Tuesday, January 05, 2010

"'10? It's '10 already?! Quick: roadmap. No! GPS!! Scratch that! Roadmap! NOW!!!"

The older I get the more my daughters seem to dictate my cultural life. They were easy to babysit when they were tots, so it wasn't difficult for my wife and I to go out to half-a-dozen movies in a year. That covered the most critical bases. If we missed something in the theatre, we rented it and watched it after the girls were put to bed at 8:00.

Their bedtime got later as the girls got older, of course, leaving the weary grown-ups with a shorter window of opportunity. We resorted to watching some of the better television shows: The Sopranos, Battlestar Galactica, The Wire, etc. Commercial-free DVD TV is quite fine, if occasionally a little claustrophobic. But these nights, by the time the girls are in bed it's a challenge just to make it through the first round of Jeopardy.

Not that I'm unhappy with shared cultural moments -- not at all. I've discovered I actually prefer Taylor Swift to Avril Lavigne. And my daughters discovered that some of their old man's music is actually a lot of fun. This year's most-played CD? WP's Aught-Nine Summer Soundtrack (I never did get around to the planned second disc).

I enjoyed a number of musical releases on my own time, of course. I'm with DV when it comes to Booker T's latest. And when Joe Henry finally released Blood From Stars (wp) it completely eclipsed everything I'd been playing up to that point -- that's the disc of the year so far as I'm concerned.

But the play-count on my 'pod is the true, and rather pedestrian, revelation: I like my work-out music, most of which is way old-school.

When it comes to my '09 list of books read, the top spot is occupied by Joan Silber's Ideas Of Heaven (wp -- although I'd say this review is more acute). Second Place is a three-way tie: Zeroville by Steve Erickson (wp), The Way Home by George Pelecanos (wp), and Richard Stark's Parker: The Hunter by Darwyn Cooke (wp). Regrets: I would have very much liked to read Richard Russo's most recent novel -- perhaps on my next trip to Maine.

Currently, I was amused to encounter The 2110 Club. There isn't a single nomination that doesn't strike me as wishful thinking in the extreme; it's unlikely any of these titles will be part of the public conversation even 10 years from now, never mind 100 (although I too have high hopes for The Ax). The only book I've read in the last 10 years that I suspect will be around for another decade or two is Cormac McCarthy's The Road. Although I usually get a kick out of McCarthy's nihilistic hyperventilations, I absolutely hated this book when I first read it. I've tried to pick it up and give it a re-read since then, and I still can't stand it. It has all the characteristic "Life Sucks" qualities that High School English teachers love (think Lord Of The Flies, leached of all its vicarious thrills), pretty much guaranteeing its mandatory reading for the next 20 or so years.

To future High School students everywhere, let me just say how terribly sorry I am. But hope springs eternal: perhaps the next year -- or ten -- will produce something enjoyable for your dreary curriculum.

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