Books and breakfast

Cranky Old Fart

A few weeks ago, someone asked about the books on my shelf. My apologies for taking so long to put together this list. No excuse at all. I kept meaning to do it, and kept not doing it, but here it is.

Once, there were hundreds of books on my shelves, but many years ago I went on a book diet. Most books are a disappointment; they meander, they get boring, I fall asleep and never wake up. When I find that rare book that's worth reading, it's the beginning of a beautiful friendship — that book goes onto my very small bookshelf, to be re-read in a cycle that won't end until I die.

These are the few books on my eternal re-read shelf. 

(And I never noticed until prepping this list that most of them are science fiction books, but that makes sense. Earth in the 21st Century is a gruesome, awful place, and I like escaping it.)

• The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins
• About Time, by Jack Finney (sci-fi short stories)
The Body Snatchers, by Jack Finney (sci-fi)
• The Body Snatchers, by Jack Finney (I have two copies)
Time and Again, by Jack Finney (sci-fi)
• The Man Who Folded Himself, by David Gerrold (sci-fi)
• The Lathe of Heaven, by Ursula K LeGuin (sci-fi)
• To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
• Elmer Gantry, by Sinclair Lewis
• Neutron Gun, mostly by Gerry Reith (short stories)
When You Reach Me, by Rebecca Stead (a kids' book, but sci-fi)
• Roadside Picnic, by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky (sci-fi)
• The Death Ship, by B Traven
• Treasure of the Sierra Madre, by B Traven
Stoner, by John Williams

At breakfast with my mom and sister on Saturday, Mom was well behaved for about an hour, but she drove me crazy twice, for about five minutes each time. Both of the crazy spurts were Mom reruns, though, so I'll keep this brief.

When my non-quite Uncle Kyle died, I grieved privately, cuz that's what I do. Mom gave me grief about my grieving, because she wanted me to go to his memorial service. Fuck that. I don't attend funerals, cremations, or memorial services, and I've told this to my family, many times.

Now someone else I used to know has died, and in a grand double whammy of fate, it's Uncle Kyle's son. Mom wants me to go to his memorial service, but again I ain't going, and I ain't going no matter how many people in that family die.

"I don't go to funerals," again I said. "I've explained that to you already, Mom, several times, and that's enough. No means no, and drop it means drop it." She didn't drop it, so I ignored her and talked to my sister for several minutes, until Mom dropped it.

We talked about other things for what felt like thirty seconds, and then Mom pointed at my face and asked when I'm going to get my teeth fixed.

She brings up my teeth every couple of months or so, so my response is mostly memorized. I sighed as loudly and dramatically as I could, and explained the concept of good manners to the woman who taught me good manners. "It is rude," I said, "and you know it's rude, to comment on someone's physical deformities."

"It's not a deformity," she said, shaking her head. "You can easily get your teeth fixed."

"My teeth are none of your business, unless you're paying the dentist."

"It's my business because I love you," she said.

I said nothing, and she flashed her big Mom smile, a grin so huge it seems bigger than her face, and I hated her. Yeah, sometimes I do hate her. Temporarily, at least.

If I had a speech impediment, would she tell me over and over to get speech therapy? If I had a big scar across my forehead, would she keep telling me to get plastic surgery? I have shitty teeth, and also I have a mirror, so I know that I have shitty teeth. I don't have thousands of dollars to get my teeth deshittified, and if I did have thousands of dollars that's not what I'd spend it on.

Rinse, lather, repeat. I've said all this to Mom before, and said most of it again at breakfast on Saturday, and again she smiled hugely at me, and then the rest of our breakfast was fine.

Mostly paperless: Hitchhiker's magazine finally ends print run 

One-word newscast, because it's the same news every time…

Climate change isn't 'coming', it's underway. It'll kill billions, and we're not doing squat about it.

All cops are bastards, or they know who the bastard cops are and do nothing about it, which is the same thing.

Republicans are the enemy of common sense, common decency, simple truth, and democracy.

State of Scott

♦ ♦ ♦  

A great Spock moment, and he wasn't even there. 

♦ ♦ ♦

The End

oɯᴉɹꓒ lⱯ
Jerzy Urban



Cranky Old Fart is annoyed and complains and very occasionally offers a kindness, along with anything off the internet that's made me smile or snarl. All opinions fresh from my ass. Top illustration by Jeff Meyer. Click any image to enlarge. Comments & conversations invited.  

Tip 'o the hat to Linden Arden, ye olde AVA, BoingBoing, Breakfast at Ralf's, Captain Hampockets, CaptCreate's Log, John the Basket, LiarTownUSA, Meme City, National Zero, Ran Prieur, Voenix Rising, and anyone else whose work I've stolen without saying thanks. 

Extra special thanks to Becky Jo, Name Withheld, Dave S, Wynn Bruce, and always Stephanie...


  1. I liked The Death Ship so much I once wrote a book report or review about it. Yeah, I agree about funerals but I did go to my good friend's one about 6 years ago, so there are exceptions...okay take care...Paul M

    1. I'll consider attending a memorial service when it's held in an all-you-can-eat restaurant and someone else is paying.

      That's mostly a joke, though. I probably still wouldn't be there. If I gotta cry, I want to cry alone.

    2. I'm not wild about memorial services, but I've been to a few. I've always been under the impression that they exist to comfort the people who stay above ground for now. I said a few words at a memorial service for a friend who had done a little time in the Big House, but had always been a straight shooter with me. His son chased me down in the parking lot as I was fleeing, and thanked me for finding the good stuff about his dad. I thought the good stuff was prima facie.


    3. Truthing nice things about a man whose truth was otherwise not so nice. That's sweet. I'd chase you down to say thanks too.

      Except I wouldn't be there. The support I need from others when I'm grieving, I can get by email.

      Last memorial I went to, the pastor lied about the deceased, to make the family feel better. Justified? Maybe. The deceased was dead so what's it matter.

      I just figure there's enough bullshit in life. I don't need another heaping helping of it in death.

    4. I've been to a half dozen memorial services in the last 20 years, and exactly one of them had a pastor/minister. Secular memorial services are pretty common these days. The one with the minister was my Dad's, and he was only there because they were buddies. My sister and I took over the show and ran most of it ourselves.

      I had a couple of smokes with the minister afterward. Nice guy.


    5. Always a preacher in my family. They'd say it's a fake memorial if there's no preacher.

    6. They'd be full of shit. They can make the rules for their own memorial services, but not for mine or anybody else's. Secular, non-religious memorial services are becoming more and more common. Most cemeteries have a large room or two for memorial services, and since they must accommodate many religious denominations as well as many non-religious "customers", the fetishes associated with any particular religion are minimized and portable in these rooms. There are also adjacent facilities for serving a snack or a meal after the "formal" memory-sharing part of the celebration.

      It's pretty obviously a "fake" memorial WITH a preacher, but I never tell anybody that because we are all entitled to our opinions on these matters: the closed-minded as well as the open-minded.


    7. Exactly and of course, the ceremonies are full of shit, as are the religions, and most of the believers. The memorial is for the full of shit mourners. I'm a mourner too, when a loved one dies, and I'm as full of shit as any of them, but it's a secular shit.

      Nobody's death obligates me to go stand among the other mourners, though. That's a flavor if shit I don't care for.

  2. Thanks for the book list! "To Kill a Mockingbird" I've recently read too, but in German ("Wer die Nachtigall stört"). At the moment I am reading Scythe by Neal Shusterman which I really like; started yesterday and I'm almost through with the book, I think there are four other books in the series however.

    I will definetly look at your books then, and maybe read one or two, thanks again :)

    1. I googled Scythe, and got this:

      Two teens must learn the "art of killing" in this Printz Honor-winning book, the first in a chilling new series from Neal Shusterman, author of the New York Times best-selling Unwind Dystology series.

      A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery: Humanity has conquered all those things and has even conquered death. Now Scythes are the only ones who can end life - and they are commanded to do so in order to keep the size of the population under control.

      It actually sounds intriguing, but it sounds two-hour intriguing, not all day and maybe tomorrow intriguing, so I'll wait for the movie.

    2. The books I love most were made into lousy movies that had little to do with what I liked most about the books. If you can read a book in two hours, you might be able to make a two hour movie of it, but I'm a slow reader and only an average watcher. See also: Catch-22.


    3. I found Catch-22 the novel unreadable, and the movie unwatchable, but I know what the title means and that plus Cliff Notes got me through a book report.

    4. I find that interesting. After reading your writing for months it's clear you're a creative, competent thinker, and that you have a sense of humor that's up my alley -- but sometimes it's just a matter of taste. I dug Catch-22 when I was 18, when I was 40, and when I was 60. It's almost time to read it again. Sometimes compatible people have complementary tastes. T. S. Eliot.


      You'll see Catch-22 on my bookshelf list when I submit it.

    5. "It actually sounds intriguing, but it sounds two-hour intriguing, not all day and maybe tomorrow intriguing"

      I wish I had your foresight. It was good at first but after the whole concept and setting was established it wasn't that exciting anymore. But two thirds of it were nice nonetheless, so I'll at least read the second part too.

      I was mistaken, and the book only has three parts instead of five, wanted to correct that.

    6. I could try Catch-22 again, I suppose. It's been a long time.

    7. I don't know. In its time, it was a non-traditional way to laugh at the people who made war. I'm not sure it would cause a ripple were it released today. I'm so familiar with it that I don't get lost in the jump-cuts, but if I read it for the first time now I might. I didn't mean to imply that it required a special kind of intellect to follow. It doesn't. Books and music and even movies hit you where you are when you experience them. There's good and bad of course, but no absolute criteria for categorizing the eccentric stuff.


    8. If they're done right, usually I don't mind movies that abandon traditional notions of narrative, reality, timelines, or plot. Books, though, I lack the IQ and patience to read books that do that.

      My wife loved that shit, though.

    9. Yeah, I'm not entirely convinced that Heller entirely abandoned the traditional narrative temporal structure. Some things aged normally: the number of missions required for a leave kept going up, Yossarian kept getting crazier (or saner) and poets continued to be underpaid, except, apparently, T. S. Eliot. Everything else was distorted by war.

      OK, I'm done with Catch-22. Hell, 80% of my own list is non-fiction. I should be selling one of those. I'll do that next.


    10. The movie is on my watchlist and D-drive, so soon I'll have something more to say...

    11. The movie is pretty bad. I would have walked out, but I wanted to get my three bucks worth. I stayed, but I didn't get my three bucks worth.


    12. Even the actor Art Garfunkel appeared briefly, and became so confused that he left shortly after wrap to walk across Japan. He didn't speak Japanese, but it still made more sense to him than the movie.


    13. Can it be as bad as everyone says? I'm curious to find out. Alan Arkin stars and I love him...

    14. The book is definitely better, in every way, though I found it un-re-readable a few years ago... I read in in grade school and then in my 20s, loved it both times... but now just feels like leftover Kafka meets Terry Southern.

      Mike Nichols two great films for me are The Graduate and Carnal Knowledge. Nothing else comes close, though Silkwood and Wolf have their moments. But then I think his ex-partner Elaine May was better writer and director. A New Leaf is one of the best comedies of the 70s, and Ishtar is ridiculously wrongly maligned by the idiot groupthink media.

    15. I'm trying to get out of this discussion, but not successfully. I'd just like to point out that we keep saying that the movie has little to do with the book: it's a book that can't be made into a movie, then comparing them.

      Also, I can't imagine reading Catch-22 in grade school. You must have attended one of those progressive primary schools where the music teachers were trained by Malvina Reynolds and David Mamet directs the Spring Play. I'm not being critical: I'm jealous.



    16. Response to Doug from a few comments ago:

      >Can it be as bad as everyone says? I'm curious to find out. Alan Arkin stars and I love him...

      It's a pretty good movie. It just has little to do with the book. If you think highly of the book as I do, then you might resent the movie, but as a piece of art the movie is just fine. It does, in fact, share some themes and scenes with the book, but is built entirely differently. Were it the book on celluloid, it would be 10 hours long and make even less sense than it does in 2 hours.


    17. Agreed about Ishtar and The Graduate. Kinda liked A New Leaf but I wish May had written her character smarter.

      If I've ever seen Carnal Knowledge I've completely forgotten it.

    18. It was junior high school, I think, or maybe high school. They didn't usually assign books, but instead gave students a choice off a fairly short list of 'approved' books. I think I picked Catch 22 because I'd heard it was good, but if it is -- must be, everyone says so -- it was way over my head or I was too young for it.

      Maybe the movie will work better for me, since I didn't love the book, or finish reading it, and remember almost nothing about it.

      The guy had a long name, that's about it. That, and it's a heck of a catch, that catch 22.

  3. Of your book list, I have only read five, and they are all Capital-letters Great Books. The Death Ship, Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Elmer Gantry, The God Delusion, and To Kill a Mockingbird. Maybe I should read the others.

    1. The God Delusion is the only non-fiction on my re-read shelf, and it's always a joy. Every argument for 'God' gets dismantled efficiently and eloquently.


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