- Lizard in a Zoot Suit by Marco Finnegan
- Samurai Cat in the Real World by Mark E. Rogers
- Jack Vance’s The Face (Demon Princes, Book 4)
- Jack Vance’s The Book of Dreams (Demon Princes, Book 5)
- Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard, Vol. 1, by Various Artists
- Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard, Vol. 2, by Various Artists
- Craft in the Real World: Rethinking Fiction Writing and Workshopping by Matthew Salesses and The Anti-Racist Workshop: How to Decolonize the Creative Classroom by Felicia Rose Chavez
- Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard, Vol. 3, by Various Artists
- Wanderhome, by Jay Dragon
- Elements of Fiction, by Walter Mosley
- Hidden Folk, by Eleanor Arnason
- The Wages of Whiteness (Revised Edition) by David R. Roediger
- The Katurran Odyssey by David Michael Wieger, illustrated by Terryl Whitlatch
- Dragons (Time Life Enchanted World)
- May We Borrow Your Husband? and Other Comedies of the Sexual Life by Graham Greene
- Winter Studies and Summer Rambles in Canada by Anna Brownell Jameson
- The Cursed Chateau by James Maliszewski, illustrated by Jez Gordon
- Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention—And How to Think Deeply Again by Johann Hari
- Dinotopia: A Land Apart From Time by James Gurney
- Mouse Guard: Baldwin the Brave And Other Tales by David Petersen… and a song!
- Mouse Guard: The Owlhen Caregiver and Other Tales by David Petersen
- Thieves’ World edited by Robert Lynn Asprin
- My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf
- Fish F*ckers by Kelvin Green
- Saga Volume 1 by Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples
- Scourge of the Scornlords: Meatlandia Book III by Ahimsa Kerp and Wind Lothamer
- Love is the Law by Nick Mamatas
- Harvest for Hope: A Guide to Mindful Eating by Jane Goodall
- The Graveyard Book Graphic Novel by Neil Gaiman and P. Craig Russell
- Sirenswail by Dave Mitchell
- Roman Britain by David Shotter
- Saga, Volume 2 by Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples
- Menace Under Marswood by Sterling Lanier
- The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir by Thi Bui
- Muse Sick: a music manifesto in fifty-nine notes by Ian Brennan
- Backwoods Witchcraft: Conjure& Folk Magic From Appalachia by Jake Richards
- Dictionary of the Khazars: A Lexicon Novel by Milorad Pavić, translated by Christina Pribićević-Zorić
- Modern Jazz Voicings: Arranging for Small and Medium Ensembles by Ted Pease and Ken Pullig
- Mammoths of the Great Plains by Eleanor Arnason
- The Home Brewer’s Guide to Vintage Beer by Ron Pattison
- The Planetbreaker’s Son by Nick Mamatas
- The Collected Works of Billy the Kid: Left Handed Poems by Michael Ondaatje
- Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations by Mira Jacob
- The Sword of Samurai Cat by Mark E. Rogers
- Calvin & Hobbes by Bill Watterson
- Vermilion by Molly Tanzer
- The Punch Line by Zzarchov Kowolski
- Embassytown by China Miéville
- Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents by Lindsay C. Gibson
- Gyo (Deluxe Edition) by Junji Ito
- Saga, Vols. 2–3, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
- Cursed Bunny by Bora Chung, translated by Anton Hur
- Smashed and Tomie by Junji Ito
- Uzumaki by Junji Ito
- The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu
- Dissolving Classroom by Junji Ito
As with other posts in this series, these #booksread2022 posts go anywhere from a few weeks to a month after I’ve read them. I read this particular book last week, though!
May We Borrow Your Husband? is a 1967 collection of short fictions—in some cases, they’re in fact extended vignettes, and Greene himself called them “entertainments”—by Graham Greene. The subtitle—”And Other Comedies of the Sexual Life”—isn’t printed on the cover of the Penguin edition I have, but it pretty much sums up the book. It reminds me a bit of Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City except it’s much grittier and much, much more meanspirited… in a good way, I suppose, since Greene’s approach appeals to me more.
Why? I think it has something to do with Greene’s honesty. His mode of observation is quietly empathetic eye, but also mercilessly honest. The result is that his characters are sometimes quite bit stupid, and a bit tawdry, fairly selfish, and often quite sad and broken as human beings, and yet they’re still somehow unremarkable in this, and Greene doesn’t generally seem to judge them too harshly for it, since—one gets the sense—he seems to feel that the human condition is fundamentally one of absurd ridiculousness, and that there’s little we can really do about that. Accepting their flaws and cruelties and failings even as he lays them bare for us to see almost seems to free Greene from feeling any need to pull his punches with them, and likewise from feeling the need to spare us as readers. Greene understands that his readers are likely very flawed, and almost wants to reassure us that our flaws and our brokenness are deeply connected.
I guess that is also to say: for the first time, I can see that Greene really did take Catholic ideas to heart in his writing. I never noticed it much in the other novels of his I’ve read, but in this book, somehow, it is hard to miss. Perhaps it makes sense, given the role of sex and sexuality in these stories, I don’t know.
I find his use of narrative distance from the goings-on fascinating: in just the first few stories, there are multiple seductions, a cheap shot at a lonely old lady with a ridiculously named dog, and a guy who, no kidding, carries a dead baby (his wife’s, but with another man) home on an airplane from France to England in his carry-on luggage as if it were no big deal… “I’ll have to declare it, I acquired it abroad,” he says, as if he were speaking of a handbag, and of course we learn why he’s so cold, and are perturbed by the fact it’s at all understandable he’d be like this.
Greene may be merciless, but often there’s an older male writer in these stories, and truth be told that older male writer often ends up looking anywhere from ridiculous to terrible. Greene doesn’t push this angle too hard, but one gets the sense that he could skewer himself as well as he could anyone.
Now, there are some stories where light and kindness and sympathy wins out, as much as they ever could in a book by Greene: I expected to dislike “A Shocking Accident” (about a man who struggles through life having to deal with people laughing at the story of how his father died—struck by a falling pig in the street one day in Italy), but it’s actually kind of a beautiful depiction of what love can look like when it really works out, and the ending is just gorgeously written. “Cheap in August” is also well-written and heart-wringing and sympathetic more than it is judging: it’s much less a tale of adultery than it is a tale of loneliness, autonomy, and desperation. I was surprised to discover that several of the tales here were adapted for TV, but maybe I shouldn’t be: after all, the majority of Greene’s novels were adapted to film, so why wouldn’t have producers turned to his short stories next?
I did feel a few of the tales are duds, and the “Beauty” especially feels like the elaborate setup for a nasty punchline. A few other stories left me wondering whether I’d missed something. Not all of it has aged particularly well, either, but I found it fascinating to watch Greene work with material that he felt was less “serious” than the stuff of his more “literary” works—”entertainments,” as he called them, even if I had a nagging sense that my time might have been better spent reading one of his more serious novels.