Ex Libris 2009

books  A good year for book reading was 2009, but more importantly I discovered again the beauty and power of the short story.  It was partly a function of time — short stories are often perfectly packaged for those bits of travel or in-between spaces of my life. 

A number of “Best of” lists include Daniyal Mueenuddin’s collection, and although I enjoyed his work and working with him, there’s a piece of me that thinks that this collection has captured imaginations in part because Pakistan is so much in the news.

The environment too was in the news frequently, and William Cronon, opened my eyes not to the impact of the changes man has wrought but to the connectivity of history, geography, and the ecology.  A classic that’s just as relevant today.

I remain disturbed by much of Nam Le’s collection since reading it.  I wasn’t moved by the actual writing so much as left with a sense of the anger and earnestness contained within his stories.  There were very few tidy endings, and even when he drifted close to cliché, the suffering of his characters (outward and inward) was more than enough to leave an impression that I can’t quite shake.

So the best this year have to be some of the individual works themselves: A River Runs Through It (Collected Stories of Norman MacLean), Seiche (Granta 108), The Lightless Room (Granta 108), Lily (In Other Rooms), and Cartagena (The Boat).


Your Pic Here

It appears that some kids are taking a break from Facebook because it takes up too much of their time.  I don’t mind FB, though there are some folks who appear to be on it constantly.  I’m intrigued less by the daily updates and more by the other changes people make, like changing their profile picture.  One friend, who is smitten by a new-found relationship, has updated with a soft-toned, warm picture.  Another’s pictures reflects his mood, particularly on Sundays after a football game.  And another changed his because his Mom (his Mom is on FB?) didn’t like his photo.  Sometimes people just don’t want to be seen.  And sometimes it’s just nice to see people.

Winter Winds

Fifteen inches of snow on the ground is enough to bury me in blankets, itching to get out.  So while browsing the bookshelves of the world wide web I was reminded of my favorite band this year — Mumford and Sons (video below).  I took in three of their shows in London.  The first up in Camden Town, among barrels of 18-yer-olds who were waiting to see the opening act.  In my old age I consoled myself with a beer before remembering that 18-year-olds can drink in the UK at that age anyway.   The band only had a repertoire of eight or nine songs, but they struck me with their updated folk sound and their enthusiasm.

Post-show I walked with the only donor kebab I purchased in a year in London all the way around regent’s Park to my home.  I still recall the taste of the kebab, the shredded roughage and the hot sauce, and my fingers warmed through the tissue wrapping that I carefully peeled away as I ate.  During later shows I saw them again, though I was with friends.  There’s a difference between watching concerts alone and in the company of friends, and I always made sure to walk home afterwords by myself, I think so as not to spoil the memory of the music.  It strikes me that London, being such an expansive city, is so appealing because of the multitude of simultaneous stories in it.  Sometimes I see myself from a far off distance, walking in the shallow darkness of Camden and Marylebone, and I see all the others moving about as well.  Some have grabbed onto a life, while others unknowingly wait to grab on.  They are all connected and yet disconnected, and I am unclear on how to make sense of that.  Perhaps this is why the beginning words of this song always strike me:

As the winter winds litter London with lonely hearts…

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