I know, everyone is already focused on 2010, but my ship turned a little slowly this year. Thinking about my New Year’s resolutions, I kept mulling over 2009. Rather than looking forward, I continually looked back, as if I was searching for something I missed.
In an effort to put 2009 to bed, I thought I’d hash out my literary thoughts and discoveries for 2009:
Throughout the year, I made a concentrated effort to read more essays, short stories and poems. I discovered as much about myself reading them as I did from the content of the piece. The experience confirmed what I suspected in 2008, I’m an essay groupie. My favorite essays are those that notice something mundane and then spin thoughts out into a beautifully connected web. My own thinking will notice something ordinary and then spin out, but more like a tangled ball of yarn. George Orwell, Anne Fadimen and E.B. White stood out. Nick Hornby’s ”Believer” essays are cozy and warm, I can’t wait to read the rest of them. I enjoyed the Essay Reading Challenge and joined again for this year (check out the Essay Challenge page to see what I’m reading.)
How I read a short story significantly effects my reaction to it. My goal was to read a short story a day for the second third of the year. I failed, but I am 53 stories into 100 Shots of Short. As I look back at the list of what I read, the ones that were not part of a collection by the same author were far more meaningful to me. I have a terrible tendency to novelize a collection of short stories. My favorites were by the O’Connor’s: Frank’s “First Confession,” and Flannery’s “Everything that Rises Must Converge.” Some labeled 2009 the Year of the Short Story, and while that wouldn’t describe my experience, it certainly was a year that I delved deeper into the genre.
My enjoyment of poetry continues to grow. I’m constantly on the look out for Ted Kooser and Mary Oliver collections. I’ll always like hearing poetry over reading it. My inner voice never is never as insightful as that of an excellent reader. Guess which podcast I listen to most? That’s right, Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac.
Far and away, my favorite book of the year was The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. This work is wonderful on its own, but great books are more than their content. The Elegance of the Hedgehog opened the door to translated literature for me. We spent the summer on the blog reviewing translated books, some terrific, some okay, but overall the best reading experience of the year. I’m far more aware of and interested in books from other languages and cultures than at the beginning of the 2009.
Looking for translated books led to learning about new publishers. It never occurred to me that I would feel loyal to a publisher, but that is 2008 thinking. All I have to do is see Eurpoa’s funny bird and the book is with me at the cash register. NYRB’s e-mails are the first I open. The best literary day of the month is when Archipelago Books’ shipment arrives.
So what are my 2010 resolutions? I’m considering naming some I would actually achieve, like taking more naps.