Today is being spent with the kids in front of the downstairs fireplace. There’s three feet of snow on the ground outside and we’re snug and warm inside.A good time to reconnect with this blog and being the new year of writing and reading.
The new semester has begun. [insert standard apologies for the dearth of blogging during the end of the last semester here: yada, yada]. Since last here, I put the old semester to bed and traveled to the Carolinas for a two week vacation. It was, as always, so rejuvenating to see family and reconnect–particularly with my brothers Jason, Justin and Alex. Also as always, the trip was rushed and hectic, and the build-up to it required such Herculean efforts of body and mind that Gwyn and I spent much of the trip exhausted. We’ve been back a week now, and are only now feeling somewhat normal. We’re thinking that a revision of the way we do the winter break may be in the works.
I finished Don Quixote over the break. I’ve been working on it off and on for a year and a half, not because it’s not good, but because it requires a concentrated chunk of time and effort. I did roughly half of it during the break. It was very, very good–laugh-out-loud funny and poignant and philosophically and historically insightful. Cervantes ability to take what is basically a single idea (an old man who believes he’s knight out of an old courtly romance) and repeatedly extract new and rewarding situations from it is remarkable. I’m now reading Thomas Mann’s essay “Travels with Don Quixote,” written during a steamship voyage from Europe to America during which Mann read the Quixote. On deck are a couple of short stories by Borges that engage with the novel as well.
2008 was a good year for reading. My reading journal tells me that I finished 29 books during the year. Highlights were discovering Michael Chabon and Kelly Link, and Joe Hill’s collection of short fiction 20th Century Ghosts, along with Don Quixote. Gwyn and I also listened to Neil Gaiman’s new novel, The Graveyard Book, read by Neil himself in several cities across the U.S. Gaiman is one fo my favortie authors, and The Graveyard Book may be his best work (unless it’s American Gods, or The Sandman, or…). I’d heartily encourage all of you to go to your local bookstore and pick up a copy.
2008 also led to me reconnecting to an astonishing number of old and I-had-assumed-lost friends via Facebook. Yes, I’m on Facebook. Shut up. It’s on the whole good to find out what old classmates and college friends are up to. You, kind reader, should pay particular attention to three of my rediscovered friends. First is Sheri Speaks Berry, who has been recording some very fine jazz music recently. The second is Dean Patterson (who goes by D. Byron Patterson these days), who has designs and practices a hard-to-describe cocktail of stuffed lambs, music, wisdom, storytelling, and Christmas carols at www.lambpants.com. And finally, I’ve been really happy to find my old poetry writing buddy Jen Woods, who now works as an editor for Sarabande Books (who published one of my new favortie poets, Matthew Lippman) and as the publisher and editor of her own literary journal, The Lumberyard. I love knowing the people who make beauty happen in the world.
Finally, there’s a new blog dedicated to Blind Mice. There’s not much there right now (though there is a good video of us doing “Chevrolet”), but much more will crop up as we rehears with the new bass player and move towards a bunch of summer gigs. Concert dates will be posted over there, as well as any pertinent news.