TBR List Declutter, Issue 41

Tangent: The Best Defense

My cat, Owen, turned eighteen this past February. He’s starting to look like a bit bony and a little scruffy, he sleeps even more than he used to, and sometimes I’m sure either his eyesight or his reasoning power aren’t what they once were. But he also plays enthusiastically with the laser pointer and wakes us up by racing up and down the hallway at 2:30am, sounding a lot like a tiny horse on our wood floors. He’s elderly, but he’s spry, and even veterinarians are surprised when I tell them Owen’s age.

At his age, Owen has had a lot of adventures. He’s lived in four different states and ten different houses, he’s traveled cross-country by car thrice, and he’s been both a sidekick and an only cat. San Diego, with its ample sunshine and mild temperatures must have seemed to him an ideal setting for a quiet retirement.

Until he met Fluff Face.

Fluff Face is a big Maine Coon that, from our perspective, belongs to one of our neighbors. From Fluff Face’s perspective, however, it’s the neighborhood that belongs to him.

For the first month we lived in this house, we saw Fluff Face lounging on driveways, skulking around bushes, strutting atop fences. My children tried a few times to befriend him, even giving him the name “Fluff Face,” but he preferred to keep to himself.

During the same time, Owen got into the habit of walking around our new house, yowling mournfully. It was an awful, deep-throated sound, different than the noises we’d heard from him before. He would yowl late at night or in the early morning, wandering through each room. He would also yowl while eating his canned food in the late afternoon. Most times I could call to him, “Owen, you’re okay, buddy!” and he would respond with a plaintive meow and then go lie down to sleep. We couldn’t figure it out. Was he in pain? Did he miss the old house? Had he just lost his marbles?

Then the other evening we heard a awful caterwauling coming from outside. I found Owen with his tail puffed out, staring through the glass patio doors into the darkness and making a kind of coughing sound. I turned on the patio light, and right on the other side of the glass sat Fluff Face, growling and hissing at Owen.

Owen’s wandering and strange behavior suddenly made a lot more sense. He was trying to defend his territory against this external threat. Thank goodness he’s long-neutered and did so by yowling rather than by spraying. Knock on wood, of course.

After that, we’ve let our formerly indoor-only cat out on supervised visits into our fenced backyard. We make sure neither Fluff Face nor rattlesnakes are out there beforehand, but then we let Owen mosey out so he can sniff every inch of the perimeter, sit on the cement edge of the flower bed staring regally into the middle distance, and then fall asleep in the sunshine.

It must be a good defense. Since Owen started going outside Fluff Face hasn’t been back. My spouse and I have also been squirting Fluff Face with vinegar water every time we see him in the yard, but I’m sure it’s Owen’s diligent defending that’s keeping our yard safe from Fluff Face.

Visual Interest:


IMG_20180502_060843 (1)

Wondering what this is all about? Check out the introductory post.


Titles 531-550:

Title: Family Life
Author: Sharma, Akhil
Date Added: 12/4/2014

Verdict: Keep. You had me at “darkly funny.”

Project list: none.

Title: The Americanization of Narcissism
Author: Lunbeck, Elizabeth
Date Added: 12/23/2014

Verdict: Go. Interesting title, not as interesting as a premise.

Project list: n/a

Title: The Fragility of Goodness: Luck and Ethics in Greek Tragedy and Philosophy
Author: Nussbaum, Martha C.
Date Added: 12/30/2014

Verdict: Keep. I’m not sure if it’s better to read this before or after I’ve read more of the Greek philosophers, but I’d like to read it at some point.

Project list: none

Title: Parallel Lives
Author: Plutarch
Date Added: 12/30/2014

Verdict: Keep. This has been on my classics list from the beginning, and it will remain on my classics list until I read it.

Project list: Cavalcade of Classics

Title: The Just City (Thessaly, #1)
Author: Walton, Jo
Date Added: 1/10/2015

Verdict: Keep. This might be a bust, but I’m curious to see what this fantasy/time-travel version of Plato’s (or Socrates’, depending on how you look at it) Just City.

Project list: none.

Title: We Learn Nothing
Author: Kreider, Tim
Date Added: 1/10/2015

Verdict: Go. This one sounds interesting, but I’m afraid that’s mostly because it appeals to the part of me that likes to read scathing reviews and sarcastic send-ups of popular culture, and that’s not a part of me that I want to feed.

Project list: n/a

Title: Hadji Murad
Author: Tolstoy, Leo
Date Added: 1/18/2015

Verdict: Keep. Several years ago, I was told about that the idea of nonviolent resistance came to Martin Luther King, Jr, via Gandhi, and it came to Gandhi via Leo Tolstoy. The person who told me about this chain of influence recommended Hadji Murad. I’m not sure if it was recommended because this title exemplifies nonviolent resistance or if it’s just that it’s a fraction of the length of War and Peace or Anna Karenina, but here we are.

Project list: Cavalcade of Classics

Title: Writing Alone and with Others
Author: Schneider, Pat
Date Added: 1/19/2015

Verdict: Keep. I’m trying to avoid books about writing, but as someone who’s led writing groups in the past and who is likely to lead them in the future, I think Schneider’s wisdom might be helpful.

Project list: none.

Title: How the Light Gets in: Writing as a Spiritual Practice
Author: Schneider, Pat *
Date Added: 1/19/2015

Verdict: Keep. This is a book about writing that I’m keeping on the list without even the pragmatic plan of leading a writing group to justify it.

Project list: none.

Title: The First Bad Man
Author: July, Miranda*
Date Added: 1/24/2015

Verdict: Go. I like quirky, bizarre writing. I do not like self-consciously quirky, bizarre writing. My friend Jenny from junior high school writes quirky, bizarre writing that I quite like. It sounds like Miranda July writes the self-conscious kind of quirky, bizarre writing.

Project list: n/a

Title: The Quote Verifier: Who Said What, Where, and When
Author: Keyes, Ralph
Date Added: 1/26/2015

Verdict: Keep. There are a bunch of ratings for this book on Goodreads but no reviews. Is this a reference or a front-to-back read? It seems like it might be a hybrid. Only one way to find out. (Actually, there’s probably more than one way, but I’m sticking with the one I like best.)

Project list: none.

Title: No Biking in the House Without a Helmet
Author: Greene, Melissa Fay
Date Added: 1/27/2015

Verdict: Keep. I’m on the fence about this one. My daughter read it and seemed to like it. It sounds like it’s both funny and informative, and I remain interested in adoption (my spouse is less interested, so I doubt I’ll act on the interest, but it’s nice to learn about it).

Project list: none.

Title: The Letters of Vita Sackville-West and Virginia Woolf
Author: DeSalvo, Louise
Date Added: 2/11/2015

Verdict: Go. I’m not sure why I added this one because I don’t have any particular interest in Virginia Woolf and I don’t even know who Vita Sackville-West is.

Project list: n/a

Title: A Circle of Quiet (Crosswicks Journals #1)
Author: L’Engle, Madeleine
Date Added: 2/12/2015

Verdict: Go. A Wrinkle in Time didn’t strike my fancy. Sometimes an author interests me even if I don’t get into their fiction, but unless I uncover some compelling reason to do otherwise, I’m going to pass on this one.

Project list: n/a

Title: The Room
Author: Karlsson, Jonas
Date Added: 2/15/2015

Verdict: Keep. This one seems weird in a Swedish way. I sometimes like Swedish weird. We’ll see if I like this one.

Project list: none.

Title: Culture Crash: The Killing of the Creative Class
Author: Timberg, Scott
Date Added: 2/16/2015

Verdict: Keep. My musician friends struggle to find a way to make a living creating music after previously being able to (e.g., orchestras have either folded or don’t pay a living wage, selling compositions seems to be more challenging), magazines that previously published fiction have been moving away from fiction in favor of nonfiction (often the writing equivalent of reality television) and scads of bloggers are giving away for free what used to be a source of monetary income, and I would like to explore what cultural changes might be influencing this shift.

Project list: none.

Title: Expecting Adam: A True Story of Birth, Rebirth, and Everyday Magic
Author: Beck, Martha N.
Date Added: 2/17/2015

Verdict: Keep. The brilliant excerpts from this book that I’ve read combined with the fact that the only negative reviews I’ve found are critical of Beck’s leaving the LDS church and the fact that my progressive Mormon friends love it leave me very interested in this memoir.

Project list: none.

Title: The Nicomachean Ethics
Author: Aristotle
Date Added: 2/19/2015

Verdict: Keep. Can we move towards inner virtue by cultivating virtuous habits in the external world? Apparently Aristotle thinks so, and has provided something of a how-to, a Classical Greek Happiness Project, as it were, to lead readers along this path. At least I think that’s what this book is about.

Project list: Cavalcade of Classics

Title: A Treatise on Toleration and Other Essays
Author: Voltaire
Date Added: 2/20/2015

Verdict: Keep. This was all the rage a few years ago in the wake of the the Charlie Hebdo shooting and other terrorist attacks in Paris. I’m late to acquire my copy, but I presume that it’s still relevant.

Project list: Cavalcade of Classics

Title: State by State: A Panoramic Portrait of America
Author: Weiland, Matt
Date Added: 2/26/2015

Verdict: Go. I like real-life cross-country road trips, but I’m not sure I’m into essays about the fifty states. Or at least I’m not into them enough to read a book comprised of them.

Project list: n/a

Six more titles off the list for a total of 207 of 550 (27.6% of the original 750, 37.6% of the 550 I’ve considered so far).

Any thoughts about which I kept and which I tossed?

3 Replies to “TBR List Declutter, Issue 41”

    1. He’s something of an exceptional cat, and not always in the most positive sense. Five and three are fabulous cat ages. The edge is off the kitten energy, but they’re still so fun.

      Liked by 1 person

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