I used to think that constant hand wringing over book choices was the exclusive domain of anxiety-ridden bloggers.
Am I reading enough classics?
Should I be reading something “smarter”?
Do I read too many dead white guys?
Should I read more non-fiction?
Do audiobooks even count?
Is 50 books a year enough?!
We all do it. We’re all self-conscious. We all write at least a post a year as a solemn decree to read what we want, when we want, and let the snobs be damned. Then we go back to asking the same questions again and the cycle never ends.
As it turns out, this process has been going on for at least a hundred years, as evidenced by Viriginia Woolf’s read-whatever-you-god-damn-well-please essay, “How Should One Read a Book?” (Available for free right here.)
So today, on what is Woolf’s 136th birthday, let us give Virginia the stage. Let her ease our worries, and clean our guilty slates for a year of reading whatever makes us happy in 2018.
Before you roll your eyes and scroll past this post, I’m going to ask you to set aside your preconceived notions for just a minute. Even if you’re not a fan of comics (as most of you aren’t, I’m guessing) there’s a moment in the recently released Batman Rebirth: Vol 1 Deluxe Edition that kind of blew me away.
In it, Bruce Wayne (aka Batman) writes a letter to Selina Kyle (aka Catwoman) during her imprisonment in Gotham’s infamous Arkham Asylum. Despite being arch-nemeses (don’t worry, that’s a real word), Bruce and Selina have developed an attraction to one another. They’re not all that different, really. They’ve just chosen to deal with their pain in different ways.
Bruce, as you might recall, watched his parents die after they were shot in an alley when he was just seven years old. As a response to that trauma, he deals out vigilante justice dressed a man bat. Which is stupid.
It’s why I’ve never been able to get behind Batman. To me, he’s always been one of the most ridiculous super heroes (in a genre that is ridiculous by nature) because he takes the thing so seriously. He’s this dark, brooding, bad-ass character and yet he dresses in cosplay, does karate, uses words like batarang, and drives a “Batmobile”. It’s insane. And nobody talks about it.
In her short story, “The Fullness of Life,” Edith Wharton wrote about a woman who dies. In heaven, she is met by the Spirit of Life, who rewards her with the chance to live for eternity with her soulmate, something she did not get to experience during her time on Earth.
Seems like an easy decision, right? But here’s the catch: the woman still feels a dutiful attachment to her former husband, who has yet to die. In a classic bit of Whartian tragedy, he’s always considered her his soulmate, and will surely want to spend eternity with her once he, too, passes on.
Thus, her dilemma: does she selfishly take the Spirit’s offer and spend eternity with her true soulmate, or does she stay loyal to the man she married?
“Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.”
― Alexander Pope
I had been waiting to read Chloe Benjamin’s second novel, The Immortalists–which hit bookshelves four days ago–since last summer. That’s when Michael Kindness started shouting from digital mountaintops about how good this book was, and how he couldn’t wait for people to read it when it was finally published.
Then came the Publisher’s Weekly review, which claimed the author had written “a cleverly structured novel steeped in Jewish lore and the history of four decades of American life.” It was described as “a moving meditation on fate, faith, and the family ties that alternately hurt and heal.”
Then there’s that cover. Even if had been described as “Trump’s twitter feed, but worse” I probably still would have bought it. Early contender for Cover of the Year, for sure.
Finally, in a moment of apparent serendipity, I won a Goodreads giveaway and ended up getting a copy of the book two weeks early. More than six months after Kindness’ proselytizing, everything had fallen into place.
Every month I wrangle up some of the more interesting things around the blogosphere and present them to you in a neat and tidy package. Like sports highlights, or the mall.
December and January are largely comprised of 2017 wrap-ups and 2018 previews. I’m going to do my best to highlight some other great articles here (although there are a few great 2018 previews that I would like to share, but I’ll save that for the end).
I find that I’m gravitating towards the positive to start the new year. The narrative of “last year sucked, this year probably won’t be any better” is not only trite, but it’s negative. I don’t really have time for it anymore. Yeah, Trump is a monster. Hollywood is a an absolute mess. Lots of people hated The Last Jedi.
Choose to see the good things in 2018. I’m not saying ignore the bad, but do yourself a favour and just try to at least acknowledge the good.