Monday, January 4, 2010

Hearts and stars to 2009

Ok, I'm lagging behind but I am still thinking about 2009 and trying to think of an appropriate tribute. Just to be clear, this was a year I liked *very* much, but I don't think all the highlights are blog-appropriate (every cookie I ate and person I hugged and time a civil servant was extra nice to me could get dull, not to mention unwieldy). So I'm concentrating on bookish highlights--they are, after all, often the most interesting parts of my day.

Books read: 69 (ha!)

Books written: 1/2 of one (hiatus'd); 1/2 of another (promising!)

Regrets regarding the first of those: none that I wrote it, none that I stopped (right now, at least; I'm a little moody on this subject)

Best reading experience: Tongue by Kyung-Ran Jo over the course of two days in July, while lying in the grass in various public parks in Toronto. This was very much not the best book I read in 2009--in fact I have a lot of problems with it that I'm dying to discuss (any takers?) But it certainly is suspenseful and I was very eager to find out what happened, and I had nothing to do but keep reading in the glorious sunshine, interrupted only by bathroom breaks, eating on patios and conversations with my equally bookish companion. There aren't many better weekends, I'd say.

Best CanLit in-joke that I actually got: In the novella "Gator Wrestling" in Leon Rooke's The Last Shot. This is a stellar piece, even if you never get the joke--it's just the sprinkles on already overwhelmingly delicious frosted cake. Conversely, there are likely many jokes I didn't get in books I've read this year--but how good were those books to start with?

Most hated short story: "Pain Continuum" by Harold Brodkey. I *love* a lot of Brodkey's stories--even the notorious cunnilingus story, "Innocence" but he has a slew of first-person-narrator-experiencing-torture marathon stories that make you hate the narrator, the torturers, the author, the world and yourself. I think he had an artistic ambition with this story, but I don't care: I loathe it.

Best reading (as audience): Spencer Gordon, "The Sentence," Pivot at the Press Club. I think this would be a great piece on paper (but I'm still waiting for it to published so that I can confirm that) but Gordon's voice and the audience's warm reception made this incredible to listen to.

Best reading (as reader): the Metcalf-Rooke reading in Montreal at Drawn and Quarterly. Fantastic lineup, amazing venue (when else I am going to be onstage in a graphic novel store?), all in my old town. As to my own performance, I felt more thoroughly that I didn't suck than usual, which in my self-conscious universe counts as a win!

Best book launch accessory: Amy Jones's mixed cd for her launch for What Boys Like. What a good idea (and good music!) (and a good book!)

Worst disappointment: Closing announcement of Don Mills McNallly Robinson. I'd pinned a lot of hopes on that lovely space. So sad.

Best literary reading food: Really fat and enormous dates at the launch of Marta Chudolinska's Back and Forth graphic novel.

Best conversation about writing: About 72 short stories, with Camilla Gibb and Lee Henderson as we debated and decided on the stories for The Journey Stories 21. A warm, empassioned and literate conversation that lasted all day in a big sunny room, with sushi.

I could go on and on--it was a really good year. Buy you get the gist, I'm sure--and we all have a year to get on with!



amy jones said...

You far surpassed "didn't suck" at the Drawn and Quarterly reading. But I'm sure your readers already knew that!

August said...

Amy: indeed. I wasn't there, but I did get to see Rebecca read once this year, and she is clearly an excellent reader, regardless of her anxiety. I've been to dozens of readings and seen probably close to a hundred authors by now, and she does far better than the quivering, paper-dry, high-school drama efforts of most (though to be fair to the others, reading aloud and putting words on the page aren't always skills/talents that occur together).

Rebecca Rosenblum said...

Thanks so much, you guys!! I did feel that both those readings went ok (maybe because of the inspiring company??) I still don't have an awesome instinct for these things, but I am totally willing to take your words for it!!