August 2020 Reading Update

August 2020 Update

August continued the pandemic trend of quiet months. Although some restrictions in Philadelphia have been lifted, we are erring on the side of caution and still staying in as much as possible.

Outdoor dining has been permitted at restaurants for the past few weeks, and as much as we enjoy going out to eat, we haven’t taken advantage of this option. Not only does it still seem unsafe—not only to us but to the waitstaff—but it also feels unlikely that we would be able to relax enough to really enjoy our meal.

We’re still trying to support our local restaurants by getting takeout and delivery, but I don’t foresee us changing our minds about not going anywhere.

Starting in early September, restaurants will be able to offer indoor dining but with a lot of restrictions. If we’re hesitant about outdoor dining, indoor dining is certainly a non-starter.

Classes at the university where we work started on the 24th. About 75% of the classes are being offered online, but there will still be approximately 9,000 students on campus in addition to all the faulty and staff who need to be there. Many of the students live in off campus housing so there is a lot of concern about the health impact their arrival will have on the surrounding community.

By the first weekend, our campus had 103 cases so the university halted in-person classes for 2 weeks. I haven’t heard what the criteria may be for deciding to stay online, but it’s hard to imagine going back to in-person instruction after so many cases in just the first week.

I’m still keeping sane during our self-imposed isolation thanks to my hobbies and to being able to spend so much time with Holly. We’ve had a few cooler days recently which we took advantage of by going for walks. I’m looking forward to the fall and more comfortable conditions. I’m eager to wander farther from our neighborhood!


Because of the hot weather for most of the summer and the pandemic, I haven’t been taking as many photos. I got 3 rolls of film developed at the very end of July. One of which was an accidentally exposed roll in my Diana F+ which I mentioned in my July 2020 Update. I have since posted about the other 2 rolls:

By the end of the month, I had another 3 rolls which I sent off to get developed. One of those rolls was from a new used camera which I’ll post about once I get the film developed.

Drawing and Graphic Design

I continued dabbling with Martina Flor’s The Lettering Seminar. I’m up to a section where she is talking about creating a digital version of one’s hand-drawn lettering. She uses Adobe Illustrator for this. I have some experience with Illustrator but am far from being comfortable with it so I started watching the Illustrator 2020 Essential Training tutorial from which, thankfully, I have access to from the Free Library of Philadelphia.

I did another tracing project in Procreate, this time a simple logo from a wine bottle. Wine bottles often have great lettering so can serve as inspiration, and it seems like we always have some around!

Since the letters on the label were white, I temporarily inserted a black background at one point so I could see better what I was doing. Although I reverted back to a background closer in look to the original label, I rather liked the look of the white on black and may experiment more with that in the future.

gc wine label
gc wine label

I also started a hand-drawn lettering project. I’m only part way finished and, if it turns out OK, I may write a separate post about that. I would like to follow-up by tracing that in Procreate so I can add some color and background. I haven’t yet traced something I drew myself. Of course, that will depend on how happy I am with the finished product.


As I wrote in my 2019 Update and 2020 Goals post, I simplified my goals for this year and, basically, decided on two:

  • More posts here on This Creative Midlife
  • A refreshed and thoughtful approach to my short stories.

I continue to post here regularly with 5 August posts which adds up to 42 posts for the year. Last year, I posted only 20 times.

Last month, I had the most traffic yet with 299 visits. I surpassed that this month with 377 visits. Last August, I had only 99.

I feel as if I’m at a little impasse with the stories I’ve been revising. I’ve been spinning my wheels a bit and not getting where I want to be with them. I’m thinking of taking a break and concentrating instead on my second goal and read some short stories more critically to learn more about what makes them work.

I’m also considering trying to find homes for some completed stories, but I’ll have to see what my options might be. Many literary journals are associated with colleges and universities which are going through a tumultuous time right now.


Short Stories

In August, I continued noting short stories that I enjoyed.

I finished Lydia Davis’ Can’t and Won’t. Although I did not like the collection overall, there were a handful of stories I did like, 3 of which I mentioned in my June update. There were 2 more from this month I liked: The Cows and The Seals. I found most of the very short stories to be pretty pointless and those very short stories make up the bulk of the book.

The New Yorker continues to be my favorite place to discover new stories. Of the stories from the August issues, I enjoyed Madhuri Vijay’s You Are My Dear Friend, David Gilbert’s Cicadia, and David Wright Faladé’s The Sand Banks, 1861.

I also liked Andrew Martin’s Deep Cut from The Atlantic.

Short Stories Read in 2020:

So far in 2020, I’ve read 36 stories that I have enjoyed.


I finished reading 3 books in August.

2020 has been a good reading year so far. Self-isolation and working from home are big contributors to that, especially not having a commute. Most mornings, I had read a little on our subway ride to work, but it was a short trip so that equated to only a couple of pages.

It took a while, but I did finally finish Lydia Davis’ Can’t or Won’t. As I mentioned above, I did not think much of the collection, although there were a few stories that I liked. Most of the stories were too slight to make an impression.

I took a long weekend to get a little break before our semester started. I took a half day on a Friday and a full day the following Monday. Coincidentally, Colson Whitehead’s The Nickel Boys became available through Overdrive via The Free Library of Philadelphia just as my long weekend started. I was fascinated by The Underground Railroad so was looking forward to his latest novel.

It’s a short book and an easy read so it was my long weekend entertainment. I’m not a particularly fast reader so it’s notable whenever I read something in a short period of time. Overall, I thought it was good, although I found a lot of the characters thinly drawn and felt like the book could have benefited from taking a little more time developing them.

I also read Sally Mann: A Thousand Crossings which I had gotten from the National Gallery of Art early in our self-isolation along with The Altering Eye which I read back in May.

I have long been fascinated by Sally Mann’s work and was very familiar with her before reading A Thousand Crossings. I was intrigued by the culture wars of the late 1980s and early 1990s and many of the photos from her Immediate Family collection were often in the news.

A Thousand Crossing is based on an exhibit of them same name that was at the National Gallery of Art. Once the pandemic is over, I’ll need to pay more attention to the exhibits there because, if I had known about that exhibit at the time, I certainly would have been tempted to take the train down to D.C. for it.

The book provides a great overview of her work with 5 essays covering different periods. And, of course, it includes plenty of photographs.

Since I’ve been growing more and more interested in photography, I’m really glad I splurged on those 2 books from the National Gallery of Art.

August 2020 Reading Update
August 2020 Reading Update

Books Read in 2020

So far in 2020, I have read 26 books:

This Creative Midlife Posts in 2020

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