One of my favorite 2012 posts to write was this one in which I got to ramble unchecked about stuff I wanted to do in the New Year. Since that was so fun, I’m going to keep up the tradition with some looking back, some new resoluting, and some stupid jokes. So here goes!
Resolution #1: Drink More Mimosas
Seriously. These are so wonderfully good. And healthy! And make me a better writer!
My reading resolution for 2012 was to read 10 “huge” books. Like 1Q84, War and Peace, Bleak House, so and forth. Well. That may or may not have happened. I diligently read every last
overrated page of 1Q84 and then picked up Bleak House, a charming book by one of the most charming authors of all time. But also one that moves at a pace that is infuriating to our modern sensibilities.
Bear with me on this tangent . . .
As technology has evolved over time, our brains have become more and more accustomed to absorbing and processing information at a faster and faster rate. I don’t know if this is true or verifiable, but it at least seems like people these days are made more anxious by quiet and calm and sensory deprivation than they are by the overwhelmingly spastic strobing of Pokemon or whatever.
Seriously: In Katherine Hayles’s latest book, How We Think, she talks about showing her class one of the first films to include subliminal messages. Thirty-ish years after it came out (or something, I’m not into fact-checking at the moment because mimosas) it’s “subliminal” seems like it’s occurring in slow motion. We process faster. That’s just a fact.
And as a result, we expect different things from our art, our video games, our Internet. Remember when dial up was just fine? When checking a message board once a day was satisfying? Now that Twitter is up in my brainspace CONSTANTLY, if an event happens in public life (Chan Gailey being fired from the Bills because SUCK) and I don’t read 10-20 witty remarks about it online within :20 minutes of its being announced, I feel lost. This is a dependency that stretches beyond loving the devices and playing with my iPhone every time my hands don’t know what to do, to a way-of-living dependency. And, to be frank, Bleak House, as interesting as it might be, doesn’t provide the information quota necessary to keep me reading.
This is obviously my problem, but I think it’s also a reflection on the State of Reading these days. Why read a book that makes you slow down and process and think when you can get all the guns and violence and misogyny you want from a shitty John Locke book?
My goal in setting this as a goal was to force myself to slow down and focus . . . but it didn’t work . . . I did read 2 books over 500 pages though, and 8 over 400 pages. (And 72 overall, but more on that later.)
In other words, I failed. And then used this really long digression to try and “scientifically” explain why it was so hard. In a way that makes it sound like I’m Andy Rooney.
Resolution #2: Attend Nathan Furl’s Wedding in Rio
Inside joke for everyone.
Resolution #3: Review More Books
Last year I talked about reviewing more books on Three Percent, which we probably did thanks to Pierce Alquist, but this year I’m going to personally try and post more reviews. I’d love to post one a week, but that’s insane. Twenty is a legit goal though. So let’s go with that.
ALTA 2012 may well have been THE GREATEST CONFERENCE EVER. I’m really not sure. Organizing that thing fricking broke me. For months. I don’t feel like I had those few summer weeks where you forget that you’re bound to a job that takes as much from you as it gives (the experience of late-capitalism), and which are necessary in order to get yourself straight for the crush of the fall work cycle. And running around, trying to deal with everything going on/going wrong sucks a bit of the enjoyment out of hosting a conference. Plus, I blew up at people on email a few times (seriously, if you EVER are participating in a conference, give your coordinator as much love as you can—you have no idea how much it sucks to put one of these things together), which made me feel like an asshole.
Still, it was so great to have so many people I love here in Rochester enjoying themselves and exchanging ideas and opinions and drink orders.
Resolution #4: Get the ALTA Videos Online
This is more for Nate than for me, but I have all the videos and he has the computer program that doesn’t work . . . One way or another, we’ll make ALTA 2012 available to the masses sometime this year. Resolute!
Resolution #5: Regular Newsletter Updates
Are you signed up for our Newsletter? Go to the Open Letter homepage and sign up now. We’re going to be posting these every two weeks (or so) from now on (probably) and will be sharing all the information about our new books, titles we signed on, etc., and etc. I’ll also post that information here, because if there’s one thing I’ve sucked at the past year, it’s keeping readers and booksellers and reviewers up to date with information about our books. Again, I sound like I’m 90, but the ALTA planning jacked my motivation . . . This past week or so of reading at home and relaxing has be back on track though . . .
Few random stats: I read 72 books last year, 47 of which were in translation. Which isn’t bad, but could be better. I have an extensive list of translations from 2012 I wanted to read, yet haven’t had a chance to yet. I’m sure I will once the BTBA longlist is announced though . . .
Anyway, in order of which I read them, here are the 22 books I read in 2012 that I most loved:
- Benjamin Stein, The Canvas
- Mikhail Shiskin, Maidenhair
- Daniel Sada, Almost Never
- Daniel Levin Becker, Many Subtle Channels
- Raymond Queneau, Zazie in the Metro
- Katherine Hayles, How We Think
- Gonçalo Tavares, Jerusalem
- Laszlo Krashnahorkai, Satantango
- Mark Binelli, Detroit City is the Way to Be
- Antoine Volodine/Lutz Bassman, Minor Angels and We Monks & Soldiers
- Arnon Grunberg, Tirza
- Carlos Labbe, Navidad and Matanza
- Errol Morris, A Wilderness of Error
- Gail Hareven, Lies, First Person
- Lydia Millet, How the Dead Dream, Ghost Lights, and Magnificence
- Nate Silver, The Signal and the Noise
- Tom McCarthy, C
- José Manuel Prieto, Encyclopedia of a Life in Russia
- Vladimir Nabokov, The Real Life of Sebastian Knight
Resolution #6: Write More Serious Posts (And Non-Serious Ones)
For a while I was way into writing these “state of book publishing” posts. But then after “The Three Percent Problem”: came out, I sort of fell off in my serious post-making. Well, I need to get back on track. With something. So I’m going to try and write at least one editorial essay a month about something that’s going on.
At the same time, since so many places—Publishing Perspectives, and others—cover the publishing industry, I think we need to get back to previewing interesting forthcoming titles. So every Tuesday, from here on out, we’re going to be posting a quasi-jokey post featuring 3-5 forthcoming titles, ranked in order of my personal interest. Hopefully, this will be informative and entertaining. Or at least entertaining.
Resolution #7: Win an Award
This has sort of been a dream of mine for years now . . . At this point in time, I can’t imagine anything more gratifying than winning a significant award, either for Open Letter or for me personally. This is a pretty hard-to-accomplish goal though, since what awards could we actually win? There is no Miriam Bass Award for Indie Publishing anymore (which is the most obvious one), we came as close as we could with the NBCCs last year, and the U of R basically refuses to nominate me for the Rochester Business Journal “40 Under 40 Award” (which I would LOVE to receive, but for which time is quickly running out, making me just feel old and unaccomplished).
So, what’s left? The Best Translated Book Awards, the PEN Translation Award, and the various language-centric awards. (Note: David Frick won the Northern California Book Award for his translation of A Thousand Peaceful Cities, so it’s not like Open Letter has never won an award.)
Anyway, I think this would be a huge boost for our morale and the press’s status as a whole. Still, it’s a total pipe dream. But then again, maybe 2013 will be The Year of Open Letter?
Have a good New Year, everyone!