10 things worth sharing this week
“It’s clear to me now that nothing can save us from the crisis of beginning.”
Here are 10 things I thought were worth sharing in this first week of 2024:
January often feels to me like one long metaphysical hangover. (Thoreau: “Is not January the hardest month to get through?”) If you find it as slow-starting as I do, you might try these prompts for the new year. Or, kick back with a book and save your resolutions for February.
One thing I like about this week is catching up on all the year-end lists that keep pouring in. An annual favorite of mine is Elisa Gabbert’s “Every book I read in 2023, with commentary.” Books I grabbed off her list: Adam Phillips’ Missing Out: In Praise of the Unlived Life, Robert Harbison’s The Built, the Unbuilt, and the Unbuildable: In Pursuit of Architectural Meaning, and Isaac Butler’s The Method: How the Twentieth Century Learned to Act (One day I’ll get into W. G. Sebald — some of his novels have pictures in them!)
“Childlike foolishness is the calling of mature men.” I picked up my well-underlined copy of Ernest Becker’s The Denial of Death after reading this essay in praise of the book on its 50th year of existence. If you want to read a great novel inspired by the book, try Don Delillo’s White Noise. Filmmakers Laura Dunn and Jef Sewell are working on a new movie inspired by Becker’s work, All Illusions Must Be Broken, and their Kickstarter updates have some good Show Your Work!–style entries, like this entry about digging in sound archives.
My first read of the year was Matt Bucher’s The Belan Deck — a mediation on A.I. and powerpoint and life that reads like David Markson’s commonplace notecard novels meets Nicholson Baker’s The Mezzanine. If that company isn’t enough praise, Jonathan Lethem put it on his year-end list and called it an “excellent tiny book.” (I should also note that Matt is a lovely guy who loves pencils and libraries as much as I do.)
Movies: Saltburn has an artsy/trashy mix that I find irresistible. The Holdovers ranks high on my list of teacher/student hijinks movies, below Wonder Boys. For more family-friendly viewing: We watched Men in Black on NYE with the boys and we took them to see Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs in the theater. Both movies hold up beautifully. (Check out this great Snow White remix the Alamo Drafthouse played in the pre-show.)
Isaac Fitzgerald shares his best books to read in January 2024. I second his recommendation of Percival Everett’s Erasure and can’t wait to see the adaptation, American Fiction. A book that wasn’t on my radar: Jesse David Fox’s Comedy Book: How Comedy Conquered Culture and the Magic That Makes It Work. (Isaac talking about his forthcoming Johnny Appleseed-inspired memoir sent me down a rabbit hole in which I discovered that one of my favorite prayers we sang at 4-H camp was actually from Walt Disney’s Melody Time, which looks, uh, problematic, as they say.)
Ear candy: I enjoyed Six Arrows for Naydra, a little tape of reimaginings of music from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. (I heard “Riding Day” on Soundfounder’s excellent Favorite Songs of 2023 show.)
In case you missed my last two emails, I sent out my annual top 100 list and another list of some of my favorite books, movies, etc. of 2023. (I somehow deleted my favorite TV from the latter, so I went back and stuck those recommendations in the PS.)
Thanks for reading! And thanks to all in our merry crew for sharing this newsletter, a hand-rolled, algorithm-free, completely reader-supported publication. If you’d like to support my work, buy my books, hire me to speak, or become a paid subscriber: