Time for a belated End of Year Review and Report to My Imaginary Shareholders.
The purpose of these Diary columns is to help answer the question of “what would I do if I didn’t go to work?”. So bear with me, while I rabble on about my year. I’ll keep it brief.
2012 was a pretty mellow year, very idler-friendly and without as many landmark events as 2011. The main thing has been adjusting to my somewhat isolated but luxuriously lazy life in Montreal: a city of extreme climates, both political and actual. This year, if I’ve been not navigating a tricky conversation in French or marching alongside protesting students with their proud red squares and V masks, I’ve been trudging through record-levels of snow and wondering why Pussy Riot-style balaclavas aren’t more popular here. Still, it all helps to keep the rent down.
I spent a lot of time in Canada and Britain as usual, but I also visited Chicago, Burlington and Istanbul. Not as much travel as I’d usually hope for, but income has been very modest this year and there have been higher priorities too.
In terms of creative output, my first book was published in April. The year also saw Issues 7 and 8 of New Escapologist, a few as-yet-unrealised writing projects, a proof-read book for a comedian, and a short stage adaptation for the Wireless Mystery Theatre. There were also a couple of horrible podcasts.
Made a few new friends this year, perhaps most notably in Luke Rhinehart of The Dice Man, Joshua Glenn of Idler and HiLobrow fame, librarian hero Michael Gorman, artist Landis Blair, and friendly local psychonaut Vanesssa. I think I’ve also made good efforts (travelling, writing, emailing, calling, meeting, drinking) to maintain treasured older friendships, but hope I didn’t compromise any of them by couch surfing for too long in their homes.
The best old films I saw this year were probably The Apartment and The Lavender Hill Mob. The best new film was probably Moonrise Kingdom, which proved too delightful for words.
I read a ridiculous number of books this year:
Flann O’Brien – At Swim Two Birds
Mark Kingwell and Joshua Glenn – The Wage-Slave’s Glossary
Mark Kingwell and Joshua Glenn – The Idler’s Glossary
Nicholson Baker – The Fermata
Haruki Murakami – IQ84 Book 3
Stewart Lee – The ‘If you prefer a milder comedian please ask for one’ EP
Tom Hodgkinson – Brave Old World
Walter Isaacson – Steve Jobs
Richard Brautigan – In Watermelon Sugar*
Douglas Coupland – Generation X
Anneli Rufus and Kristan Lawson – The Scavengers’ Manifesto
Bruno Munari – Design as Art
Brian Seltznick – The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Richard Brautigan – The Pill Versus the Springhill Mining Disaster
Kyril Bonfiglioli – Don’t point that thing at me
Oliver Burkeman – Help!
Brian Seltznick – Wonder Struck
Michael Gorman – Broken Pieces: A Library Life
Henry Miller – On Writing
Jon Ronson – Clubbed Class
Timothy Eyre – Sun, Sea, Sand and Fog: Two Weeks in Namibia
Ray Kurzweil and Terry Grossman – TRANSCEND
Richard Brautigan – The Tokyo-Montana Express
Paul Auster – The Red Notebook
Alasdair Gray – Mavis Belfrage
Haruki Murakami – Underground: the Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche
Hyok Kang – This is Paradise! My North Korean Childhood
Frances Hodgson Burnett – The Secret Garden
Philip Roth – The Humbling
Douglas Adams – The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy*
Paul Auster – The Music of Chance
Jasper Morrison et al – Muji
Richard Brautigan – Willard and his Bowling Trophies
William J. Reilly – How to Avoid Work
Karen Wilkin (ed.) – Ascending Peculiarity: Edward Gorey on Edward Gorey
Grant Naylor – Red Dwarf: Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers*
Stephen King – Under the Dome
J. M. Coetzee – Foe
J. M. Coetzee – Youth
Jon Ronson – The Men Who Stare at Goats
Susan Cain – Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a world that can’t stop talking
Jon Ronson – Them: Adventures with Extremists
Brian Azzarello – 100 Bullets Vol. 2: Split Second Chance
Bill Drummond – 100
Michael Gorman – Our Singular Strengths: Meditations for Librarians
Alain de Botton – Religion for Atheists
Patti Smith – Just Kids
Karen Hesse – Stowaway
George Orwell – Shooting an Elephant
Reggie Chamberlain-King – The Brittaine and Molloy Inquiry Quarterly. Vol. 2.
Geoffrey Gray – Skyjack: The Hunt for D. B. Cooper
Grant Naylor – Better Than Life*
Frederick Drimmer – Born Different: Amazing Stories of Very Special People
Dave Thompson – The Sex Life of a Comedian
Jack Kerouac – On the Road
Richard Herring – The Box Lady and Other Pesticles (Manuscript)
Linda Barry – What It Is
Robert and Edward Skidelsky – How Much is Enough? Money and the Good Life.
Paul Auster – Auggie Wren’s Christmas Story
Jonathan Goldstein – Lenny Bruce is Dead
Paul Auster – Oracle Night
Fyodor Dostoyevsky – Notes From the Underground
Nicholson Baker – A Box of Matches
Nicholson Baker – Vox
I also read significant chunks of the following books, but chose not to complete them for varying reasons:
Alvin Toffler – Future Shock (valuable but repetitive)
Richard Dawkins – The Selfish Gene (interesting but less witty and readable as his later books)
Christopher Moore – Fool (dull)
Ian McEwan – Atonement (interminable)
Brian Swimme – The Universe Story: From the Primordial Flaring Forth to the Ecozoic Era (too beardy-weirdy).
*The books marked with an asterisk denote rare second readings and also give me a chance to tell you about a new activity we began this year. I read these books aloud to my girlfriend in bed! Reading aloud is a free and lovely thing to do together, and I’ve found that some of my friends in relationships do the same thing. A key, I think, is to find the right type of book for your voice. My polite regional British accent, we find, is best suited to British comic novels such as the works of P. G. Wodehouse and things like The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I’d like to do The Wind in the Willows next. My girlfriend’s gentle North-American accent lends itself well to Richard Brautigan and, bizarrely, to Flashman.
After much thought, I came up this year with a list of Things of Value. I stand by this and hope to live accordingly in 2013. You could probably do worse than do the same.
And here’s what we looked like on the last day of 2012 (Left to right: Samara, Me, Laura, Neil, Devin, Fergus):