Baboosh! Here it is. My traditionally-belated End-Of-Year Report to My Imaginary Shareholders.
The point of this Diary series more generally is to help answer the question, “what would I do if I didn’t have a job?” This, madam. This is what. Or at least, it’s one example. So here we go.
In 2014 I became homesick. It was my fourth whole year living in Montreal and I’m forced to admit that my home really is Glasgow in Scotland. 2014 was a troubled year for Glasgow and from a 3,000-mile distance I watched–slack-jawed and useless–the art school fire, the failed independence referendum, the lorry crash and finally some Ebola. Like a Prime Minister caught vacationing during his country’s hour of need, I’ve decided to come home immediately. Well, on March 15th 2015 anyway. It’s the soonest I can get away, honestly. “Now watch this drive”.
Anyway. 2014 was a good year creatively. We released the usual two editions of New Escapologist (10 and 11) and I self-published a book of my own called A Loose Egg, which is now entered for the 2015 Leacock Medal for Humour.
I got signed up by Unbound, the first proper publisher to take me on, which lead to the crowdfunding of a New Escapologist book called Escape Everything!
I wrote a complete first draft of the book through the summer, but am now rewriting it for the better. I aim to submit the finished manuscript by the end of February.
The crowdfunding process had me churning out articles and interviews for almost any Web concern that would have me. I did this to promote the crowdfund, but it lead to some decent pieces. The best ones, I think are this piece for The Idler website and my guest appearance on the Mountain Shores podcast.
Elsewhere, I wrote two humour pieces for Playboy and a veritable wodge of stuff for HiLobrow. Editor Joshua Glenn tells me that my brief piece about Robert Crumb was one of the year’s most-viewed items. Huzzah!
I completed a year of weekly feuilletons at wringham.co.uk: one diary entry per week, 53 times. This is the output I’m proudest of this year. It provided a cell wall to my creative practice, guaranteed that I write something no matter what, and allowed me to write in a fun and not-overly-consequential way.
On the travel front, Samara and I began our year in Seattle en-route to Hawaii! In Seattle, we ate Japadogs, spotted the first Starbucks coffee house (the mermaid on the logo has naked boobies), and poked about in the Rem Koolhaas-designed library.
In Hawaii, we explored two islands, the Big Island and Oahu. I was rather proud of getting around Hilo (on the big island) without a car and I think I’d like to visit more places in the years to come which are supposedly inaccessible without a car. More excitingly though, our trip had us witness the molten lava of a volcano, a sea turtle, THE ORIGIN OF POGS, the world’s observatories atop of Mauna Kea, a couple of whales and all manner of brilliant sights. We went snorkeling and breathed the thin air at one of the world’s highest points, from where we also witnessed “the shadow of the planet, cast upon itself” (something I still don’t understand). It was a good trip.
Mid year, we visited Chicago for a second time to stay with our friend Peter. There, we visited the studio where he was working on his forthcoming graphic novel The Hunting Accident, all the pages and reference sources tacked to the walls. Together we exchanged ideas about creative process, long-distance romances and why we all do what we do. It was a very inspiring time. It made us want to make things.
I have a new face this year. In Chicago, I bought new eyeglasses (pictured above, modeled by Peter). While every pair I’ve ever had are squat and square, these are small and round. I asked the woman in the shop if she had a pair like Harold Lloyd (about whom I’d just written a thing) and, brilliantly, she said “yup” and immediately brought out the goods.
Our dilapidated futon bore the nocturnal weights of many horizontal guests this year, but the best were Laura and Neil from Glasgow. We showed them the sights, caught up properly, walked for miles. It was more than good to see them and I can’t wait for the four of us to properly join forces in 2015.
What else? Oh yes. Samara and I got married. No big deal.
I’m also very proud of my decision to quit Facebook. It was a principled stance. I’m trying to gently encourage my friends to do the same, to leave bullyboy Facebook and join seemingly-gentle Ello (if indeed any social network at all).
Oh, okay, more about our wedding if you must. We had a minimalist (naturally) home ceremony (in Sam’s parents’ home, not ours) with a female Rabbi and six guests.
Speaking of Samara, she had a good year herself, art consulting on a freakin’ X Men movie and illustrating friend Reggie’s book Weird Belfast among other super things. We set up a little website together in December, showing off some of Samara’s work. Hire her if you need an illustrator!
As ever, I read an embarrassing number of books. I read a fair few humorists this year to help me decide the kind of humorist I really want to be; lots of naturalists to help me escape the built environment slightly; and lots of books (novels and non-fiction) simply for pleasure. Non-Fiction Book of the Year is How to Live: A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer by Sarah Bakewell. Novel of the Year is The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson. The Shittest Book of the Year was Sweets: A History of Candy by Tim Richardson.
Here’s the full and corpulent list (asterisks denote books read aloud with Sam):
Alan Bennett – The Lady in the Van
Gerald Durrell – Birds, Beasts and Relatives
Gerald Durrell – Fillets of Plaice
Lyanda Lynn Haupt – Rare Encounters with Ordinary Birds
Gerald Durrell – The Aye-Aye and I*
Lyanda Lynn Haupt – The Urban Bestiary
Nicholson Baker – Traveling Sprinkler
Sheila Turnage – Three Times Lucky
Stuart McLean – Home from the Vinyl Cafe
Neal Thompson – A Curious Man: The Strange and Brilliant Life of Robert “Believe It or Not!” Ripley
Chris Ware – Building Stories
Gerald Durrell – The Garden of the Gods
Nick Hornby – Juliet, Naked
Stephen King – The Dark Half
Sarah Bakewell – How To Live: A Life of Montaigne
Richard Dawkins – An Appetite for Wonder
Chris Hadfield – An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth
Kenneth Grahame – The Wind in the Willows*
Gerald Durrell – Pink Pigeons and Golden Bats*
Joseph Heath – The Efficient Society: Why Canada is as close to Utopia as it gets
Malcolm Gladwell – David and Goliath
William Kalush and Larry Sloman – The Secret Life of Houdini
Simon Armitage – Walking Home
Daniel M. Haybron – Happiness: A Very Short Introduction
David Attenborough – Zoo Quest to Guiana*
Paul Auster – The Brooklyn Follies
Eric Newby – A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush*
Joseph Heath and Andrew Potter – The Rebel Sell
Paul Theroux – The Great Railway Bazaar*
Neil Gaiman – Smoke and Mirrors
Sue Townsend – The Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year
Joanne B. Ciulla – The Working Life: The Promise and Betrayal of Modern Work
Jules Verne – Around the World in Eighty Days*
Hilaire Belloc – Cautionary Tales for Children*
Catherine O’Flynn – What Was Lost
Bill Bryson – Notes from a Small Island*
Stuart McLean – Vinyl Cafe Unplugged
Rory Stewart – The Places In Between
David Sedaris – Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls
Judy Chicurel, Alice Munro et al – Granta 118: Exit Strategies
Jerome K. Jerome – Diary of a Pilgrimage
Rolf Potts – Vagabonding
Tony Millionaire – The Adventures of Sock Monkey
Eric Nicol – The Roving I*
Tom Hodgkinson – How to Be Idle
Neil Gaiman – The Ocean at the End of the Lane*
Dave Eggers – The Circle
Eric Nicol – Shall We Join the Ladies?*
Howard Jacobson – The Finkler Question
Oscar Wilde – The Soul of Man Under Socialism
Keith Waterhouse – The Theory and Practice of Lunch*
Patricia Highsmith – The Talented Mr. Ripley
Joseph Heath – Enlightenment 2.0
P. G. Wodehouse – Carry On, Jeeves*
Tom Hodgkinson – How to Be Free
P. G. Wodehouse – Jeeves in the Offing*
P. G. Wodehouse – Joy in the Morning*
Lawrence Weschler – Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder
Russell Brand – Revolution
P. G. Wodehouse – The Code of the Woosters*
Haruki Murakami – Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his years of pilgrimage
Sylvia Plath – The Bed Book
P. G. Wodehouse – The Mating Season*
James Hogg – Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner
Jeanette Winterson – Sexing the Cherry
Books I read in part but chose not to finish:
James C. Scott – Two Cheers for Anarchism
Gerald Durrell – The Picnic and Suchlike Pandemonium
Charles Darwin – The Voyage of the Beagle
Laurence Packer – Keeping the Bees
Rachel Carson – The Sea Around Us
Tim Richardson – Sweets: A History of Candy
Michael Collins – Carrying the Fire
Paul Auster – Sunset Park
S. J. Perelman – The Swiss Family Perelman
I exit the year feeling slightly accomplished but ready for change.