MY LIMITED LIST OF “BESTS” DISCOVERED IN 2012:
- BEST COMEBACK (heard over the radio just yesterday):
Miles Davis was invited to a White House dinner by Ronald Reagan. During dinner, Nancy Reagan turned to him to ask what it was he had done with his life to justify an exclusive invitation to dine at the White House.
Davis replied: “Well, I’ve changed the course of music five or six times. What have you done except sleep with the president?”
- BEST INSPIRATIONAL ANECDOTE (this item, contributed by Maria Popova, appears in today’s NY. Times):
…[Ray] Bradbury left high school with plans of going to college, but no money. So he set out to educate himself by going to the library three days a week, a regimen he continued for 10 years, never romanticizing poverty or the so-called writer’s life. Instead, he celebrated the joy of writing itself. In 1951, living in Los Angeles with his wife two and two infant daughters, he got a bag of dimes and rented a typewriter in the U.C.L.A. basement for 10 cents a half-hour. He wrote “Fahrenheit 451” for $9.80.
“You remain invested in your inner child by exploding every day. You don’t worry about the future, you don’t worry about the past–you just explode.”
- BEST MUSICAL DISCOVERY (heard this beautiful aria broadcast (4 different versions, back-to-back!) on WKCR-FM yesterday in the car):
J.S. Bach: the aria: Ebarme rich, from his St. Matthew Passion:
- BEST MOVIE-WATCHING EXPERIENCE OF 2012: Wes Andersen’s Moonrise Kingdom:
- BEST READING EXPERIENCE OF 2012: Dirt by David Vann
Vann has rapidly become one of my favorite authors. I’ve read three of his novels: Legends of a Suicide; Caribou Island; and Dirt.
His writing is pared down and absent of excess. He focuses on the paralyzing confusion, abject misery and the enervating struggle of adolescents trapped in crazy, out of control families — through no fault of their own except by the fact of being born.
His novels are all set in extreme environments. The frigid, punishing wilds of Alaska. The blisteringly hot central valley of California. Isolated from mainstream society, miles from other human beings, these adolescents are at the mercy of their deeply flawed, unpredictable parents. Their palpable suffering, yearning, and skewed rationalizations are central to the stories Vann tells. Deeply compassionate stories that will stun, evoke awe and break your heart.
The following quote, from Dirt, is in the main character’s voice. I think it may be one of, if not the theme, in all of these books:
Anything could happen any time. That was the truth of the world. You could just lose your foot one day, and after that you’d be a guy missing a foot. You could never know what was coming next, and that was true for even the smallest things.
- BEST NEWS I’VE HEARD IN 2012:
Two of my favorite writers have new novels coming out:
David Vann has a new book coming out in 2013 or 2014 called Goat Island.
Elizabeth Strout has a new novel coming out in March, 2013: The Burgess Boys (If you haven’t read Amy and Isabelle; Abide With Me; or Olive Kitteridge by the extraordinary Strout, you are missing a truly great writer).
- Not that I care so much about artist Damien Hirst…but the good news is that he “dropped” Larry Gagosian as his gallerist — which could be the start of a trend of artists going out on their own, which could weaken the stronghold that the money-hemoraghing gallery mafia has over artists (even if Hirst is also vomiting money acquired by hooking up with Gagosian….)
Hirst’s Shark in Formaldehyde
We all need something really GOOD to look foward to…and the world could use fewer sharks.