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Let’s talk about the writer’s reliance on hyperbole. We never stray into that terrain ourselves, of course. There’s nothing but honest straight-talk going on here in this newsletter—yes, indeed. But writers like to punch things up a bit so as to present stories in a more . . . well, ridiculous isn’t quite the right word. Many writers will tell you that they’ve had to actually tone things down a bit so as to not strain a reader’s disbelief, and so, let’s call this tendency to hyperbole merely the writer shading things so as to draw attention to a facet of their narrative. 

A case in point is Alexander McCall Smith’s My Italian Bulldozer. A stand-alone novel from the best-selling author of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, My Italian Bulldozer is the story of a beleaguered Scottish food writer who takes a vacation in Tuscany and is stranded with a bulldozer as his only means of transportation. Naturally, the writer learns that life is meant to be lived at—shall we say?—a more stately pace. 

And speaking of vacationing in Italy, Donna Leon is back with Earthly Remains, the twenty-sixth novel in her series starting Commissario Guido Brunetti. The good Commissario needs a vacation, and he ensconces himself at a villa on an island not far from Venice, where he intends to spend his days rowing and his nights reading Pliny. Yes, that sort of delightfully lethargic vacation. Naturally, someone goes missing and Brunetti finds himself getting drawn into the investigation. 

One of the more striking looking books that showed up this week was Tom Merritt’s Pilot X. Pilot X, you see, is a time traveler, and he is charged with not screwing everything up and destroying all of reality (except for himself, because someone has to be around to turn out the lights, right?). He’s got to deal with the Sensaurians, a hive mind that exists sorta all throughout time, and the Progons, a machine race who has got the whole backwards looking thing down. It’s really not as paradoxically complicated as it sounds. Really. But it’ll warm your brain nicely. 

And speaking of warming ourselves nicely, we added Miyoko Schinner’s The Homemade Vegan Pantry to our shelves this week. Schinner is here to help us figure out how to stock our pantries and refrigerators with those staples that can sometimes be tough to source at your local grocery store. Eggless mayonanaise! Vegan fish sauce! Non-dairy yogurt! Cheese without cheese! Look, Schinner is showing us that we can have all those flavors and foods we think are an indelible part of our existence (or, at least, the foods we grew up with), but really, what she’s getting at is that we can eat in a way that minimizes our impact on the natural world around us. So, win. And healthy!

And speaking of spreading a thick layer of kindness all over the world, Anne Lamont returns this week with Hallelujah Anyway, an earnest and heart-bursting exploration of an aspect of our lives that continues to remain undeveloped. Mercy, as Lamont sets out to explore, is something all around us, and by forging a deeper understanding of what mercy truly is (both for others and ourselves, naturally), we can create more honest connections between us and them. Or, me and you. Or you and the world. Or me, you, the world, and what lies beyond. 

And speaking of what lies beyond, one of our favorite New Gothic writers, Cherie Priest is back this week with Brimstone, a story set in a Florida Spiritualist community in the 1920. A young medium and clairvoyant is drawn into the life of a widowed war veteran who is haunted by fire, and like all Cherie Priest novels, the truth is far stranger than you can imagine . . . 

And speaking of strange truths, Cody Cassidy and Paul Doherty are here to tell us what really happens when you get swallowed by a whale, shot out of a cannon, or go barreling over Niagara Falls. The book is called And Then You’re Dead, which might seem like a serious spoiler, but how you die is where these two come in--if you’re the sort who wants to know the gruesome details, that is. 

That’s a terrible way to end the newsletter, isn’t it? Let’s swing back around and pick up All Thee Wonders, a collection of honest tales from The Moth, which is a ongoing storytelling phenomenon. The Moth started as a sort of a back porch storytelling experience, and then it took off as a podcast and public radio show. All These Wonders collects a number of true stories from individuals who faced the unknown. They share with us what they learned about themselves in that experience.

Marvelous stuff, storytelling. Even when a little hyperbole sneaks in . . .  



Overheard in the Woods . . . 

GLOM-GLOM: Glom glom glom glom-glom-glom.

COLBY: I know. I know. It’s a sad state of affairs in this refrigerator. And the pantry isn’t much better. We’ll have to go out and eat. 

GLOM-GLOM: Glom glom.

COLBY: I know. You eat out all the time. And we drank all the beer last night so . . . 

BOB: Hey, what’s going on?

COLBY: Oh, good morning, sleepy-eyed beardy man. Glom-Glom and I were just discussing the sad state of affairs in your refrigerator. There’s, ah, well, there’s no nice way to put this, but we’re not cannibals, so . . . 

BOB: You also weren’t invited, so it’s a bit rude to put that on me, don’t you think? 

COLBY: You lead a very lonely life, beardy man, if you don’t have staples in your pantry for all sorts of guests.

BOB: This is my cabin in the woods. It’s supposed to be lonely. No, wait, solitary. It’s supposed to be solitary. Peaceful. Restful. 

COLBY: I hear ya, beardy man. But—

BOB: Your moose friend there came into my room last night. He stood at the foot of my bed and stared at me. 

COLBY: Well, maybe he’s never seen a beardy man sleep before. 

BOB: He was there for an hour. 

COLBY: Oh. Really? An hour? 

GLOM-GLOM: Glom. Glom glom glom. 

BOB: What did he say?

COLBY: He says it took a while for the novelty to wear off. 

BOB: Are you two going to be staying very long? 

COLBY: Through the weekend. 

BOB: Oh, just the weekend. 

GLOM-GLOM: Glom. 

COLBY: Maybe next week too. 

GLOM-GLOM: Glom glom. 

COLBY: It depends on whether you get more beer. 

BOB: I’m not sure there is enough beer to world to manage having a marmot and moose as house guests for a week. 

COLBY: Oh, you’d rather be up here by yourself, sulking? 

BOB: I’m not sulking. 

COLBY: Fine, being all "solitary." Whatever you want to call it. 

BOB: I’m reflecting on . . . things. 

COLBY: Uh huh. You know what we call staring at your reflection in the mirror for long periods of time?

BOB: No, what? 

GLOM-GLOM: Glom. 

COLBY: Exactly. Don’t be that guy, beardy man. 

BOB: What guy? 

COLBY: A narcissist. All that navel-gazing is bad for you. You need to spend time with other people. 

BOB: You two don’t qualify as people. 

GLOM-GLOM: glom

COLBY: Oh, now you’re just being mean. Look, you’ve hurt his feelings. 

GLOM-GLOM: glom glom glom?

COLBY: No, you don’t have to go. He didn’t mean that. 

BOB: Oh, don’t—don’t do that. 

COLBY: It’s okay. Just let him out. Yeah. Just open the door. He’ll—don’t go far, Glom-Glom. He’ll be getting more beer soon. 

BOB: I wasn’t . . . 

COLBY: I can’t believe you made the moose sad. 



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