“...gray just not coming in, but putting its feet up and making itself at home.” - Thomas Pynchon
Recapping the year, it's been a time when I didn't read as many books as I usually do or attend as many book events as I normally do. But why?
The Best Read of the Year Wasn't a Book
This year, I found myself reading more magazines and fewer books. Part of the reason is that due to a chronic wrist problem, I find carrying larger books on the train more troublesome. Since I have no desire to own an e-reader, I switched to reading more magazines. Taking advantage of low subscription rates, I regulary read The Atlantic, The Economist, Cabinet, The Believer, and Harpers, but the magazine I enjoyed the most was The Sun.
The Sun has been around since 1974 but this is first time I subscribed to it. In a time where print is dominated by slickness and snarkiness, this magazine with its black and white photos takes a personal approach. The short stories and observational pieces seem written by common folk (still they are writers, but the prose is usually simple, direct and touching). Readers contribute with letters and there is a topic of the month where they send in personal anecdotes, which must be deftly edited by founder Sy Safransky. Each issue is anchored with a lengthy interview of someone whom I had never heard of, but has fascinating views on the environment, the prison system, animal rights, etc., This month the interview was with author and couples therapist Esther Perel, who talks about sex, marriage and intimacy.
The Sun does not accept advertising and relies on subscriptions and donations (and shout outs from blogs).
There are a few books that are worth mentioning. Most of them books that were published years ago, but that is one of the themes of the book shopper – not just focusing on “the latest” but looking for gems of the past. Some of my favorites were Zadie Smith's White Teeth (2001), William Styron's Tidewater Mornings (1993), and Micheal Chabon's The Yiddish Policeman's Union (2007), Wilfrid Sheed's Baseball and Lesser Sports (1991) Robert Boswell's Living to Be a Hundred (1994) and David Shields' The Thing About Life Is That One Day You'll Be Dead (2008). A couple notables published this year were Francis Spufford's Unapologetic and Where Somebody Waits by Margaret Kaufman. Currently, I am working my way through Thomas Pynchon's Bleeding Edge, where the opening quote in this posting comes from.
The Best Local Book Event (That I Attended) in 2013
I probably went to less than ten book events this year and mostly at the urging of the my longtime partner Denise. I must say that my interest for going out to see a writer has waned. (Keep in mind the theme of this posting is lethargy.) This year, Denise and I did see the gracious Rick Atkinson for the second time and a repeat performance by former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins. Neither disappointed. Denise thinks that Erica Jong at Decatur Public Library was by far the best event we attended – so that is good enough for me.
My goal for 2014? More rest and a better attitude.