Saturday, December 21, 2013

...and to all a good night...

I am sorry to see 2013 end. It wasn’t a wonderful year from beginning to end --- what year is? --- but the good things that happened outweighed the bad. The reason I’m sorry to see it go, however, is that like all of the other ones we’ve lived through we’ll never get it back, never have the opportunity to take a mulligan on it. Once that sand drops through the hourglass, you don’t get it back. We just keep moving through these years until they run out.

My age and station is such that I will not stress myself about things I cannot control. So far, I think that I have the holiday stress thing resolved. I am not always a fan of Jeff Bezos, but this year I bought every single Christmas present that I am giving anyone on Amazon. I didn’t stand in one line, not even to buy the fixings for Christmas dinner that I will be preparing for my ungrateful and unappreciative family (I did go to the store for that, but when I rolled my cart up to the registers, a new register lane opened and I was beckoned through like a contemporary Moses crossing the Red Sea).

I have been using the time I would have spent sitting in traffic (and needing a restroom. Soon.) or standing in line perusing the year-end Best Of lists. I love those lists. I always find at least a few books or CDs or what not that totally blew past me during the year. That for me is a Christmas present, the one I really want. And in a rare exhibition of chutzpah, it’s the present I am asking for from you! Please!

Actually, all I am asking for is your favorite novel, short story, and CD that was published or released in 2013. If you want to tell us why, please do, but don’t feel obligated. Of course, I’ll share:

Favorite novel --- I had many that came close but when the dust settled and the smoke cleared it was NORWEGIAN BY NIGHT by Derek Miller. It involves Sheldon Horowitz, an elderly Jew in the throes of early stage dementia, who is transported from his comfortable New York environs to the alien frigidness of Norway by his well-meaning but somewhat clueless granddaughter and her affable husband. Things take off in a big way when Horowitz rescues a young boy from a murderous war criminal and takes off, with a number of disparate parties in hot pursuit. Funny in spots, tragic in others (and terrifying, if you are over sixty and suspect that your gene pool has Alzheimer swimming in it), this is the book that stayed with me all year.

Favorite short story --- I didn’t read many short stories this year but of the ones I did --- several of which were very good --- I loved “Swingers Anonymous” by Jonathan Woods from the DALLAS NOIR collection edited by David Hale Smith. The premise is terrific: within minutes after a regularly scheduled swingers’ party ends, two people are dead and a third has a sudden and unexpected financial windfall. Top that. The story is so good, by the way, that I subsequently acquired and read Woods’ novel A DEATH IN MEXICO and his short story collection, BAD JUJU. Good juju, indeed.

Favorite CD --- It was October before I heard a new music project that I could listen to all the way through. TALLY ALL THE THINGS THAT YOU BROKE by Parquet Courts is technically an EP --- there are only five songs on it --- but each and every one will make you fall in love with punk music all over again, even if you were never charmed with it to start. I listen to music for hours every day but I still hear all seven minutes of “He’s Seeing Paths” --- an ode to bike messengers and running from the cops, among other things --- playing in the background.

It’s your turn. Thank you in advance. And Merry Christmas!

17 comments:

  1. 2013 has indeed been an awesome year, one that brings me great expectations for 2014.

    Book: The Winter Prince by Elizabeth Wein. Great Arthurian YA tale about Arthur (Artos) in his later years told first person through the eyes of Mordred (Medraut). I had the distinct pleasure of narrating it at the start of the year, and truly loved it. It was also my first fully British accented narration, so quite the challenging uptick in this career.

    Short Story: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty by James Thurber. Yes, I know it was written more than 60 years ago. But the Dec. 2013 re-release was the first time I knew it was anything other than a Danny Kaye movie from the 40s. And the audiobook version read by Ben Stiller is free at Audible.

    Music: Mumford & Sons, BABEL Awesome music, or as someone else put it…their incredible energy draws us in quickly to their circle of songs, to the warmth of their stories, and to their magical community of misty-eyed men.

    And that’s my list.
    Now off for some snow demon fighting on my unicorn

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  2. Basil, I love King Arthur-related material and will give The Winter Prince a look. And my daughter is hugely into Mumford & Sons, who I plan to get into over the next few days. Thanks for sharing!

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  3. Thanks for the 2013 wrap up and like you I got most stuff on Amazon as I couldn't stand facing the mall! I never get much of a chance to read short stories or listen to new CDs (well, ones that aren't my kids'!). In terms of book though, I loved Code Named Verity by Elizabeth Wein. We took our twin 8 yr old boys to a Maroon 5 concert this year so their songs are stuck in my mind now. Hopefully in 2014 I might get to listen to new music that isn't on the Disney radio channel!

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    1. BTW - I'm thinking that my fav. book this year might be by the same author (Elizabeth Wein) as on Basil's list!

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  4. The Weins have it, Clare! I definitely have to check Ms. Elizabeth out now. Re: Maroon 5...I was howling, as my daughter went to their concert here a few years ago and wound up as a bigger fan of The Hives, which were the opening act! Good luck with wresting the radio dial back to something a little more varied!

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  5. A year with lots of good reading. Enjoyed LEARNING TO LISTEN, the biography of jazz master Gary Burton, saw Helen Mirren in "Red 2" -- at sixty something she's far sexier with a lethal weapon than as the young temptress "Cousin Bette."
    Music was retro this year, especially the Dixie Chicks' "Good-Bye Earl."

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    1. Elaine, for old guys like me, retro is "Miller's Cave" by Bobby Bare. I remember riding in the car with my parents when the song came on and my mom commented that the lyrics were perhaps a little too violent. She didn't change the station, however. I'm not sure how she would have felt about "Goodbye, Earl." She might have identified with it but that's another story.

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  6. Hi Joe,
    Hi Joe! A very Merry Christmas to you and the entire gang at TKZ.
    I am completely hooked on the C.S. Harris series, and recently read book 8;What Darkness Brings: A Sebastian St. Cyr Mystery
    The death of a notorious London diamond merchant draws aristocratic investigator Sebastian St. Cyr and his new wife Hero into a sordid world of greed, desperation, and the occult, when the husband of Sebastian’s former lover Kat Boleyn is accused of the murder.

    Short story, I haven't read yet but I'm planning on buying Stephen King's Just After Sunset because I want to learn how to write really good short stories to help promote some of my writing.

    Nonfiction favorite: Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes by Maria Konnikova

    CD:Renaissance by Mark Schultz It's an instrumental that's hard to come by but I love to listen to it while I work.

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    1. And Merry Christmas to you as well, Jillian. This is what I love about these lists...I am unfamiliar with Mark Schultz but will definitely check him out. Thanks!

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  7. I'm embarrassed to say that I haven't read any fiction that was released in 2013. On the other hand, I can wholeheartedly recommend the PERSONAL MEMOIRS OF ULYSSES S. GRANT. His retelling of important historical events, and personal recollections, were amazing!

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    1. That sounds like a great book, Kathryn. I don't know if you watch Hell on Wheels, but this past season featured a vignette between Colin, who was a Confederate officer, and the about-to-be-elected president Grant, who had been mortal enemies a few years before and were in present time have an uneasy but respectful heart-to-heart. It was my favorite scene in the season. I'll definitely check the book out. Thanks!

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  8. Loooots of good fiction released, Joe. I'm reading more now then ever before. With Kindle samples, I can give those first few pages a shot for free. I've picked up a few winners and nipped a boat load. I don't do short stories. So that one is out.

    As far as music goes, the big one this year is discovering Beth Hart. If you like blues and you like screamers, Beth is da bomb.

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    1. Jim, I do the same thing with the samples. I love that feature. And Yeah, Beth Hart IS da bomb! It's good that she's getting the attention she deserves, finally.

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  9. Joe--
    I won't presume to name my own novel, The Anything Goes Girl, as the best 2013 book I read this year. It's good, but not that good. In fact, like Kathryn Lilley, my reading didn't include this year's fiction. But in 2013 I discovered (very late to the party) Michael Connelly. That alone is sufficient to make this a good year. I take it back--I did read one novel published in 2013. I bought it for the title, written by Jack Handy: The Stench of Honolulu. Let's just say it's an experience.

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  10. Joe--
    I forgot to say many thanks to you for giving voice to the sacrifice made by family "first responders" in grocery stores, liquor and wine stores, in advance of preparing meals for blasé, complacent holiday guests, many of them adolescents whose own contribution to the holiday spirit, their sole act of generosity is to stop texting long enough to eat. Thank you!

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  11. The Stench of Honolulu? I'm going to check that out on the strength of the title alone, Barry! And re: holiday guests...they often don't appreciate what is involved until they reach the age and station where they are faced with making the preparations themselves. I did, however, love the reaction of my granddaughter to Thanksgiving Dinner this year: "Grandpa, this is AWESOME!" It doesn't get any better than that. Hope you get a similar one this Christmas.

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