Thursday, January 1, 2015

Metapost: 2014

Another year has passed and I'm still here. Time for some reminiscence and reflection.

Let's see, let's see. Last January I decided to keep a list of all the books I read in 2014. Here they are, in reverse chronological order:
Some stats seem in order. I count 54 entries, which comes out to approximately one book per week, not a bad rate. I read parts of other things, mostly stuff from the Great Books collection, as well as books on art practice, theory, and history, and a number of essays from E. F. Schumacher's Small is Beautiful. I have a deplorably short attention span, and my list leaves off numerous things I began but then set aside. At the beginning of the year I also had a "Books I'm Reading Now" list, but its length became too embarrassing to keep up, and I eventually deleted it. Eight of these items were read to my kids, in addition to a bunch of fairy tales from Andrew Lang's collection of many colors, and two were read to my wife. Several I listened to as audiobooks while painting late at night.

My focus this year was obviously on vintage fantasy and science fiction, as I've been incorporating various elements of these into my writing. The most recent work I read was Null-A Continuum by John C. Wright (2009),which completes the Null-A saga begun by A. E. van Vogt in the forties; aside from this, the most recent novel was Gene Wolfe's Exodus from the Long Sun (1996). The oldest work of fiction I read was The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald (1872), and that to my children; the second oldest was She by H. Rider Haggard (1887). Gene Wolfe wins the coveted award of Author with Most Books Read by Me in 2014, with Philip K. Dick coming in second.

Remarkably, there is only one item of "literature" on my list: Milton's Paradise Lost, which I'd already read many times. Three items were devoted to the craft of writing, two to mathematics, two to politics, two to art, one to the contemplative life, and one to ants. The rest were novels and novellas.
I note that only four items on my list were written by women. Should I be concerned? A lot of people out there would say, most emphatically, yes, you should be. Hm. In my defense, I'll point out that it's actually rather unusual for me, considering that I count Jane Austen, Willa Cather, and Flannery O'Connor as three of my favorite authors. I was reading mostly vintage pulp so there wasn't much to choose from. Only one of my fantasy reads was by a woman (Leigh Brackett), but I sought it out deliberately; I did read a few of C. L. Moore's Jirel stories that aren't written down here, as they seemed too short to be worth recording, and I started something by Ursula K. LeGuin. In addition, the single most substantial book on my list is by a woman: The Way of Perfection by St. Teresa of Jesus, who happens to be a Doctor of the Church. It was assigned reading for my formation as a Carmelite Secular, and I studied it slowly and reflectively over several months.*

I saw several movies in the theater, including The Lego Movie (awesome), Godzilla (pretty good in some ways, quite stupid in others), Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (not bad), Guardians of the Galaxy (awesome, despite being a Marvel property, which I tend to avoid), and Nightcrawler (meh). I also began a project of watching and blogging about seventies sci-fi, e.g.:
For some reason these posts get lots of hits.

Other notable events in my 2014 life:
  • I had my first public art exhibition at a real live gallery that charged a commission on sales, and sold about ten pieces, mostly to locals. I also completed five paintings in oil and watercolor, including a groovy book cover, and wrote a multi-part post musing about art.
  • I saw two stories published, a third accepted for publication, and a previously published story anthologized.
  • I had my solution to a Star Trek logic puzzle featured at a major mainstream venue.
  • I made my first promises as a Carmelite Secular, but continue to be conflicted about belonging to the Order.
  • I adopted a stray leghorn rooster that literally fell from the sky during a thunderstorm and began following me around like a lost kitten. He's lived in my yard for about eight months now. His name is Pappagallo, after the idealistic leader in The Road Warrior. He's very smart and likes me to go out and talk to him, but despite his enormous size he's too afraid to stand up to the feral rooster that comes in our yard (that would be The Lord Humungus, I guess), and I'm always having to defend his food and his new feral hen-girlfriend (Chickie).
  • The house next door, built originally for the former Governor's mother, was bought by a branch of the local gentry, who proceeded to chop down all the trees along our property. They're expanding the house in a major construction project, their model being Gormenghast Castle, with the goal of hosting arena football tournaments in their bedroom. So I've gathered, at any rate. I've been told they're spending one and a half million dollars.
  • I applied for tenure, was elected president of our faculty senate, represented the university at the system office in Capital City (the Windy Apple itself), where I had some excellent Indian food beside a natural artesian well in a downtown basement, and other boring things like that.
While this about describes my general state of mind in 2014.

My goal this year is to try to get my novel in a publishable form, cover, map and all. (I've finished my map, and will get around to posting a raw scan and blathering about it in a day or two.) I've also been invited to show my art at a public gallery in a border town about an hour away, with a stipend for travel and lodging, and I'm working on producing a few new things for that. Right now I'm reading The Return of Tarzan, a Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser novel, The Princess and Curdie (to my kids), and G. E. Bentley's biography of William Blake. And then there's the baby coming next month, and the new graduate program I'm working on developing.

So, all in all, 2015 seems off to a good start.

* I will also mention that my wife read practically nothing BUT novels by female authors, e.g., George Eliot, Elizabeth Gaskell, Willa Cather, in 2014. The Mill on the Floss, ugh. But at any rate, we balance each other out.

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