Global pandemic year number two has gone, and perhaps the next 12 months will see some sort of return to sanity. As we wearily reach for a normality we’ve all missed, let’s reflect on the year that has been and remember that kindness is free.
In all honesty, I’ve had a fantastic year. Yes, despite being in a lockdown for 4 months; despite being separated from family for yet another Christmas – I owe it mainly to a shift in attitude as I move past my personal dark ages of 2019/20. This year saw a lot of enjoyment and optimism for what’s to come, and my usual default of rumination has instead morphed into a sensible reflection that doesn’t hold me back as it used to.
So what kind of good stuff happened? Well, plenty of writing – January saw me release an anthology of my best poems: Vignettes – An Anthology (shameless plug), and my ongoing new novel was fleshed out further with some good stories. I am wondering whether I compile the last 5 years of work for this new novel and release a ‘part 1’ – maybe? Or wait until I’m finished, however much longer that could take? I don’t know, maybe you readers can let me know. It has a code name at least – Verdigris – stay tuned.
2021 saw a return to some old hobbies that had dwindled somewhat in my busy life of fathering two children; I played a lot of guitar this year, bought some great records, joined a touch football team, re-joined my church band, and celebrated 10 years of marriage to my wife. And of course there are the books – I read plenty of good stuff this year, despite the COVID-19 related disruptions, and here are some of the best in case you were after a recommendation:
The Eye of the Storm (Patrick White) – Must be in the name. Kidding! Australia’s Nobel Prize winner writes some incredibly detailed characters, and this tale of a callous old woman on her death bed – frail yet still so powerful over her underlings, was an uncomfortable but beautiful read that peeled back the layers of disturbing humanity and laid bare our awful natures.
Ghosts (Cesar Aira) – This was a strange one that probably needs a second read to pick up on themes I missed. However, I thoroughly enjoyed this mysterious little book detailing a single day on a haunted construction site in Argentina where a family is squatting. It’s as bizarre as it sounds!
By Night in Chile (Robert Bolano) – Another strange South American classic; I went through a bit of a phase this year! This one detailed a death bed ramble of a simple man that flows between scenes in a dreamlike trance. What is life’s value to ourselves, and what is one man’s value to others?
Piranesi (Susanna Clarke) – This one was a real surprise. It begins as a whimsical fantasy story in a setting that begs to be explained, and then slips into a compelling mystery with a satisfying conclusion. A real page-turner complimented by Clarke’s colourful writing style.
Nat Tate: An American Artist (William Boyd) – A clever little fake biography about a fictional artist, yet presented in such a way that you’d think it was all real. The story of Nat Tate, an unknown artist who died young, was in fact all a big hoax to make comment on the modern art scene – even David Bowie was in on it.
Notes on a Nervous Planet (Matt Haig) – I’ve had a profoundly insightful year in regards to my own mental health, and this self-help book was relatable to me in more ways than one. A personable muse on how to navigate our increasingly fast, digital world.
I truly hope you have a lovely Christmas break, wherever you are in the world; be kind to one another, we’ve all been through a lot in the last two years. We can choose to to cranky and snipe one another with misery, or we can take a deep breath, feel that air in your lungs and realise you are alive, and such is our blessing; our problems are only as big as ourselves.