Weekend Thoughts

For a few years I’ve been meaning to write a series of posts that touch on stray thoughts that are still at least somewhat related to The Mookse and the Gripes. This is, after all, a blog!


It’s finally spring! I have been trying over the past couple of years to enjoy winter more. I think I’m doing better, but it doesn’t change the fact that spring makes me happy and wakes me up again. The sun stays around longer. I hope the beginning of spring is treating you right as well.

Mookse Madness: The Sweet Sixteen!

This is the third year I’ve hosted a strange single-elimination tournament over on Goodreads. This year is all about the Booker Darlings, the eight men and eight women most shortlisted for the Booker Prize. We are almost down to the Sweet Sixteen! The last contests has not finished yet, but it’s almost over, and the competitions are safe to call now. Here are the upcoming Sweet Sixteen matches, for those interested!

  • Iris Murdoch’s The Sea, the Sea v. Thomas Kenneally’s Schindler’s Ark
  • Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children v. Muriel Spark’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
  • Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day v. Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook
  • Ali Smith’s Autumn v. William Trevor’s The Children of Dynmouth
  • Ian McEwan’s Atonement v. Penelope Lively’s Moon Tiger
  • Julian Barnes’s The Sense of an Ending v. Beryl Bainbridge’s Master Georgie
  • Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale v. Brian Moore’s The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne
  • Penelope Fitzgerald’s The Bookshop has a healthy lead over The Gate of Angels and is likely to take on True History of the Kelly Gang, which is beating Oscar and Lucinda.

If you’d like to participate, there are absolutely no requirements to play along and vote!

Muriel Spark and Penelope Fitzgerald

The most recent episode of The Backlisted Pod is about Penelope Fitzgerald’s Human Voices, and in it they talk a bit about how similar and yet how different she is from Muriel Spark. Fitzgerald is insightful and empathetic, even as she looks at people in pathetic situations. Spark, on the other hand, is often biting and cruel to her characters. I think both are exceptional, and I’m glad we have them both. Right now I’m reading Spark’s Loitering with Intent. I’m glad I didn’t ever have to have dinner with Spark — she would have eaten me alive — but I’m so glad I can read her books!

Also I’ve been working on a podcast script about Penelope Fitzgerald, so this episode really hit the spot! Listen here.

Brandon Sanderson’s Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians

Brandon Sanderson is a fantasy writer, with several thick books to his name. But he also writes a lot of books for children, and among them is this five-book series, Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians. I had no real interest in reading these until our local library put on a kind of event. I picked it up and read the first chapter and it hooked me. I started reading them to my ten-year-old son; my twelve-year-old read them all in a few weeks. The story is fun, but the real treat is the exceptional comedy. I laugh out loud every night we read a chapter. They are so funny!

I really do like the story, too. It’s too strange for me to explain here. I’d just make some of you roll your eyes if I tried. But I love the characters. We’re on Book 4, now, and I’m already looking forward to sitting down to read it with him later on. Oh, here comes my son while I type this. I’ll get him involved here:

Holland, do you have anything to say on this?

I like the book series because it was fun and had a lot of funny stuff in it. Like when the prince comes out of the pig.

Okay, well, yes, that was a very funny part! Dear readers — I’ll leave it there. I said it was strange, but the stranger thing is that the prince coming out of the pig works with the story and is very funny!

War and Peace

The Criterion Collection is releasing Sergei Bondarchuk’s War and Peace in June. I’m excited to watch it! But I’ve never read the book. I’ve read the first few hundred pages a couple of times, but then I stall out, probably right when it becomes unputdownable.

So I’m trying to decide if I should pull down one of my five copies and dig in before the adaptation arrives in June. Any thoughts?

The Great Silent Comedians

This last week I reviewed Harold Lloyd’s The Kid Brother (see here). It’s been a while, but from time to time I pull out a movie with Harold Lloyd, Charlie Chaplin, or Buster Keaton. We have all we can get our hands on, and I consider it an investment in my kids. We love watching them together. Tonight we pulled down Safety Last! and watched the great final act where Lloyd climbs the building. We have seen it a number of times, but we all still love it. This time, for the first time, they wanted to know more about how the sequence was made, so we watched the documentary on how they set up the shots. This was also interesting because it showed them Los Angeles from nearly 100 years ago, when Hill Street still had a hill. I’d like to pull out a movie by Chaplin and Keaton before the weekend is up.


Thanks so much to those of you who have supported The Mookse and the Gripes in various ways. I want to particularly thank those of you who have donated some of your hard-earned money to help out. Running the blog is a labor of love that costs some money. Last year I made several upgrades to make things run better, and I couldn’t have done it without the generous donations on Patreon and through PayPal. Just the other day I got notice of another Patreon supporter — thanks Leo Baraldi!

If you’re feeling any inclination to support The Mookse and the Gripes with a donation, there is a Patreon page with some perks attached. See here. Every little bit helps! I’m trying to think of some other fun ways of engaging over there with extra perks and surprises, so please check it out!

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