Alphabetical by author:
- I Will Be Complete: A Memoir – Glen David Gold (podcast)
- Essays After Eighty – Donald Hall
- A Carnival of Losses: Notes Nearing Ninety – Donald Hall
- James Merrill: Life and Art – Langdon Hammer (podcast)
- The Witch of Lime Street: Séance, Seduction, and Houdini in the Spirit World – David Jaher (podcast)
- Blood Will Out: The True Story of a Murder, a Mystery, and a Masquerade – Walter Kirn (podcast)
- An Odyssey: A Father, A Son, and an Epic – Daniel Mendelsohn (podcast coming 2020)
- House of Nutter: The Rebel Tailor of Savile Row – Lance Richardson (podcast)
- A Gentleman in Moscow: A Novel – Amor Towles (podcast)
- My Young Life – Frederic Tuten (podcast)
- The Cold Song: A Novel – Linn Ullmann (podcast 1 and 2)
- Area X: The Southern Reach Trilogy: Annihilation; Authority; Acceptance – Jeff VanderMeer
- The Getaway Car: A Donald Westlake Nonfiction Miscellany – Donald Westlake (ed. Levi Stahl) (podcast w/Levi)
I started this on a whim, Christmas Eve, looking over the list of Every Book I’ve Finished Since 1989. These are the books that have stuck with me most over the decade, or continue to rise up in my thoughts. Given recency bias, a bunch of them are reads from the past few years.
I thought about ranking them, but they’re so different from one another that it seemed futile. If pressed, I’d put those two Donald Hall essay collections at the top, followed by Daniel Mendelsohn’s memoir on teaching The Odyssey.
It’s only prose, not comics. I don’t keep a list of comics I’ve finished, and I’m not at home while I write this, where I’d be able to refer to my library.
I read a ton for the podcast, but much of it is non-fiction, so I get minimal exposure to contemporary novels & stories. Hence only 3 novels to 10 non-fiction works. Also, I barely read poetry. I’m glad that memoirs didn’t outweigh history/biography, as I fear that’s a bias of mine.
This was the decade in which I finished reading Clive James’ Cultural Amnesia: Necessary Memories from History and the Arts(podcast), and in which I discovered/read Stefan Zweig (esp. Chess Story), The Peregrine by JA Baker, The Leopard by Giuseppe Lampedusa, Bruce Jay Friedman’s short fiction(podcast), Edward St. Aubyn’s Patrick Melrose series, The Friends of Eddie Coyle by George V. Higgins, and Anthony Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time. Which is to say, a lot of pre-2010 work made a huge impression on me, which maybe crowded out some of this decade’s work, in terms of stature/relevance.
Yep, all 12 authors are white, and yep, it’s 11 male to 1 female author. I’ll try to do better next decade.
There would be a whole bunch of honorable mentions, but that’s a whole new can of worms to open up. To quote the late Tom Spurgeon, “If I missed your book, it’s because I hate you.”
In 2017, I read more than 50 books, produced 52 weekly episodes of The Virtual Memories Show, dropped 20 lbs., made major progress on paying off my house, made some actual friends from the podcast, and got a new dog. I didn’t donate enough to charity, but paying off the house 15 years early is making things a little tight.
On the professional side, I helped a major piece of legislation through passage into law, testified in front of a Congressional committee, recruited many more companies into my trade association, solo-organized my first conference, and did a bit part in trying to fix drug shortages that resulted from the catastrophe Puerto Rico.
As usual, the only real resolution I can come up with for 2018 is, “Write more,” and I’ve started working on that. Otherwise, there isn’t a whole lot: Clean the garage? Get around to reading Henry James? Get some more of my Mt. Rushmore-level pod-guests onto the show? Be a better friend? Those all seem pretty marginal to me if I can just sustain 2017 levels, but we’ll see what the year brings.
This week’s podcast with Malcolm Margolin featured so many great quotes, I don’t want to limit it to the 2 or 3 I put in the show notes for the episode. So here’s a big ol’ compendium of What Malcolm Said:
- “For years I’d been a slave to the in-box. Being out of the loop was a little disconcerting.”
- “What got me into publishing was to attract beautiful women.”
- “On the outside, I can create things I could never create on the inside.”
- “What I’m passing on to people is . . . the capacity to have fun. To have a life that you can build around. Not branding, and not the demands of the marketplace, but what you really think and what you want.”
- “Dressing Indians up to be perfect victims does them a disservice. What I’ve tried to do is get beyond the ‘dress code’.”
- “In some ways I feel regret; the irony is that I was so active in preserving other people’s cultures and languages, but I let mine go.”
- “As Phil Levine said, ‘Why be yourself when with a little bit of effort you can be interesting?'”
- “One of the biggest changes in the course of my life is the growing dominance of salesmanship in everything we do.”
- “Our culture takes knowledge and structures it around the sense of time. We have history. One thing led to another, and that’s causality. . . . We know the history of institutions, of genealogies. The Indians had none of that. Time is flat. Indians structured their knowledge around place.”
- “Their whole world was filled with stories, and the stories talked to one another.”
- “I’m an emotion junkie. If I can go more than a few hours without breaking into tears, it’s a wasted day.”
- “I’m not sure I know anything you couldn’t talk me out of in 5 minutes.”
- “I think if there’s an inscription on my headstone, it should be, ‘He was easy to please.’”
Now go listen to the podcast!
Last Friday was the 12th anniversary of the Virtual Memories blog! Sure, it’s mainly a repository for my podcast now, but it’s still kinda neat that I’ve been keeping this site & blog up all these years. And in 2016, we can plan its Bar Mitzvah!
Last night I dreamed that I died. I wasn’t old, sick or wounded in the dream, but my wife and I both knew I would die soon.
When I died, I was happy to discover that I could still walk around and that I wasn’t consigned to some sort of eternal torment.
As per tradition, no one could sense me, and I’m pretty sure I was able to walk through walls.
I tried to reach Amy and convey something to her, but it was to no avail. I wasn’t fraught over that, and she seemed reconciled to my death.
I didn’t fly In the dream, but I did walk into other people’s homes and places of business, where I made snide comments about them.
I was gratified to know that my wit would outlast my mortal existence.
My afterlife was like being on Twitter with zero followers.
“Claressa Shields was the first boxer who showed me that women can be artists in the ring, like men. It was kind of like the first time I read Virginia Woolf.”
Essayist, boxer, novelist, chef and more, Sarah Deming joins The Virtual Memories Show to talk about yoga’s role as a gateway drug into boxing, winning a Golden Gloves tournament, the joys of watching a great fighter, her literary idols, the miracle of Bernard Hopkins’ longevity, and how she found her soul.
“I really like the people who write about boxing with empathy. There’s a lot of subtly disrespectful boxing writing. I think it’s essentially because of the threat the intellectual feels from the athlete, and I think racism underlies it, too.”
We also talk about the spiteful inspiration for her first novel, the thread connecting boxers and adult film stars, the magic in the mundane, and why it’s almost impossible to write something boring about sex or a fight! Give it a listen! (And check out these wonderful essays Sarah wrote about skydiving and vodka-peddling!)
About our Guest
Sarah Deming is the author of the children’s novel Iris, Messenger (Harcourt, 2007) about the Greek gods in suburbia. Her essays have appeared in the Threepenny Review, the Huffington Post, and WNYC.com. In 2013, she won a Pushcart Prize and was listed as notable in Best American Essays. Sarah has ghostwritten two erotic novels and assisted on ultramarathoner Scott Jurek’s memoir Eat and Run. She was a writer/researcher for CNBC’s boxing coverage of the 2012 Olympics. Before becoming a writer, Sarah was a Golden Gloves boxing champion, chef, and yoga teacher. She volunteers as a strength/conditioning coach for young boxers at the Atlas Cops & Kids Gym in Brooklyn and teaches yoga at New York Health and Racquet Club.
Credits: This episode’s music is Brainy by The National. The conversation was recorded at Ms. Deming’s home on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones, feeding into a Zoom H4n recorder. The intro and outro were recorded on Blue Yeti USB Microphone. Processing was done in Audacity and Garage Band. Photo of Ms. Deming by me.