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Books I Read in 2020

2020 wasn’t the year where I got caught up on all my reading. As promising as a year in lockdown seemed for my reading habits, I didn’t manage to pull off any incredible feats of readership.

Books I read:

SA Corey – Caliban’s War
SA Corey – Abaddon’s Gate
Harper – The Dry
Sheen – Life is Worth Living (volumes 1, 2, 3, 4)
Sheen – Treasure in Clay
Sheen – Communism and the Conscience of the West
Gibson – Neuromancer
Gibson – Count Zero
Gibson – Mona Lisa Overdrive
Frissen + Jodorowsky – Sans Nom, Le Techno Baron
Gibson + Christmas – Alien 3
Capote – In Cold Blood
Achiman – Call Me By Your Name
Swarup – Q & A
Alder-Olsen – The Keeper of Lost Causes
Alder-Olsen – The Absent One
Oster – Crib Sheet
Malerman – Bird Box
Cummings – A Saint of Our Own
Various Authors – Ireland and Masculinities in History
O’Toole – The Faithful
Puzo – The Family
Beynon – Masculinities and Culture
Nyman – Men Alone
Gerstner – Manly Arts
Spillane – Kiss Me Deadly
Burroughs – Tarzan of the Apes
Druon – The Irong King
Druon – The Strangled Queen
Druon – The Poisoned Crown
Druon – The Royal Succession
Druon – The She Wolf
Druon – The Lily and the Lion
Matusow – Joseph R McCarthy
Greely – The Church and the Suburbs
Sherwood – The Rhetorical Leadership of Fulton J. Sheen, Norman Vincent Peale, and Billy Graham in the Age of Extremes
Hudnut-Beumer – Looking for God in the Suburbs
Murakami – Colourless Tsukuru and His Years of Pilgrimage

I also read the complete issue of Andromeda Spaceways Magazine #77 where one of my stories (The World’s a Junkheap and We’re All Visitors Here) appeared and Shotgun Honey’s Recoil (where my story “Detour” was featured).

Some highlights and lowlights and thoughts:

Maurice Druon’s Accrused Kings series is still one of my favourites. I had read the first three a few years ago and then re-read those and the next three. Written much like the Godfather but with Medieval French kings. If only the 7th book which I am currently reading were as good as the others…

Tarzan of The Apes was remarkable trash. Very readable, but almost a wonder that it became as famous as it did. I suppose it has a lot of the conventions of pulp of the day (overly breeze prose, he-man male protagonists, waify women, “evil blacks”, etc.). All the accusations of racism against it are pretty much well founded – and not just a “things were different back then” kind of way. I understand why Spike Lee badmouthed it in Blackkklansman.

Reading Mickey Spillane in the context of the global rise of fascism makes his books remarkably darker than they were intended. While Mike Hammer is your usual tough-guy, smash things first kind of detective, the casual disdain for organized society, the failures of legitimate police work, and the need for he-men to solve problems in his world has some eerie parallels to contemporary neo-fascist discourses. I suppose Spillane was mostly your usual right-wing crime author of his day, but his characterizations of people and society are likely viewed with rosy red classes by neo-cons today. Not that I think Mike Hammer needs to be saved from such views – I suspect the character would have invited them.

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Publications Feb 2021 and On

2021, much like 2020, has somehow managed to be both a slow year and the quickest in recent memory.

Still, over the past few months, a few publications were accepted.

A revised version of my first thesis chapter, titled “A Modern Saint in the Making: Auto-Hagiography and The Autobiography of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, Treasure in Clay” was accepted by McGill’s graduate journal ARC and I believe it will be appearing shortly.

I also received some good news this morning: my lightly speculative / mildly magical realist story “Brian Bumps His Head” will be appearing in Litro in May.

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I’ve Started Having Dreams About Facemasks

There was a knock at my door. I rushed from my home office to answer it.

But wait! I need to put on a mask before answering. It’s the right thing to do.

So I scavenge around our living room and the little box we keep by the door.

No masks.

Shit. More knocking at the door.

I start turning over the sofa, calling for my wife. The knocking, all the while, grew more and more impatient

So there I was, all the while frantically running around and somehow unable to find one of the dozens of masks in our home when I woke up.

It was a dream. And an oddly topical one at that.

Surprisingly, as far as I can recall, this was the first dream since the start of the pandemic that explicitly involved face masks.

I’m not sure why it took so long (8 or so months) before that part of everyday reality finally crept into my unconscious mind. However, what’s more remarkable is the kind of dream where they finally popped up.

I’m no stranger to anxious dreams. I’ve had my fair share of being the only one in the room who somehow forgot to wear pants or realizing I had an imminent deadline that had somehow slipped my mind all week.

Where in high school it wasn’t uncommon to dream, I forgot my locker combination as recess was rapidly drawing to a close, during COVID my anxiety has found new ways to express itself.

Mask anxiety strikes me as just the latest in that series of dreams. Though it is odd that masks are the only element of COVID to have snuck in. Where are all those anxiety-riddled dreams about hand washing, running out of sanitizer, and maintaining social distancing?

I suppose we’ll see. Maybe they’ll be more frequent, but I have a suspicion it was either a one-off or a few and far between kind of deal.

Now that the weather’s gotten cooler and my wife and I have a newborn, we’re not doing a lot of “getting out of the house.” In that regard, a lot of the major bits of the pandemic haven’t really been touching us. I spend more time worrying about washing my hands before handling the baby or after changing a diaper on a daily basis than I do out in the wild.

Now let’s wait and see when those baby anxiety dreams start trickling in.