In approaching this year’s Christmas letter, I had a read through last year’s and found myself quite stunned at how much had changed in twelve months. Remember COVID? Probably still too raw to joke about it as such; yet given we seem to have moved passed cruel lockdowns and anxious uncertainty, I’m glad the bloody pandemic doesn’t cross my mind much anymore. My home country of Australia has been a curious case – we all got COVID this year at some stage or another. But we’re open again, and we’re free to move around again, which is a fantastic freedom you don’t notice until it’s taken from you. I got the spicy cough in July and was one of the fortunate ones for which it has very little effect. Moving on….
It’s been another productive year on the creative front; not so much writing literature this year, but writing music. I’m not one for technology, and despite having written plenty of music over the years, I’d never actually recorded any of it. Jumping off the deep end with an 8-track recorder, I finally pulled my finger out and gave my songs life, the results being far better than I had imagined. And in recording some old songs I’d written years earlier, the fuse was lit and I had a purple patch of creativity. By the time the dust settled, I’d recorded four albums worth of materials. I’ve slowed down in recent months, but the bug has bitten and I don’t see myself stopping any time soon. The challenge of constructing a piece of music gives me the same thrill of writing poetry or stories.
My music is free to listen to on numerous platforms: Bandcamp, Spotify, YouTube, Apple Music, etc. so do check it out if you please. I’ve released Celestials, As I Was Saying…, Mad Flowers and Mad Stars under the name of Pinnacle Tricks – which eagle-eyed people may note as the protagonist from my novel The Will of the Wisp. Others might just realise it’s an anagram of Patrick S. Clinen….
So in 2022, there’s been less of a focus on writing my next novel – something I feel the pangs of frustration about – but given the busyness of life I chose to work on what I felt like doing, which was music. I intend to get back into Verdigris (working title for my next novel) in the not too distant future. Time away from it has rekindled some ideas.
What of the books? The books, the books. I was forced to adjust my reading routines this year as my day-to-day job changed locations, meaning I had to drive to work instead of catching a train. My train ride was my little reading sanctuary, something I miss a lot; but life is life and you have to roll with it. I’m one for saying: if something is important to you, you’ll find the time to do it. Such has been the case with reading, and some of the best things I read this year are:
Ice (Anna Kavan) – What a curious story this was. This stream of consciousness story jumped from scene to scene, with very little making sense, but this was clearly intentional, and leaves the reader to make their own conclusions about what’s going on. For me, I took this tale of a man chasing a girl across an icy wasteland as one of abuse and violence, and the dangerous cycle this can manifest in the abuser and the abused. Highly thoughtful and beautiful read.
Just Kids (Patti Smith) – I love Smith’s music and poetry, and her memoir of youth with her friend and lover Robert Mapplethorpe was wonderful. A tale of music, art and finding oneself in the manic of early adulthood.
Picnic at Hanging Rock (Joan Lindsay) – Chilling and quietly horrifying, this Australian novel drips with atmosphere. As an Aussie myself I adored the descriptive language detailing the mystery of the Australian bushland, and the story of a group of school girls disappearing and the effects such an event had on those who knew them was very moving. Psychological and provocative, with the threads purposely left untied for the reader to hang on unresolved dissonance.
On the Road (Jack Kerouac) – This presents itself as a simple novel of youths travelling, yet it leaves one longing for days when responsibilities were minimal and time was on our side. I found myself projecting into the novel’s characters and remembering my own early twenties, settling into a comfortable nostalgia. I think this book is best read when one is older, however others might disagree with me on that one. Whether or not you enjoy this book depends on the reader’s age and maturity, I think.
Brave New World (Aldous Huxley) – The fickle little conservative in me often frets about the direction society is headed – one of hedonism and inward perversion (hello, selfies….), but it would seem that Mr. Huxley worried about the same things far earlier than me! An interest take on a future where life has become too easy, too streamlined, and the first ounce of challenge or difficulty has a profound effect on the surfeit-stricken characters of this strange world.
Man’s Search for Meaning (Viktor E. Frankl) – Wonderful memoir of a man who spend years in concentration camps in WWII. This book was great soul food; how we deal with life’s inevitable suffering, how we can push forward against insurmountable odds and live a life of enrichment. I think everybody should read this book.
Another year goes by; I’m starting to feel very old. Considering it’s been a decade now since I was writing my first novel Tenebrae Manor as a snarky 24 year old, this somewhat jaded 34 year old man is constantly on the lookout for new and exciting ventures to peruse. I’m so happy with the music I’ve written this year, and I refuse to settle into the ordinary, so hopefully that means more creative output in 2023 and beyond. One last shameless plug – my books remain available for purchase from most online bookstores, so grab a copy of Tenebrae Manor, A Boy Named Art, The Will of the Wisp or Vignettes – An Anthology for yourself or a loved one this Christmas, and happy reading. Until next time, God bless you and Merry Christmas.