An Escapologist’s Diary: Part 37. 2013 Review.


Dear Imaginary Shareholders,

It’s been a weird year. For starters, I took a job. Not something I generally recommend, as you know.

It’s a nice part-time job in a library and the contract concludes in February, but it’s my first sojourn into a conventional workplace in three years so was a significant event in my 2013. I had wanted some short-term work to fund a trip to Hawaii but I kept the job for a bit longer since I found it enjoyable. It’s almost too bad that it’s nearly over.

Back in the real world (depending on your perspective) we produced New Escapologist Issue 9 (and held launch events in Glasgow and Montreal). The issue sold well, thanks in part to having excellent people on board like Luke Rhinehart and Ian Macpherson and Mr Money Mustache. Hopefully it’s an upward trend. We’ll find out soon, Issue 10 being due for release in the new year. Issue 9 features a story I wrote and am rather proud of.

The opening days of January saw some mini-projects with a podcast; the Wireless Mystery Theatre’s Belfast performance of my M. R. James adaptation; and the release of the Richard Herring book I helped with.

After encouragement from my partner Samara and from a literary agent friend in New York City, I started writing a book. I’ll not say anything about it yet, lest I be crippled with expectational debt. Let’s see how it goes first. I’ll probably be able to report something about it in next year’s roundup! I also wrote the script for a comic book called Everyone’s a Comedian and a 40,000-word memoir about a school trip called France, 1992 but I don’t know what to do with either of these yet.

Concerned that I wasn’t writing enough, I breathed life back into my personal blog, this time on a weekly basis. I’m quite proud of it so far and I’m glad to be writing something to a schedule, albeit ‘publishing’ it on my own. Eleven unbroken weeks and counting. I sound like an alcoholic.

I came out of performance retirement for a few modest shows. I did a lecture on Minimalism at Monastiraki. I did readings at the Montreal Infringement Festival; a spoken-word night called Off the Boulevard; and another called Holy Spirit. Meanwhile, my hobby of reading Sherlock Holmes aloud also lead to a two-hour reading of The Speckled Band for a charity called Forward House and recording a one-hour reading of The Blue Carbunkle for CKUT Radio (broadcast on January 1st 2014 and which can you listen to online).


In the summer, I got to hang out with Mr. and Mrs. Money Mustache (Mr. Money Mustache and I are pictured above — both wearing plaid shirts, as is the law in Canada) when they came to visit Montreal. I also met David from Raptitude a little later in the summer but forgot to have a photograph taken. I am a dolt.

For travel, we began the year in Scotland (where, Facebook reminds me, there was discussion of “Ghost Cheese”) before returning once again to Montreal. We visited New York and Boston and took a two-week epic journey across Canada by train, dropping in to Toronto, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Jasper National Park, and Vancouver. A fairly good year for travel.

The best single adventure of the year was probably when Samara and I had brunch with Luke Rhinehart and his wife. Rhinehart is one of my biggest writerly heroes and he said some ridiculously kind things about New Escapologist. It was all too much to take.


At home, we had a scary movie marathon, made friends with urban nature by installing a bird table, found extra opportunities for minimalism, and I read an insane number of books.

Many of the books were chosen as tone-setters for things I was writing (or still hope to write) myself. On the other hand, many of them were just read for fun. Titles marked with an asterisk (*) are books I read aloud.

Daniel Pinchbeck – Breaking Open the Head
Bryan Appleyard – Aliens: Why They Are Here
Roald Dahl – Boy: Tales of Childhood
Sylvia Waugh – The Mennyms
Clive James – Unreliable Memoirs
Bill Bryson – The Mother Tongue
Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra – Y: the Last Man, Vol. 1-10
Kurt Vonnegut – Jailbird
Jon Ronson – Lost at Sea
Tove Jansen – Finn Family Moomintroll*
Stephen King – Bag of Bones
Luke Rhinehart – Whim
E. L. Konigsburg – From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler*
George Orwell – Homage to Catalonia
Franz Kafka – The Great Wall of China (short)
Bryan Appleyard – How to Live Forever or Die Trying
Douglas Adams – Restaurant at the End of the Universe*
Tiresias – Notes From Overground
Nicholson Baker – House of Holes
Jim Steinmeyer – Hiding the Elephant
Helene Hanff – 84, Charing Cross Road*
Paul Quarrington – Whale Music
Richard Brautigan – Sombrero Fallout
Arthur Conan Doyle – His Last Bow*
Paul Auster – Hand to Mouth
Arthur Conan Doyle – The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes*
Charles Portis – Masters of Atlantis
Arthur Conan Doyle – The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes*
Paul Auster – The Invention of Solitude
Arthur Conan Doyle – The Hound of the Baskervilles*
John Steinbeck – Travels with Charley
Woody Allen – Without Feathers
Richard Hughes – A High Wind in Jamaica
Arthur Conan Doyle – The Return of Sherlock Holmes*
Arthur Conan Doyle – A Study in Scarlet*
Paul Auster – Moon Palace
Gerald Durrell – A Zoo in my Luggage
Ben Moor – Each of Us
Arthur Conan Doyle – Valley of Fear*
Paul Auster – Winter Journal
James Thurber – My Life and Hard Times
Gerald Durrell – The Whispering Land
William B. Irvine – A Guide to the Good Life: the Ancient Art of Stoic Joy
Nicholson Baker – The Anthologist
Alasdair Gray & Adam Tomkins – How We Should Rule Ourselves
Arthur Conan Doyle – The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes*
Gerald Durrell – My Family and Other Animals
Eric Nicol – Twice Over Lightly
Wil Wheaton – Memories of the Future
Paul Auster & J. M. Coetzee – Here and Now: letters 2008-2011
Arthur Conan Doyle – The Sign of the Four*
Leonard Dubkin – Enchanted Streets
Leonard Dubkin – My Secret Places
Ann Marie Fleming – The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam
Daniel Kalder – Strange Telescopes
Richard Brautigan – The Hawkline Monster

Books I read in part but chose not to finish:

Bill Bryson – A Short History of Nearly Everything
Lewis Hyde – Trickster makes this world: mischief, myth, and art
Douglas Adams – Life, the Universe and Everything*
Nassim Nicholas Taleb – Antifragile
Muriel Spark – Memento Mori
Mordecai Richler (ed.) – The Best of Modern Humour
M.E. Thomas – Confessions of a Sociopath

I end the year feeling ridiculously fortunate.


Robert Wringham is the editor of New Escapologist. He also writes books and articles. Read more at

9 Responses to “An Escapologist’s Diary: Part 37. 2013 Review.”

  1. Hey Rob, what a great round-up! I much enjoyed discovering that reading aloud is another of our common pleasures. Which of the books this year would you recommend? Which one was the worst? And, above all, what happened with Memento Mori? But you knew I was going to ask you that, didn’t you? I am still campaigning for a Muriel Spark statue somewhere. Here’s to a 2014 full of literary and lively success for you.

  2. […] by the escapologist Robert Wringham’s round-up, I am compelled to think of 2013 as a whole and somehow capture what those 12 months brought. I […]

  3. Lindsey says:

    Um, perhaps you mean Finn Family Moomintroll? Great read-aloud choice, if so. (I confess it took me about 30 years to realize the English title was a play on Swiss Family Robinson.)

  4. Yep, that’s the one. I’ve corrected it now. We absolutely loved it.

  5. Hi Laura! The worst was definitely “Bag of Bones”. Just rubbish. I limit myself to one Stephen King per year: a real treat usually, but this was an unfortunate choice. “Homage to Catalonia” was unsatisfying, perhaps because of reading some excellent Orwell in 2012. And the Auster/Coetzee letters were a bit disappointing (though they had their moments).

    Everything else was wonderful and very cuddly so deciding upon the best one is a very tough call. “Notes from Overground” by Tiresias was probably my favourite. An obscure little book about commuter life given to me by Fraser in Glasgow and utterly, utterly wonderful. “Strange Telescopes” by Daniel Kalder was great too — an ‘anti-tourist’ trudge through desolate Russian tundra, taking in some of the weirder fringe communities of Russia. Great fun. A big thing this year were the naturalist/zoology books: Gerald Durrell on exotic wildlife and Leonard Dubkin on urban. I had no idea they would be so thrilling.

    Memento Mori! I’m so sorry for not liking it! I actually feared your picking up on my failure to finish it! I will return to Ms. Stark though, for sure. I didn’t like the narrator’s voice (would it be too unfair to describe it as ‘prattling’?) and the flavour of comedy she chose to take from the lives of the elderly struck me as pointlessly cruel rather than the existentially black I’d been expecting. It was by no means terrible but I simply didn’t take to it. I’ll try one of her others for sure.

  6. Very interesting choices of good/bad books. isn’t it awful when an author we like disappoints? I have had many in 2013… I think the things you point out about Spark are the assets of Memento Mori. Maybe she is not the writer for you? Or not now? Life is more pointlessly cruel than existentially black, I think.

  7. I’d like to try her again. I’ll give another of her novels a try.

  8. Spoonman says:

    I’ve been taking some time to catch up with this blog, so I apologize for the late response.

    Boy, what a monster year you’ve had!!!! Anyone who has doubt about what a person can do outside the 9-5 grind should read this post. That list of books you’ve read is truly humbling, I think some people don’t read that many books over the course of a lifetime!

    Thank you for continuing to bring us NE, it has had a great positive impact on my life.

  9. Hi Spoonman. You know, I just re-read the post and 2013 really was a monster year. I think this year will be quieter.

    My enthusiasm for New Escapologist knows no bounds, so expect some more very soon! Thank YOU for staying with us and for reading all of our work.

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