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10 things worth sharing: my favorite books and music of the year, remembering Babitz and Didion, and more...
Tonight is an extra-special Christmas Eve pizza night, so we’ll probably go with a few classics: Charlie Brown and The Grinch. If you’re looking for more grown-up ideas for holiday viewing, check out this site I made a few years back with my friend Lance, A Christmas Movie A Day.
Here are 10 things I thought were worth sharing this week:
Winter is here, so I made a list of 10 good books I read this fall. I’ll post a favorite books of 2021 list at some point, but I like to wait until the year is over, because you never know. (For example, I’m currently reading When We Cease To Understand The World, and it’s really good.) Here are my top 3 favorites I’ve read so far this year: Lauren Groff’s Matrix, Iain McGilchrist’s The Master and his Emissary, and Verlyn Klinkenborg’s Several Short Sentences About Writing.
RIP writer Eve Babitz. At least two of her books are absolute classics, and would make perfect, funny, smart, slightly-trashy holiday break reads: Eve’s Hollywood and Slow Days, Fast Company. She wrote: “My education has been through reading, which has been my backbone and salvation throughout life.”
RIP writer Joan Didion. She wrote many classics that I am, unfortunately, less familiar with, but I’m a big fan of what she says in “On Keeping a Notebook,” collected in Slouching Towards Bethlehem: “I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind’s door at 4 a.m. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends.”
I’m working on my big top 100 list I do every year, and it might sound funny, but I think my favorite experience with a work of art this year was playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on my kids’ Nintendo Switch. Disappearing into Hyrule was a balm on my battered brain.
Ear candy: My favorite album this year was Pharaoh Sanders and Floating Points’ Promises, followed by Billy Nomates’ Emergency Telephone EP (made in her shed!) and Dry Cleaning’s New Long Leg. (Also: check out my favorite music movies of 2021.) You can hear more of the songs I liked this year in my 2021 playlist.
Jill Lepore on how the week organizes and tyrannizes our lives. (Re-thinking your relationship to time would make a great New Year’s resolution. Some things I’ve written on the subject: how I am no longer weakened by the weekend, the trouble with months, how the days of the week got their names, the power of patience, and circular time vs. linear time.)
A few holiday breaks ago, I read an entry a day from A.R. Ammons’ Tape for the Turn of the Year, a journal/poem he wrote from December 6, 1963 through January 10, 1964. I just discovered that Cornell has a PDF scan of the original, long adding-machine tape Ammons typed on.
Speaking of PDFs, Tamara Shopsin has a collection of her hand-painted signs you can download a print for free. (Our book club read her Arbitrary Stupid Goal in August. It would also make a good New Year read.)
Sam Beckett on the task of the artist, which I may adopt as my New Year’s resolution: “To find a form that accommodates the mess.”
Thank you for reading. Have a safe and happy holiday.
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