Hey there. I took a personal day today. I’m having lunch with friends and getting my hair cut and taking my car in for service. I need to go to the pharmacy and the hardware store. I was out of town last week, on the West Coast, for work, and I’ll be out of town next week, in Vermont, for work. Sometimes you just need a day for maintenance.
I missed the Penny last week—and judging by her vocal exultations (something between a howl and a whine) upon my return, she missed me as well. Here’s a little video I took of her napping next to me when I got back. We both needed some down time. (Arguably her entire life is down time, but we don’t ask questions.)
I visited Lake Tahoe for the first time, courtesy of the Sierra Nevada MFA program (happy to visit your program or organization, too. Reach out here). It turns out Lake Tahoe isn’t the easiest place to reach, especially from Charlottesville, and my return trip took almost twenty-four hours, but the unreliable access to wifi enabled me to complete some summer reading.
I don’t have enough praise for Rebecca Makkai’s Great Believers. It was nominated for the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize (but so are a lot of other books). It’s one of the first novels to treat the outbreak of the AIDS epidemic in eighties Chicago, a multi-storyline narrative that flashes back and forth between now and then, that heart-rending time of ongoing struggle and overwhelming loss. Even after waking up at four in the morning and taking three flights across the country to Tahoe, I stayed awake until three in the morning PST in order to finish the book. I cried through the last fifty pages or so. Hands down the best novel I’ve read in years. Hard recommend.
Lyz Lenz’s God Land: A Story of Faith, Loss, and Renewal in Middle America is out now. I read the galley months ago and knew only a few pages in how vital it could be. Lenz grew up in the church, married a fellow believer, and worked with like-minded souls (or were they?) to form a church of their own when conventional bodies of Christ weren’t cutting it. Yet she found herself ostracized, increasingly so following the 2016 election. In an effort to avoid spoilers (though you’ll find them elsewhere online), I’ll just say that God Land is much more than a memoir of her journey. It’s an investigation into the heart/land of American Christianity at a time when much of American Christianity ought to investigate itself.
How many monthly subscriptions do you have? Three? Fourteen? None? You might be in the minority. The subscription box industry has grown 3,000 percent in the past three years. My favorite monthly sub box is from Succulent Studios. For $10/month plus shipping (this works out to approx. $16/mo) you receive two eight-week-old succulents: always something different, with nicely designed cards that tell you a little about each plant—care instructions, etc. Go here to subscribe, and use the code qtF@XGC4n for $5 off your first box. You will be delighted when your box arrives each month, and you can work toward a succulent garden of your own. Tending to mine has rapidly become a weekly ritual akin to church. Succulents produce oxygen; they give me life. (The sub boxes also make fun presents; I recently gifted a three-month subscription.)
Housekeeping: I mentioned a few newsletters back that I planned to transition from tinyletter; I’ve selected Substack as the new platform for I Don’t Hate It. My hope is that this has been a seamless transition for you. If not, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Reply to this email or write me at email@example.com. And please be patient as I learn this new format.
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