Sunday, December 11, 2016

We Interrupt this Nightmare Programming

How to stay WOKE and how to stay sane.

This year, I've officially read THE LEAST number of books ever in my lifetime. How's that for a poorly written sentence? If you look over to your right at my sidebar, you'll see my Bookworm 2016 list, and it's much sparer than those for the previous eight years that I've been listing them. I've also seen the least number of movies of my lifetime this year. I'm making no apologies here -- to you or to myself. I haven't been reading as much, and I haven't been going to the movies as much. I've been preoccupied by cataclysmic changes in my personal life and the world. I know I'm prone to hyperbole, but that is one true good sentence. These changes have been both profoundly awful (the election and the dystopian nightmare that has ensued) and, literally, life-altering in the best way (what causes the most distraction in life? she asks, coyly).

Now I'm going to tell you what my favorite book and my favorite movie of 2016 has been.

Oh, this book. Grief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter. It's small and it's beautiful and it's about grief and loss and death and children and love and a crow. You know how I feel about crows. I both despise and am seduced by them, regularly, in real life and on the page. Oh, this book. It's so wildly inventive that I am hard put to describe it. I aspire to write like this, to express myself with such economy and wit and truth. It's very short, but I read it slowly in order to savor every word and every bit of blank space. I love the yellow and gray of the cover, the way it feels in my hand. It's a poem and a novel and a visual feast. I read it a few times. You should, too.

Oh, this movie. Moonlight. I don't want to sully its beauty with my words, any words really. I saw it twice with someone I love, and we talked for hours and hours about it, both times. I'll see it again. It's about everything beautiful and sad you can think of, and it's about what it means to be alive and human. It's intensely specific and universal. There's a scene in it of a boy learning to swim in the ocean, his head resting in a man's hand, the water is all around them and the sky above and it's all around you and so is the sky and it's as if all of your life is cradled there, safe. And then there's the moon and the light and so many eyes and deep gazes both inward and out. I'm still trying to figure out how the director did what he did, how the actors portrayed these people so brilliantly and how a piece of art can quite literally make everything all right. I've seen it twice and will again. You should, too.

Reader, tell me your favorite book and movie of the year.

P.S. I have read the recently published books of dear friends, and I choose not to "review" them or pick as favorites. That's a given. Stay tuned, though, for my words about them both.


  1. I had a hard night last night, so I am up so late that I can't quite make sense of the world yet, let alone remember movies or books.
    But...I adore the pictures of the three babes, it is so sweet and uplifting.
    And I am, as well, uplifted to know that my dear friend is in Love.

  2. Oh, that photo - the sweetness, those angel smiles.

    Elizabeth, I've pretty much stopped reading or movie going, and I'm not sure I know who I am anymore.

  3. My favorite book this year would probably be "The Humans" by Matt Haig. It's about what it takes to be human. And there is a line in the book. "I hurt and so I hurt." that touched a chord in me.

    I don't think I went to a movie once this past year. The big guy doesn't fit in theatre seats very well so we tend to watch movies at home and he has a love of Predator and Alien movies, as well as action movies. For such a smart man he has incredibly bad taste in movies. Good thing I love him so much:)

  4. I haven't been to a movie theater all year, and haven't really seen any new movies, either.

    I liked the old novel, "The Other Side" by Alfred Kubin, though. In non-fiction, Mona Eltahawy's "Headscarves and Hymens" was a great read, and I also liked Tom Robbins autobiography/memoir/whatever, "Tibetan Peach Pie".

    It was a good year for music and books for me.

  5. I can't remember the last time I went to see a movie in a theater but I want to go see this one.
    As for books- I take them as I need them. Sometimes the best book I've read all year is one that I've read many times over the years. I will look for "Grief Is The Thing With Feathers." Thank you.

  6. I can't seem to find a book that isn't sad and pokes me in already hurting places. I'm halfway through Truth and Beauty by Ann Patchett - and am unable to go on. I picked up Beautiful Souls by Eyal Press and could only read the 1st section. I think I want a wildly fantastic other world Sci-fi book. Real stuff hurts.

  7. I have hardly read any books this year. And all time low for me as well. I watch a lot of serial crime movies on Netflix from Scandinavia, Cuba, Italy, the US. I can't seem to concentrate on a book. Just finished season 1 of Marvels Luke Cage, set in Harlem. Good story!

    I've seen trailer for Moonlight and I want to see it. You describe it beautifully.

  8. What a beautiful picture of your children!!!!

    Yes to Max Porter's Grief is the Thing with Feathers!!! I also loved A Girl is a Half-formed Thing by Eimear McBride and LaRose by Louise Erdrich. But all in all I read far less books this year, too. Trying to catch up now in the last remaining weeks.

    Best movie this year (I am always at least a year late on what is supposedly new) was Timbuktu by Abderrahmane Sissako, esp. the football scene ( and Far from Men because Viggo Mortensen plus Albert Camus plus Atlas mountain scenery.

  9. I need to get back to you on my fave book and movie of the year. i still haven't seen moonlight though i plan to this week. that photo up top of your children is simply magnificent. such joy.

  10. I never go to the movies because I have a hard time sitting still for that long. As for books, it depends on my mood. I loved "My Grandmother Wants Me To Tell You She's Sorry" by Fredrik Bachman (sp?) and I'm re-reading "All About Love:New Visions" by bell hooks, which slays me every time.

    And that header picture. Wow. Such joy and beauty.

  11. Movie ... Carol.
    Books ... all of them. I think Kameron Hurley's Mirror Empire books were most earth-shaking. K.C. Alexander is good. In a quieter mode, Kate Atkinson. Women being killed over and over again ... yet surviving, by treachery or theft or violence or self-mutilation or a time loop or any sick single-minded means you can think of ... surviving. There's a very bloody minded school of feminist science fiction I'm really immersed in right now. The nearest parallel I can think of that's *not* sci fi ... since you mentioned you don't like the genre ... is something sprawling like Les Mis or The Golden Notebook or something existential like Gide. Maybe a bit of both combined. Tons of characters, tons of planets, tons of parallel universes ('course, Lessing wrote sci fi too) ... tons of pain and violence ... yet a thread of the persistence of life, in whatever form. Or a single character, somewhere beyond the pale, doing things, continuing to DO if not to "be" in any form that lends continuity.

  12. I love your new header. Your children are beautiful. My book reading has gone into the toilet this year--instead too many articles and news stories...sometimes real life is like a novel. I am thankful for your positive distraction. Wishing you joy moments this year. And thanks so much for the Moonlight recommendation--I'm taking days off between Christmas and New Years and hope to get off the Island and see a few films in an honest to God movie theater. Love to you and yours.

  13. It is fulfilling isn't it when you find art that resonates with your soul. Thank you for these suggestions, I am anxious to dive in and swim inside their beauty.

  14. Fav book of all time: stranger in a strange land.
    Fav book of this year: the slight edge

    Fav movie of all time: the razor's edge
    Fav movie this year: trolls



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