So, I moved. That actually happened. It doesn’t feel real yet, most of the time. Shana keeps poking me and saying, “You’re here!” and I say, “I’m here.” We’ll be doing this for a while, I think, until the surprise wears off. I’ve met so many wonderful people that I’ve only known online until now and am feeling so welcomed and grateful. I’m alternately happy and overwhelmed – basically still in a state of shock. I expected that, but it’s a very strange feeling. I’m also feeling sluggish and puffy and slightly off from a month of rocky sleep, hard work, not working out, and too much drinking and fancy food. My impulse at the moment is to hook myself up to a barrel of coconut water and go into hiding for a month until I feel healthier and more settled. When I feel like hiding, it’s hard to tell if I should fight it or go with it. I don’t know what the answer is this time around. My words are rusty right now, but I want to write. I feel like I should write something to mark the occasion of arriving here and starting a new year, but I’m not really up to the traditional summary/self-examination New Year’s blog post. In any case, I documented 2012 and the move pretty thoroughly both here and on Twitter. So I’m going to compromise and do the 2012 roundup in books. They are, after all, the heartbeat of my life.
I read a lot last year, and I was lucky to have several experiences of the exact right book at the exact right moment – those books that feed your bones and make you feel alert and a little desperate. Here they are, in the order of my year.
January & February: Lucifer by Mike Carey. This is a 13 volume graphic novel series based on the Lucifer character from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. I loved every minute of this. It’s brilliant and beautiful and challenging and I think I might actually prefer it to the source material.
February: The Journal of a Disappointed Man by W.N.P. Barbellion. I’ve spent the better part of a year trying to come up with a way to talk about this book, and it still eludes me. In the simplest terms, it’s the journal of an early 20th century naturalist from his childhood until his death at age 28. He’s no one famous, and illness prevented him from accomplishing the things he wanted to do, but it’s an extraordinary record of a man’s sorrows and delights and struggles with himself. It’s beguiling and funny and mundane and heartbreaking, and I think I’ve seldom underlined so many things in a single volume. There aren’t many things I reread, but this one stays with me until it falls apart and then I’ll find a new copy and begin again.
March: Embassytown by China Mieville. I read Kraken in 2011 and got seduced by China Mieville’s elastic settings, acrobatic way with words and archaic vocabulary. I read several more of his novels last year, but this was my favorite. A master of language writes a novel about language and its use as a tool of power. Well, okay, I’m in. It’s smooth and slick and elegant and a little nauseating, and I’ve read the denouement paragraph again half a dozen times since I finished the book because I never tire of the sound of it.
June: The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love and the History of the World From the Periodic Table of the Elements by Sam Kean. It’s exactly what it sounds like, and it’s fascinating and chatty and entertaining. It’s an easy read that I took fairly slowly while reading other things, so that I’d absorb it better – it’s jam-packed with anecdotes and amazing bits of science that I’ve enjoyed connecting up with other ideas and projects ever since I read it.
July: An Invisible Sign of My Own by Aimee Bender. I read this while I was recovering from surgery, and the combination of magical realism, social awkwardness, and finding a way back from a broken state of being was exactly the right thing for the chaos I went through last summer. I love Aimee Bender, but she never fails to push me in painful directions, so I only read her every couple of years.
September: Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente. Talking about this one also baffles me. Valente takes an ancient Russian folk tale, turns it sideways and adds modern Russian history. It’s luscious and musical and violent. It’s something I’ll reread many times, and I expect it will feel different to me each time.
September: Slouching Towards Bethlehem: Essays by Joan Didion. Brittle and unflinching and so familiar in tone. The title essay is devastating, and the essays on visiting Alcatraz, Self Respect and On Keeping a Notebook are favorites.
The year in reading. That felt about right. I’ll return you to your regularly scheduled blogging – and some new things I’m planning – when I return to my regularly scheduled self. Happy 2013.