Sometime last spring I took a picture that’s stayed with me all year. I didn’t mean to, but somehow the frame captured the mood of the last light of day without really getting the light itself. There’s a brightness, yes, but it’s tinged with awareness that the light is fading. The golden hour.
With a similar but reversed kind of layered vision, I’m looking back at 2020. An extraordinarily hard year. Deadly for way too many innocent people…. But every day was a gift.
Here is a very small token of my gratitude. Please enjoy.
A LitHub-recommended long read reminds me that one of the intrinsic pleasures of making audiobooks is that I don’t choose what I’m reading next. Instead, the book chooses you.
Strictly speaking, what really happens is that the studio director chooses you to read the book. But the effect is the same: I don’t pick the books I’ll spend hours reading aloud, word for word, cover to cover. Unlike my home library, these projects don’t say anything about my intentions to be or know or feel something—or do they?
Thanks to working at a studio with a blessedly quirky contract to record material for the Library of Congress, the books that “choose me” are a potpourri of fiction and nonfiction, books I’ve seen elsewhere and plenty I haven’t, things I might otherwise choose to read and, yes, sometimes, things I wouldn’t.
Like the rest of life’s happenstances, sometimes this works out quite nicely. Recently I narrated these three works of nonfiction over a few weeks: a book about sea otters, one about a man who spent his days and nights living as a wild turkey, then an encyclopedic account of connections between sci-fi and pop music in the 1970s.
The result: I know more than I did before (with nointerest in running with the turkeys), and I’m a grateful omnivore.
…is a good way to describe the narrative effort of my current project: the recollections (fictional) of an escaped slave in Henry David Thoreau’s company. There are some wonderfully uncommon words here—words I know I’ve never spoken out loud like phenakistoscope and phalanstery— as well as the characters of Emerson, Hawthorne and a sprinkling of other Transcendentalists. As an erstwhile English major, I say 👍🏼.
A good book tells many tales, some of them so small you don’t immediately notice the weight they carry. To wit, this incidental scene from Curtis Wilkie’s Dixie, in which Robert Kennedy stops unannounced in the all-black township of Mound Bayou, Mississippi, and makes a human connection.
One of the good reads I read last year was Tom Perrotta’s coming-of-age(s) tale Mrs. Fletcher. If you’re an NLS patron, you’ll find it here.
In brief: a single mother takes her son off to college. He flexes his teenage masculinity (ewww …). She explores the freedoms in her newly empty nest (hmmm …). One year later, they’re not quite the same characters they were before.