I resolve to be more resolute

I resolve to be more resolute

I don’t really do new year’s resolutions, because when I was young somebody told me that they never work, and when you’re young you’re very impressionable. For example, I once heard one of the robots on Mystery Science Theater declare, “No matter what the culture, folk dancing is stupid,” and that has been my attitude to that ever since.

I do periodically challenge/force myself to improve myself, or at least address some of my shortcomings. Like one time I resolved to turn myself into a Roxy Music fan. Another time I took up yoga. Because I can now touch my toes and sing all the words to “All I Want is You,” I would say that these challenges I give myself are generally worth the effort.

But they aren’t new year’s resolutions, because I learned when I was six that those never work. It just so happens that when I looked in the mirror and decided that I needed to fix some issues, it was New Year’s Eve. Totally unrelated, though. I would have made these resolutions in October if I’d felt lousy enough then.

First and foremost, I need to read something. After getting off to a great start in January (Moby Dick and The Goldfinch—loved the first, gradually came to hate the second) I didn’t really do much over the rest of the year. A few short novels, mostly read during the summer, and none of them especially memorable; two books on Russian history (a package deal on eBay); and some Shakespeare that I really should have read a long time ago: that was it. Oh, and I only made it through one of those Russian books because I was the only person in the office and there was literally nothing else to do.

So I need to fix that.

I also need to write more. I was doing an amazing (for me) job at the start of the year (that whole a-short-story-and-a personal-essay-every-week thing), but then work—my actual job, that is—finally got going and I didn’t have time to spend twenty hours a week writing. I understand that there are limits, of course, but the fact is that I could do a lot more than I’ve been doing. I could spend less time on Reddit, for example, or just staring at my chickens. Sometimes I just walk around in circles thinking about how I don’t have time to do anything except walk around in circles.

Oh, and in the fall I developed a weird obsession with a game called Fire Emblem, because it let me send a bunch of warriors into battle, and they could fall in love and have children, and those children were also warriors, and so I could send a whole warrior family into battle, which was violent but still kind of sweet. Somehow this was appealing to me, and consumed most of my evenings. And no, it doesn’t make any more sense if you actually play it. It’s just weird. And time-consuming. (And, yes, fun, but whatever.)

So I’ve put away Fire Emblem and taken books off my shelf and put them in a neat little stack so they can taunt me whenever I’m in my living room, and I’ve ordered a bunch of fresh books so I can have something new to look forward to. I can’t tell you what they are, because I’ve already forgotten, but tonight I’m going to start reading either a book of Chinese poetry that I found at a book market in Amsterdam, or a history of Mediterranean pirates that I’ve been lugging around for way too long. I’ll decide over a glass of wine.

And this morning I woke up at three-thirty for reasons that I cannot understand, and instead of poking around on the Internet until sunrise I poured myself some coffee and did a bit of writing. Only three hundred words, but three hundred good ones, I think. I am pleased.

Of course I should also work on being healthier, kinder and more generous, and maybe getting my car’s oil changed more regularly. But right now, learning again how to read and write seem like admirable enough goals, new year be damned.

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My Year in Books

My Year in Books

A few years ago I started to keep track of the books I read because I noticed that I wasn’t reading as much as I wanted to, and perhaps if I kept track then I wouldn’t spend so much time watching dogs eating tacos on YouTube. I still don’t read as much as I could, and this year I had a few false starts (I don’t count books I’ve only half-read). But here is what I read this year, in order of completion.

1. “Hardheaded Weather” by Cornelius Eady

I started 2016 by taking a weeklong trip–beginning January 1st at about 3:00 AM–and I needed a few books for the trip. Because I wasn’t sure of what to expect in terms of free time, I decided to go with poetry, because I could then have the option of immersing myself if I had lots of time or dipping my toes if I only had a few minutes. (I did bring along a few novels, just in case.) I don’t remember at all why I picked Cornelius Eady; perhaps the cover just appealed to me.

Anyway, it was a fantastic start to the year. Once I finally had a chance to read it, I read it cover-to-cover twice. Then I came back to it several times since then. What begin as small, almost trite, observations about daily gather in emotional force rather quickly. “My Mother, If She Won Free Dance Lessons” immediately inspired me to write a story (which I don’t think was any good, or I didn’t finish it, or something). “Song” devastated me so much I had to find somebody to read it out loud to. I’m not sure if my audience was appreciative or just humored me. It didn’t matter to me in the end anyway. I just needed to share it.

If you have twenty minutes to spare, watch Cornelius Eady read some of his work here.

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