Book Report — All the Women in My Brain and Other Concerns; Dinosaur Beach

All the Women in My Brain and Other Concerns by Betty Gilpin

Nonfiction, 2022

My mom played Lincoln’s sister-in-law at Lincoln Center, a fact I presented to to my fellow second graders as a popularity jetpack. I was met with blank stares. These stickerbook fucks didn’t get it. I was spending weekends watching my mother hold court in a hoopskirt and a wig cap.

Our household has long had an official stance of seeking out the writing of actress Betty Gilpin wherever it Brigadoons its way into magical existence, so we’re the exact reason she was given a book deal. In the few months since All the Women in My Brain made it onto the shelves of our friendly neighborhood pages peddler, we’ve bought it twice, all the better to foist it on friends. Every penny has been redistributed correctly.

Settling somewhere in a nether region between memoir and essay collection, Gilpin tracks through her experiences growing up and grinding through an acting career, often with a scalding candor about her own anxieties, disappointments, and self-sabotaging behavior. It’s not the biological bravado that makes the book special, though. It’s Gilpin’s deliriously unique voice, wild with metaphors and grandly nutso pyre piles of nouns, verbs, and adjectives. Her sense of humor is simultaneously blazingly vivid and dry as a desert. I hope she writes enough of these to fill a whole library shelf.

Dinosaur Beach by Keith Laumer

Fiction, 1971

When I woke the sun was setting and I was aching in places I’d forgotten I’d owned. Itching, too. Oversized mosquitos that didn’t seem at all surprised to find a mammal where no mammals ought to be had settled down with a commendably philosophic attitude to take a meal where they found it. I batted the most persistent ones away and walked down to see what could be seen.

We recently took advantage of a different local bookstore’s bonanza sale of used science fiction paperbacks and came home with a hefty bagful of speculative sensations. Part of my list of acquisitions was inspired by Stephen Colbert and Paul Giamatti eating up several minutes of network airtime discussion favorite obscure authors. One of the books Colbert gifted his Late Show guest was the handiwork of Keith Laumer, so I bought every little slab that had his name on the cover.

Dinosaur Beach is about time travel, bounding along through the ages with Ravel, an agent for a organization that specializes in protecting the timeline that’s frightfully susceptible from meddling by robotic interlopers who can also use era-eliding technology. Laumer gives his prose a little bit of Asimov and a little bit of Hammett, which roughs up all the fanciful invention in an agreeable way. The doubling and redoubling of time tracks can get a little confusion on the backend of the book, a nearly inevitable hazard when trying to treat the utterly improbable warping of chronological law with strict seriousness. Even that flaw is part of the charm, though, indicative of a commitment to follow through on each imaginative leap.

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