The content has been pretty thin on the ground around here lately, in part due to a sheer lack of time and in part due to some bad luck re: intestinal health. I had a verra, verra turrible stomach bug a few weeks ago and now I’m down (though not nearly so far down) with what I think is food poisoning. Good times.
Nonetheless, 2013 was all-in-all a pretty damned fine year. I have, I think, resigned myself to the fact that reading 100+ books every 365 days or so is a thing of the past. But having established a much fuller life outside of books than I’ve ever had before, I can’t really regret it.
No longer being what I would call a prolific reader does make me feel a wee bit maudlin, but you know: I rode probably 1,000 km on my bicycle this year. That has some value too, I think.
I also became a regular contributor at Food Riot, which gave me all kinds of opportunities for ranting, sentimentalizing, joke-making, and the tasting of foods I would normally skip. My favourite posts are probably Nothing Says “I Love You” Like Canned Peas Cooked in the Kettle and The Insomniac’s Cookbook. But my hate-filled screed about anti-carb hysteria/pro-increase people’s shame about their bodies post got me the most hits I’ve received on the site (and resulted in FR having to shut down comments on a post for the first time ever. A dubious achievement.).
I also wrote a few pieces for Open Letters Monthly, all of which I’m rather irritatingly proud of. But it’s my most recent essay, on John Ford’s ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore, that is most special to me because it’s clear that, five years after having finished my PhD, I’ve finally somehow broken free of my academic training–by which I mean I can write emotionally, but I think still thoughtfully, about the texts that interest and challenge me the most. I worried, for a long time, that I would only ever be able to write either as a dry academic or as a shrill, flip, shallow, fun-time bloggy blogger (by which I mean to make fun only of myself, fyi); it was such a relief to see that I could finally cross that mental divide.
I’ve also been doing some editing for OLM, although not as much this month as I would like. Here’s to 2014 being about managing my time, and the health and well-being of my food-eater, better!
But back to the books. A few things. I gave up completely on trying to stop buying books. This is something I’ve struggled with for years, but since such attempts only end in tears and the gnashing of teeth, I’ve decided not to bother. I’ve decided I don’t care if I never come even close to reading all my own books; they’re comforting to have around, like cats, a full cupboard, a working furnace, coffee and/or tea, the Oxford comma, and electricity. Down with the guilt.
I read 55ish books in 2013. Many of them were excellent. I wrote a little snippet, about which I’m (again) rather smugly pleased, as part of OLM’s Year in Reading posts. (Part one is here.) But Trilby, Letters From My Windmill, and The Child weren’t the only ones to really stand out for me (although I think Trilby is my most beloved book of 2013; it’s got a spring in its step, even when it’s very dark, that makes The Sound of Music look blah-zay).
George Gissing’s The Nether World, George Meredith’s Sandra Belloni, Yoko Ogawa’s Revenge, M.F.K. Fisher’s Serve It Forth, Margaret Oliphant’s Hester, Mary Stewart’s Madam, Will You Talk?, Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote, Barbara Pym’s Excellent Women, and Anthony Trollope’s Dr Wortle’s School all contributed to this being an incredibly satisfying year spent with the dust and ink.
I also began what is supposed to be a regular feature over at Albino Books (and which, for the above mentioned reasons, I am also behind on. Sigh.) called Copper Cylinders, in which I review SF classics from the perspective of a newbie (which I am). My first, and so far only, installment was about Theodore Sturgeon’s More Than Human, which is in equal parts crazy and brilliant and frustrating (the book, not my post). I’ve read the book for the next installment–Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End–but haven’t managed to find the time for it yet. But I will! It also is crazy and brilliant in ways that are new to me, and my think-box is grinding away at it, even if my fingers aren’t transferring any of it into words yet.
Reading plans? No. I suppose I could try to make some, but I won’t follow through with them. I am intensely interested in many things, but also very easily distracted. If I have a plan for 2014 then I guess it’s only to continue to be distracted and see what jewels of literary brilliance I stumble upon because of it.
PS-What do you think of Jam and Idleness’s new look?
PPS-The photos littered without explanation throughout this post were taken last week, right after the crazy ice storm that handed Toronto its fat bum on a big, rickety platter.