTUL) Deliverance – James Dickey
12. * Eileen – Ottessa Moshfegh
13. * (SW) McGlue – Ottessa Moshfegh
14. * Selected Stories of Philip K. Dick
15. (L) (GFTTIL) (T) A Little More Human – Fiona Maazel
16. Beyond the Curve – Kobo Abe
17. * The Answers – Catherine Lacey
18. The King is Always Above the People – Daniel Alarcon
19. (L) (SW) The Ark Sakura – Kobo Abe
20. (SFEC) (HAW) Ghostwritten – David Mitchell
21. The Most Dangerous Place on Earth – Lindsey Lee Johnson
22. * The Kingdom of This World – Alejo Carpentier
23. * The Nix – Nathan Hill
24. (SW) The Box Man – Kobo Abe
25. (GBDIDAPN) (COR) A Visit from the Goon Squad – Jennifer Egan
26. * (SW) The Only Ones – Carola Dibbell
27. * The Imperfectionists – Tom Rachman
28. * (RR) Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim – David Sedaris
29. (MMS) (SFEC) (P) (COR) The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells – Andrew Sean Greer
30. * (YA) Trash – Andy Mulligan
31. The Children of Men – P.D. James
32. * (SW) Riddley Walker – Russell Hoban
33. The Dark Net – Benjamin Percy
34. (SFECAA) Meddling Kids – Edgar Cantero
35. * The Store of the Worlds: The Stories of Robert Sheckley
36. * (SW) Tours of the Black Clock – Steve Erickson
37. * Goodbye, Vitamin – Rachel Khong
38. * (SW) The Book of Dave – Will Self
39. The Strange Case of Rachel K – Rachel Kushner
40. I’m Thinking of Ending Things – Iain Reid
41. (P) Game Control – Lionel Shriver
42. (P) The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047 – Lionel Shriver
43. (COR) can’t and won’t – Lydia Davis
44. The Man Who Shot Out My Eye is Dead – Chanelle Benz
45. Brown Girl in the Ring – Nalo Hopkinson
46. * Thank You For Smoking – Christopher Buckley
47. They Eat Puppies, Don’t They? – Christopher Buckley
48. Flash and Filigree – Terry Southern
49. Morphine – Mikhail Bulgakov
50. The Magic Christian – Terry Southern
51. * The Master and Margarita – Mikhail Bulgakov
52. Rainbows End – Vernor Vinge
53. Never Mind – Edward St. Aubyn
54. Bad News – Edward St. Aubyn
55. Some Hope – Edward St. Aubyn
56. (RR) (GTFUL) A Talent for Loving – Richard Condon
57. * Mother’s Milk – Edward St. Aubyn
58. Lazarillo de Tormes – Anonymous
59. The Swindler – Francisco de Quevedo
60. The Largesse of the Sea Maiden – Denis Johnson
61. American Youth – Phil LaMarche
62. * Ceremony – Leslie Marmon Silko
63. Wetlands – Charlotte Roche
64. (HAW) Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea – Chelsea Handler
65. (GBLR) Elsewhere, California – Dana Johnson

* = Excellent!!!! READ IT!!!!!!!!!
NF = Non-fiction
RR = re-read
YA = Young Adult
L = Loathsome
T = Trash that I couldn’t not finish because I suffer from acute ITNFTB (Inability to Not Finish Trashy Books)
SFEC = Suffers From Excess Cutesiness
SFECAA = Suffers From Excess Cutesiness And Adverbs
HAW = Hasn’t Aged Well
GFTUL = Genre Fiction That’s Unexpectedly Literary
GFTTIL = Genre Fiction That Thinks It’s Literary
MMS = Mawkish, Maudlin, and Sentimental
COR = Criminally Over-Rated
SW = Super WEIRD!
P = Preachy
GBLR = Good, but lacked resolution
GBDIDAPN = Good, but did it deserve a PULITZER?!?!?!? …No.

Now, here’s some succulent porn for you to enjoy.

Echeveria Coccinea

Books I read in 2017

Dude. I’ve been meaning to post this since January, but lost access to Ye Blog. You can all stop holding your breath now. Here’s what I read in 2017. Starred if I especially enjoyed it.

*The Third Policeman – Flann O’Brien
The Portable Veblen – Elizabeth McKenzie
Make Room! Make Room! – Harry Harrison
*You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine – Alexandra Kleeman
Get in Trouble – Kelly Link
Magic for Beginners – Kelly Link
What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank – Nathan Englander
*Clock Without Hands – Carson McCullers
*The Orphan Master’s Son – Adam Johnson
*Parasites Like Us – Adam Johnson
*Whiskey Tango Foxtrot – David Shafer
How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia – Mohsin Hamid
*Lincoln in the Bardo – George Saunders
The Ask – Sam Lipsyte
*The Epiphany Machine – David Burr Gerrard
*Train – Pete Dexter
Bellefleur – Joyce Carol Oates
The Last Days of California – Mary Miller
Gold Fame Citrus – Claire Vaye Watkins
Bel Canto – Ann Patchett
*Slapstick – Kurt Vonnegut
*The Small Backs of Children – Lidia Yuknavitch
Private Citizens – Tony Tulathimutte
*The Mark and the Void – Paul Murray
The Bloody Chamber – Angela Carter
Tight White Collar – John L’Heureux
The Alchemist – Paolo Coelho
A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing – Eimear McBride
Guide for the Perplexed – Dara Horn

Get back to me when you’ve finished reading these and we’ll chat. In the meantime, here’s a photo of a Chinese duncecap!

duncecap photoshopped

Am I being punked?

…or just harassed?

…or maybe this lady’s just lonely, clinging to the only person who’s given her attention this month. To her, I’m just a faceless eBay seller. So WTF?

All I know for sure is that I’ve received 21 messages from this person over a $12 item, a little plant we are calling Fred.

Here’s Fred:


He has to be the most messaged-about crested graptoveria IN ALL THE LAND.

Communications from the dread mellificent started with an innocuous request for details. What size was Fred exactly? Could she get more photos?

I wanted to make the sale. I sent photos and details. And thus were the dark portals to hell opened.

Could she get a side view? Sure. Did Fred come from a plant that produced both crests and rosettes?

Note, I was already exhausted by this interaction at this point. I tolerate people pretty well, I think, but in small doses, please! Three messages from this one had maxed me out.

It kept going.

Message 4:

So cool, and beautiful!! Thanks for all the pictures, and info. About how tall is #1 (the greener, dinosaur looking one)? I cant remember if you said they are rooted or not.

I had already given her a photo with a tape measure in it for reference. Had already told her the plant was rooted. This was also in my item description. Ire flared. But I wanted to make the sale, so I responded AGAIN.

Message 5:

Yay for plant mutation!

I softened. I love plants. I tolerate plant-lovers quite well. She just wanted to talk plants! Surely she wasn’t *pure* evil.

But then, messages 6 through 11: a blur of repetition, wheel-spinning, and requests for general plant advice:

Fred would be put in a pot (no yard, just a landing overcrowded by succulents – would that be okay? Would direct morning sun, and afternoon shade be okay, or would he need more shade than sun?

I’m not sure why someone with a landing overcrowded with succulents would need to ask any further questions, but…

What size pot do you think the 5 inch one would need? What does sunburn look like?

Freds can grow solely indoors?


My dentist says I’m like a kid, because I ask so many questions!

I say she’s like an asshole, because WHO NEEDS TO ASK ANY OF THESE QUESTIONS? This was message 12:

Last question (for now) I promise: if you accept my offer, can I contact you to ask about caring for Fred after (if ) I get him?

I hope you feel the feels I was feeling. I honestly considered blocking her right then and there. But I wanted to make the sale.

I made the sale, and oh how the questions rolled in.

Will he be kept in soil until you ship him?

He isn’t very crooked is he/how crooked is he?

This is after multiple photos being sent.

The package is in Santa Clarita according to the tracking, so I might receive him tomorrow, and definitely by Friday. When Fred gets here, I imagine I put 1-2 inches of his “trunk” under the soil line, or ? Do I water him right away? If so, how much at first, and then how often and much after that? Do I keep him indoors for a few days, or put him outside 24/7 right away?

At this point I wondered which of my friends was punking me, cuz ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME RIGHT NOW?

Some messages I fantasized about sending to mellificent:

Do I wipe front to back, or ?

Do I breathe in, then out, or ?

Do I avoid your messages by offing myself with a gun, a blade, a rope, or ?

But actually what I did was stop responding. The messages kept a-rolling in.

Oh, and I think I mentioned the temp down here. The coolest it’s been, and will be for the “summer” is in the low 90’s, and it’s frequently been, and will be in the triple digits, so I don’t know if that will change your answers.


Also, what do I do with the root ball as far as planting it. I’m reading not to stick the trunk under the soil, but this: Dig holes or beds wide, not deep.
Keep the root ball intact.
Plant level with surrounding soil, spreading roots outward.
Fill around roots with native soil.

What do you suggest?



Now I just read something that said not to water for a few weeks ..totally confused.

I sent one last reply, this morning. (I fervently hope it will be my last.) I encouraged her to seek local help, gave brief advice on planting Fred, and closed with “Good luck and enjoy!”


Of course I got another message:

…there is literally dirt all over my floor, and he was very difficult to get out of the box. If you would, please let me know what to do with him now, re his root ball, and watering, etc. I’d appreciate it.

There will be no response from me, unless she dares to give me negative feedback, in which case my response will be the link to this post.

Here’s a photo of Fred’s beautiful mother!


Positive ways to deal with post-election grief, shock, and horror

If we learned one thing from the Bush years, it’s that incessant fantasizing about the gory death of the monster in the White House (or in this case, the monster-elect) does little to mitigate said monster’s impact on the world. Here are a few suggestions for more productive avenues for our energy.

  • Give money to any of the many causes that are certain to be harmed by the monster-elect. This would include anyone not white, male, and immorally wealthy.
  • It’s a great time to get out into nature. First because nature is a kick-ass stress-reliever. Second because we will not have it for much longer.
  • If you have a kid, enroll them in some kind of apocalyptic survival camp.
  • In the fine tradition of the Reagan years: start a punk band.
  • Writer friends: Keep writing! Scathing political satire seems appropriate, but if you prefer escapist fluff, that’s good too. Market outlook for escapist fluff appears strong for at least the next four years.

For no good reason on this Election Day, here’s something I dreamed in 1998.

A co-worker and I look out our office window onto a huge plowed field of eucalyptus trees. “It’s the next big thing in crops,” she assures me. She’s right–the trees are humongous.

We go down into the field to see the trees. “While we’re here, we may as well leave flowers,” she says, and I see we are at Kurt Cobain’s grave.

When I place my hastily assembled bouquet on the grave, I hear him snoring. Brushing away a little soil, I uncover Kurt himself: naked, dirty and skeletal, but oddly refreshed and ready to return to the music business. “What’s Courtney up to?” he asks.

I can’t let him go back to her, though, so I dye his hair and eyebrows black and convince him to pose as my new boyfriend.


The beautiful freedom of relinquishing power, or, How I learned to love #OwnVoices

I watched the most repugnant video on the YouTube last week. Correction: I watched part of it, threw up in my mouth, and then read the transcript. Not gonna link to it, not gonna give the woman’s name. I don’t want her to get any more views on that piece of racist crap. She’s a white author of paranormal romance who’s having tantrums over the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement. I had to stop watching when she instructed her viewers to stop calling for diversity in books, to stop criticizing authors for writing books with all-white casts of characters.

THEN I had to stop and admit to myself how annoying I find it to be a white author caught between, on one hand, the push for diverse characters in books, and on the other hand, the #OwnVoices movement, which can be interpreted to say: If you’re a white author, you shouldn’t write from a non-white perspective. Those stories don’t belong to you, you’re not entitled to make money off them, and you’re doomed to get them wrong.

I need to stop pretending that this isn’t annoying. It is. It’s super annoying. It’s annoying that more and more agents and editors are looking for writers who aren’t me. It’s annoying that there is an increasingly large readership who will criticize my books if I write from a white perspective AND if I write from a non-white perspective.

It’s kind of an annoying time to be white.

It’s also kind of a deadly time to be black or brown, and has been for the entirety of our nation’s history.



…is what I want to say to everyone complaining about #OwnVoices and #WeNeedDiverseBooks. Including myself.


Seriously. If an agent doesn’t want to see your query because you’re white? THAT’S NOT OPPRESSION.

I bet you got an excellent education, probably free, at a school that was well-funded, clean, and not gang-controlled. You never worried about getting jumped on your way to school, you did not suffer crippling PTSD as a result of seeing relatives and friends gunned down in front of you, your family didn’t require you to work or provide childcare, and it was taken for granted that you’d go to college. You did in fact go to college, where you had the luxury of studying literature and creative writing, then got a great job with healthcare and benefits that allowed you the free time to write your awesome novel.

If you then experience some challenges in getting that sucker published because there’s all these agents who’d suddenly prefer to represent people of color, see above on shutting the fuck up you whining diaper baby you are not being oppressed.


Back to the repugnantly vlogging writer of paranormal romance: I have to wonder if she’s ever actually been criticized for writing books with all-white characters. Her work doesn’t even pretend to have social relevance or literary value. Does anyone give a shit if some escapist fluff is filled with white people? I don’t. I bet she’s never disappointed a single reader for not putting people of color in her books. Honey, there was no need for you to join that conversation. It was none of your concern.

I mean, we all know why she joined the conversation. For the views. All of a sudden, people know who she is, they’re watching her vlog, they’re hitting her blog, her name is known to people she never would’ve reached otherwise, all for saying We’ve never had diversity before in the history of humans, so stop this right now, it’s annoying me.


Let’s be honest, the prospect of giving up some privilege and representation and power is frightening. It’s disingenuous to pretend the publishing world isn’t competitive. The more emphasis is placed on #OwnVoices, the harder white authors will find it to get published. There’s a finite readership and a finite number of dollars available and it looks like more and more of those dollars might end up in the hands of people of color. If you’re white, this can feel threatening. Get over it. Breathe. Accept it. EMBRACE IT.

I’m sick of people like Ms. Repugnant Vlogger whose message boils down to I’m fine with whatever you people of color want to try to achieve, as long as it doesn’t threaten my position of white privilege and power.

The balance of power in this country has shifted some in my short lifetime, and I look forward to more change. More people of color in positions of power, more diverse voices being heard and published and getting paid for it. And yes I do believe that should happen at the expense of white people. We have to be prepared to give up the privileged position we’ve held for centuries. Accept it. Embrace it. IT’S GONNA BE AWESOME.

Repugnant Vloggers of the world, go ahead and have your tantrums if you need to, but don’t pretend that #OwnVoices or #WeNeedDiverseBooks are censoring you. Looks to me like they gave you an outlet for your hate and a shit-ton of blog hits.

Now let’s look at a photo of some flowers!


I love putting naked ladies in my blog.



Emotional Manipulation of the Pet Chicken

You raised her. You’ve given her the tastiest treats she’s ever known. You’ve cuddled her. She’s six months old. She’s starting to lay eggs. LAY EGGS. She’s emotionally needy. She wants to fly up on your arm and have you pet her feathers. She wants you to cradle her under your arm, casually, as you survey the yard. You’ll idly stroke her under the beak, along the wattle. She’ll make little sounds.

You provide them with a lush dense garden and they make a royal Wallow out of it. They go all Serengeti and shit. All tender green growing things disrespected. Everything pecked and tasted and/or scratched up.

Running (“pell-mell”) across the yard with her head down, looking like a serious little quarterbacker.
Ferociously wagging her tail because a bug is itching her bum.
Fighting over a slug. Tigra steals it from Bunny and Bunny back again and so forth nine or ten times in five seconds.
Falling asleep in your lap.
Falling asleep on the fence.
Reaching down down with her long stretchy neck between her legs to snag her brand new egg with her beak and move it up to her warm warm breast feathers.
Buk Gahk!
Being shy when there’s guests around, and hiding in the quince thicket.

You are gentle and all-powerful.
You are her rooster, approaching from above.
She hunkers down in her breeding posture when you advance.
You’re the bringer of treats.
You make her come to you. You never chase. She knows the treat-whistle.

You eat her would-be offspring, except when she does.



The true meaning of irony

One day while teaching a lesson on irony to ninth graders, I told this story:

“OK so, this past weekend I threw a party at my house. The main bathroom has a faulty doorknob that no longer turns, so we secured it in the unlatched position. There’s a deadlock on the door too, so you can still lock the door. But just to make sure guests knew the deal, I wrote a note: Please use the deadbolt to lock the door since the doorknob is broken. You are not trapped – just give the door a firm push to get out.

“I stuck this on the bathroom door, confident I had solved the problem. But midway through the party some guy came up to me and was all like ‘I broke your bathroom door!’ and I was all like ‘No man it was already broken’ and he was all like ‘NO, I broke your door.’ So I went with him to look at the bathroom door, which was indeed freshly broken–the doorframe was busted off the wall. He had seen my note, pushed firmly–very firmly–and broke the door open. And none of it would have happened if I hadn’t written that note to prevent it from happening. THAT’S irony!”

I crested to the top of a pure  wave of triumph. Damn, did I ever know how to teach a concept! “Any questions?” Hands shot up. “Ronaldo?”

“Ms. Gruner, was there alcohol at this party?”


*Personal definition of irony revised.*

How to harvest honey from a top-bar hive

  1. Shut the chickens in the coop. You know it’s a good idea. Those bitches will be all up in your ankle space if you don’t.
  2. Consider the husband’s advice re: wearing the goddamn beekeeping suit. Reject it. Reconsider after he points out that you missed a day and a half from work after getting stung on the nose. Settle for putting on just the goddamn headdress.
  3. Light the smoker. Wait for flames to die down. Re-light the smoker. Puff smoke around the hive entrance. Lose interest in the smoker. It’s not like it ever stopped you from getting stung.
  4. Open your hive. Examine the combs. Give heavy-ass slabs of honey-rich wax to the husband for processing.
  5. Coo at your bees. Look for the queen. You will not find the queen.
  6. Tell the chickens to shut up, it’s only a few more minutes.
  7. Take off the goddamn headdress and toss it on the woodpile. It’s cramping your style.
  8. Rearrange the top bars, interspersing empty bars with full to increase a feeling of spaciousness in the hive and encourage the building of fresh comb.
  9. Make kissy noises at your bees and close up the hive.
  10. Crush the combs in a sieve and strain the honey into jars. Spend twenty minutes licking your hands. Gloat.