Palimpsest (September 11 – 17, 2022)

Things I read, heard and saw this week that inspired me.

Hill, Joe. “Abraham’s Boys.” from 20th Century Ghosts. William Morrow. 2008.

Well-made story about the sons of Abraham Van Helsing growing up in the shadow of their father’s vampire-mania. There is a real question about whether this Van Helsing is the hero from Dracula or a demented monster in his own right or, possibly, both at once. The tension climbs as we get to know the brothers and the dynamics of older brother/younger brother. The mounting dread and awfulness builds wonderfully and ends with a satisfying crash. 

“His mother had already been weak and ill when the scandal drove their family from Amsterdam. They lived for a while in England, but word of the terrible thing their father had done (whatever it was — Max doubted he would ever know) followed them.”


Hill, Joe. “My Father’s Mask.” from 20th Century Ghosts. William Morrow. 2008.

This is a weird, erotic story that I don't know how to describe. It says something about the journey from adolescence into adulthood and there are games within games. This one strikes chords I don’t understand. It deserves several rereads to unpack.

“I couldn’t be angry at my parents for not letting me in on their plans in advance, because they probably hadn’t made plans in advance. It was very likely they had decided to go up to Big Cat Lake over lunch. My parents didn’t have plans. They had impulses and a thirteen-year-old son and they saw no reason to ever let the latter upset the former.”


Thompson, Derek. “Your Career is Just One-Eighth of Your Life.” Atlantic. September 2022.

A wry reflection on the terrible advice we give ourselves about how to build a satisfying career.

“Autobiography is not advice. Given how poorly most people understand themselves, it’s barely even autobiography.”

and this

“Telling young people who just graduated from college that a satisfying career is hopeless until we dismantle capitalism is about as helpful as telling somebody asking for directions to the bathroom that no true relief will visit humankind until death.”

“Name. Age. Detail.” This American Life. [podcast] Episode 777.

Obituaries for victims of mass shootings often collapse entire lives into a rote recitation of a few minor facts. This episode of This American Life offers a full story for each of the ten victims of the May 14 massacre at TOPS Market in Buffalo. This episode pays respect by offering a fuller picture of the lives that were lost and helps reclaim from the typical rhetoric a true sense of what was stolen on that day.

What I’m Reading

  • All the Names by Jose Saramago. I gave this 100 pages but reluctantly set it aside unfinished. Gorgeous writing but I couldn’t follow the story and couldn’t connect. Life is short. We don’t have to read everything all the way to the end.
  • Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. Just started but a strong read so far. Compelling non-fiction narrative full of anecdote and personal stories about food.

What I’m Watching

  • The Sandman. Still making our way through. It gets better and better and better. One episode to go. They take a lot of liberties with the original story which makes this its own thing.
  • Devil in Suburbia. I dipped into a few episodes of this true crime documentary. A bit like candy. Nothing compelling or sustaining but a quick sugar rush for the late evening brain.

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