Lazy Sunday CVIII: Spring Break Short Story Recommendations 2021 Recap

Well, it was fun while it lasted—another Spring Break is in the books.  I enjoyed this brief respite, the eye in the middle of the storm that is the Spring Semester.  The next couple of weeks will be a flurry of activity for yours portly, followed by the long, graceful descent into summer vacation.

Like last year, I’ll be recapping the short stories I recommended this past week, and offer up a short ranking of them.  The list will be shorter by two this year, as I dedicated last Monday to a movie review and did not reblog an earlier short story review Thursday.

Oh, well.  Here’s what I did read:

So, how do they fall this year?  You’ve probably figured it out, but it was an easy call: Michael Noonan‘s “The Personality Cult” won the day for me.  Here is my ranking:

1.) “The Personality Cult”
2.) “Black Tancrède”
3.) “Out of the Deep”

There you have it!  Happy Reading—and haunting!  Mwahahahahahaha!

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

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SubscribeStar Saturday: Silence of the Lambs Book Review

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This Spring Break Week I’ve been reviewing and recommending short stories, something I began doing back in 2020.  To wrap up the week, I thought I’d offer up my review of Thomas Harris’s 1988 novel Silence of the LambsThe film is a masterpiece, and quite a faithful adaptation of the book.

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SubscribeStar Saturday: Easter Weekend 2021

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It’s Easter Weekend 2021!  Unlike last Easter, which was “decidedly un-Eastery” in The Age of The Virus, this Easter is starting to go back to normal.  By the time you read this post, I will have had my second shot of the Pfizer vaccine, so I’m either fully medically acceptable to our cosmopolitan elites—or dead.  Gulp!  I’m not sure which is worse.

Regardless, more and more folks are vaccinated, and churches have been reopened for many months now here in the South (they never should have been shuttered in the first place).  I fully expect that tomorrow will see a return, albeit a perhaps socially-distanced, diminished return, to the jam-packed Easter services of The Before Times, in the Long, Long Ago.

Easter is the most important holiday in the Christian calendar, probably in a dead-heat with Christmas.  Just as Christmas celebrates Christ’s Birth, Easter commemorates His Resurrection—the ultimate testament to Christ’s Victory over Death, the Devil, and the Grave.

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SubscribeStar Saturday: Inspector Gerard Preview

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This Thursday, 1 April 2021, I’m releasing my first book, a collection of ten of my Inspector Gerard “one-minute mystery” stories (the paperback edition is available now).  The collection, The One-Minute Mysteries of Inspector Gerard: The Ultimate Flatfoot, reproduces stories I first wrote twenty years ago, starring the hard-boiled, absurd, postmodern private eye, Inspector Gerard.

The whole “gimmick” of Gerard is that the solutions to his cases involve evidence and details denied to the reader, making the cases hilariously unsolvable.

For my generous subscribers, I’m sharing here three of the best Gerard stories:  “Dial ‘M’ for Malfeasance,” “Sleazebag in the City,” and “Inspector Gerard and the Video Rental Caper.”

Preorder The One-Minute Mysteries of Inspector Gerard for Kindle or order now in paperback.

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SubscribeStar Saturday: Small Ponds

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Blogging is a notoriously inwardly focused medium, one in which the blogger injects not only his or her beliefs into the commentary delivered, but even his or her personality—lives, thoughts, seemingly unconnected details, etc.  At its best, blogging offers a glimpse into how people think, and the inextricable intertwining of the personal, subjective interlocutor with the supposedly objective facts under consideration.  At its worst, it devolves into self-indulgent “me-search,” in which the writers’ subjective experience becomes the primary—even the only—means through which the writer can understand the topic.

The latter situation is what I strenuously wish to avoid, though my blog is, at times, excessively self-indulgent and solipsistic.  I don’t think I’ve quite gone as low as a mommy blogger or a gloomy, self-absorbed teen, but I’ll admit I occasionally dash of some hasty “me-search” to meet my self-imposed daily quota.  Perhaps these pieces are worth your time—I hope they are—but I apologize if they aren’t.

That said, I do believe there is value in learning from one’s personal experiences (as I write that, I realize how painfully obvious that observation—I can’t even call it an “insight”—is).  Much of human wisdom—of history—consists of the hard lessons learned from individuals’ personal experiences with the world.  While I am by no means a great man or a world-historic figure—one critic of the blog once labeled me a “mediocrity”—I have, at least, thrown myself into multiple arenas in my short life, each one teaching me something different about our world and the human condition.  From politics to music to writing to teachingand on and on—I’ve learned my fair share of insights.

All of that waxing philosophical is to get to this point:  I have learned that the small pond—the small school, the small town, the small institution, the small business, etc.—is, while oft overlooked or derided, a very nice place to be.  The small pond is where opportunity exists.  If I am indeed a mediocrity, I’ve made a good life for myself being, perhaps, the First Among Mediocrities, the one willing to toss his hat into the ring.  That has made all the difference.

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SubscribeStar Saturday: The Art of Concert Programming

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Subscriberslast week’s SSS about Myrtle Beach is up, as is last week’s edition of Sunday Doodles.  My apologies for the delay.  —TPP

Every spring my school sponsors a big fine arts festival, a weekend dedicated to celebrating and showcasing our talented students.  The weekend includes two nights of our drama students performing whatever play or musical they’re presenting that season, as well as an exhibit of student artwork.

The first night, however, is the big Spring Concert.  After the dance students share some pieces, my student-musicians take the stage for their one big night of the semester.

The Spring Concert is like the Super Bowl for these kids:  it’s the biggest stage most of them will take during the academic year (though several of my students gig with bands and ensembles outside of school), and the one time they really get to soak up the spotlight.  The goal of my music classes is to put on good performances, not to seek fame, but the kids deserve some accolades and kudos.  Besides, a big part of music is being able to share it with other people.

With the Spring Concert about six weeks away, my students and I sat down this week to begin programming the concert.  Programming a concert is part science, but also an art; it requires a certain “feel” for the pieces, and how those disparate pieces link together to create a cohesive, exciting whole.

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SubscribeStar Saturday: Myrtle Beach

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This weekend I’m down in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, with my family.  With the exception of last year, we visit Myrtle Beach every March because it coincides with the Myrtle Beach Marathon, which my older brother flies down to run (after running the full marathon one year and starving while we waited for lunch at Sea Captain’s House, he has since decided that the half-marathon is a more reasonable distance).

Even before my brother’s career as an amateur long-distance masochist, we have been visiting Myrtle Beach as a family.  We used to come every summer for a big South Carolina Public Works convention, so Myrtle Beach’s tacky neon charm holds a certain nostalgia for me. These annual visits are not just a wonderful opportunity to spend time with family, but to relive the glow of childhood nostalgia.

The rest of this post may be delayed, as I am—as the preview noted—in Myrtle Beach with family.  Don’t worry, subscribers, I should have it finished soon.  —TPP

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Midweek SubscribeStar Exclusive: Sloshing through Lee State Park

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With the warm weather and sunshine this past weekend, my girlfriend and I decided to check out Lee State Park.  Lee State Park is just ten miles up the road from Lamar, and while I’ve driven on Lee State Park Road numerous times heading to the Interstate, I’d never visited the park.

Lee State Park was constructed in 1935 as a Civilian Conservation Corps project during the Great Depression.  It is bounded on the west by the Lynches River, and features a number of easy-to-moderate hiking trails, as well as several equestrian trails.  Most of the park’s 2839 acres is hardwood forest wetlands, and the park features four artesian wells that flow continually.

To get to the park, we loaded into my ancient, busted up 2006 Dodge Caravan—now with a fresh battery!—and buzzed up there with the windows down.  My girlfriend’s German shepherd seemed to enjoy the ride, and turned out to be a real trooper on what turned into an unexpectedly arduous adventure.

When we got to the park, we grabbed a trail map, and merrily headed into the forest, attempting to follow the white-labeled Floodplain Trail, a five-mile, moderate hike.  Unfortunately, the Floodplain Trail does not make a neat loop, and we headed towards the shorter end, which overlaps with the orange equestrian trail.

That decision would ultimately result in soggy, sloshing bit of amateur trailblazing through some of the muddiest terrain in Lee State Park.

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SubscribeStar Saturday: Authoritarian Creep

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Something with which I struggle to wrap my mind around is the authoritarian impulse.  I’m not pretending I’m immune to this impulse—this desire to tell others how to live their lives, backing it up with the threat of force for non-compliance—but the older I get, what little appeal the tendency held continues to diminish.

What I struggle to comprehend is the apparent need to boss people around.  I understand needing to be authoritative with children and students—setting clear boundaries, understanding actions have consequences, molding the child to become a self-governing adult—but this desire to boss around perfect strangers is increasingly foreign to me.

This impulse manifests itself in virtually every facet of our lives.  It creeps in bit by bit.  Modest policy proposals and laws suddenly becomes weaponized Karenism, empowering authorities and otherwise normal people to swagger about with impunity, assured of the righteousness of their cause du jour.

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