CSotD: Friday Funnies in the Book Nook

In the category of Happy Timing, F-Minus dropped this strip on the day I finished the heavy lifting on my final week before retirement.

Writers don’t actually retire, of course: They keep writing. They just stop getting paid for it.

In this case, the fellow is right, despite the limited lesson he took away.

I used to joke that I retired at the start of my career rather than at the end, because I gave myself 15 years to make it as a novelist, and wrote two book-length manuscripts before I hit the wall at 35.

They weren’t terrible. They just weren’t very good, which is worse, because I got enough bland, vague encouragement to keep me going.

I finally sent the thing off to a for-real critic and asked him for the truth, which he sent me in five single-spaced pages which included the words “this is making my teeth hurt” as he laid down in brutal detail precisely why my writing was okay but my novel sucked, most of which boiled down to the fact that everybody’s been to college and nobody wants to read about it.

Fortunately, during those 15 years, I’d taken on an increasing amount of freelance work, in the course of which I found out I enjoyed journalism and was pretty good at it, so that by the time the clock ran out on my fiction writing, I was employed as a full-time reporter.

Granted, I’d have hit “editor” at a younger age if I’d started straight out of college, but then there’s this:

I had started the clock at 20 by taking a year off from school to write, and returned to campus with a first draft of my first novel.

I ran into a professor who said that he, too, wanted to write a novel, to which I thoughtlessly replied, “Well, the hardest part is applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair,” and immediately saw in his face that he was never going to do it.

Which he confirmed by dying at 62. It doesn’t get any more “never” than that.

I suggest confining your bucket list to things like “seeing the Grand Canyon” that don’t touch upon your dreams or, certainly, your self-esteem.


I was going to quibble with Wiley Miller over his quoting of “Tale of Two Cities” in this Non Sequitur, since it’s not a terribly long book, but then Danae and Katie aren’t terribly old kids, and I didn’t read it until the summer I was 14.

That was also the summer I read “The Once and Future King” and a few other books. A good summer for reading, one hour a day during mandatory rest period at Camp Lord O’ The Flies.

If I were a parent of small kids today, I don’t think I’d frantically monitor their screen time, but I’d sure impose some limits. Then again, both in my professional life and as a grandfather, I’ve found that kids, properly encouraged, will read.

While others will not. Which means things haven’t changed a lot, nor do we change much as we get older.

Still, I’ll refer you back to one of my very favorite columns, about the books everybody pretends to have read and how you can tell they haven’t.

The only thing worse than an intellectual snob being a phony intellectual snob.


Which brings us to another tip from Mike Lynch, this being that the Billy Ireland is furnishing Zoom backgrounds starting with Winsor McCay and George Herriman (with instructions for how to use them).


But I’ve been watching how the reporters on NFL Access — hey, I don’t watch a lot of TV — handle it, and I suspect that Aditi Kinkhabwala created a background niche in her apartment by putting two bookcases at an angle behind her.

I really like the visual effect, but whatever you stock your shelves with will reflect upon you. I don’t see a lot of Tolstoy and Colette back there.

However, she’s an avid reader and unapologetic about her love of crime novels.

Fact is, she’s unapologetic about all sorts of things.

As we all should be.


Colleen Wolfe makes a favorable impression by having both “Catch-22” and “The Boys on the Bus” on her shelf, along with a well-worn black paperback that I can’t identify but which has clearly been read several times.

And “American Tabloid” isn’t “Anna Karenina” but it’s a logical long read for a communications major, particularly one who doesn’t take herself too seriously.


I kind of suspect, however, that Andrew Siciliano is, at best, messaging and, at worst, bullshitting us, what with “Portnoy’s Complaint,” the works of Edgar Allan Poe, and “Infinite Jest” back there.

David Foster Wallace’s mother hasn’t really read “Infinite Jest,” though she’s planning to.

However, on his Twitter feed, he recommended “The Great Influenza” three days before Terry Gross had the author on “Fresh Air.”

You get major points for keeping a step ahead of Terry Gross.


And a tip of the hat to Bado for pointing out that Tom Gauld has put out a book of science-based cartoons and done an NPR interview on the topic.


Kids and Screen Time: This positive thought

Baby Blues got a chuckle, but it also raises questions of kids and clocks and screens.

It reminded me of my own kids, as teens, giving me a raft of grief for having bought a digital watch, which they felt were for 10-year-olds.

Wristwatches are an endangered technology today, though one of the boys has something that fits on his arm and alerts him when he gets email.

But digital time is a math problem, while analog time is visual.

That is, if your digital clock tells you it’s 8:47, you immediately convert to analog in your mind, because “13 minutes to 9” is otherwise meaningless.

The good news being that schools still have analog clocks on classroom walls and I promise you kids know just how many degrees of a circle the hand must travel before the bell rings.


(sax by Phil Kenzie)

10 thoughts on “CSotD: Friday Funnies in the Book Nook

  1. Even if it’s not the point, I’ll offer my guess as the the sort of worn paperback on the top of Colleen Wolfe’s stack: Hells Angels, Hunter Thompson. Enjoyable to read.

  2. Ms. Kinkhabwala‘s bookshelves were not just dragged into place to create scenery, because they’re actually three pieces, one of which cuts the corner. That suggests they’re shaped to fit an odd corner of the room.

    A terrific column as always. When you say you are retiring, I selfishly hope that doesn’t mean the blog will end. But if it does, thanks for all the fish. Sorry I couldn’t come up with an allusion from _Infinite Jest_, but I bought it years ago and haven’t read it yet…

  3. Yeah, for having a kid “dive into a book” I can think of a lot better ones than “A Tale of Two Cities”—I actually even like Dickens but I found that one a miserable slog.

  4. Not retiring from this, no.

    I loved “Tale of Two Cities,” but, as said, at 14, not the age of Katie and Danae. However, it’s one of the few books that furnishes enough recognizable opening text to make the illustration work. I could see a kid reading it, even at that younger age — Great Expectations might flow more easily but the nuances are harder to process.

    And nobody would believe them ducking into ““Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed.”

  5. Super happy to know you are gonna hang in there on this blog ‘cuz it continues to be among the best of my online time all too frequently. Cheers from up here in ‘Umuricuh’s’ attic.

  6. A little off-topic, but I have had a hard time reading my comics list since the pandemic became real, and it got real to me in early March, so I am over two months behind.

    I have stayed up to date with your blog, but even then, I have gotten a week or so behind before catching up.

    What have I been doing? Spending way too much time watching news shows, when I could get the same information in half the time from reading a newspaper. In fairness, I have been reading the newspapers as well, along with some of my favorite blogging commentators.

    Am I obsessed with COVID-19? You bet, especially with the train wreck leadership we have and being old enough to be in a high-risk group just based on that.

  7. Selfishly I’m so glad you’re going to continue here. This is one of my every day morning stops along the net.

    As for book cases, in my new house I was able to devote one room as my personal library room. If I had to Zoom from that room everyone would see bookcases lined with volumes of nearly every possible comic strip collection that’s ever been published.
    Sure there are several novels here and there, but I’m obsessed with comic strips.

  8. I hate to inform you but teachers are complaining that students can no longer read analog clocks. Next thing you know they won’t be able to tie their shoes. But as an old codger who was severely punished for getting an “unsatisfactory” in penmanship, there are some things I’m not sorry to see pass away, including cursive writing. Especially since I spent my career as a nurse trying to read doctor’s handwriting. And yes, they really are that bad, it they were back then, anyway.

  9. My great grandfather (or maybe great great) was a doctor who kept a meticulous ledger that has been a wonderful source of family history, and rural Kansas history as well. I have seen a lot of doctors with unreadable signitures and sometimes difficult notes but this man had impeccable and quite decently readable records.

    By contrast I remember learning “cursive italics” as a child (yes, I’m a millennial) and finding that my handwriting was unreadable and I was also unable to read “real” italics without a concerted effort and usually help. (“s” haf been a particvlarly difficvlt letter throvgh the agef, af haf “u”, @nd don’t get me f@rted on it@lic “a”). I am very happy to see all that fade into the sunset.

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