Best of 2009.
A best is a wily creature indeed. As surprising as Sasquatch or even a hummingbird, a Northern Cardinal, a new bud burst and clinging simple to its branch at the kitchen window. And as difficult to trap and keep. Impossible to tame.
Perhaps that’s why citing a best is as thrilling as it is…. The chase we cannot call a chase, the capture we cannot call a capture. Just the utter, what?, shock of meeting it so we can recall it, share it with someone. Call it love. Call it epiphany. Call it miracle. Or, just point at the happy accident, a nanosecond of surprise and awe running up the backside of recognition that changes us forever. Whatever it is, call it also great inspiration for writing.
Grace does it to me every time. Disappears floors beneath my Keds and raises my awareness, connects all my parts to Right Now. Reminds me, really, how weird and cool and crazy it is to be human. To yearn. And also to be satisfied, cured of all my lumbering and fumbling, for an instant anyway.
And so. Between the wars and full-time jobs with benefits I sit, longing for better in the new decade, and presenting for you a few bests I can cite from oh-nine. Some are playful, others not. Some down-right soul-fucking. Or down, down, lower-down depressing. I don’t mind. One of my best years was the one that started by stealing and killing my mother (1981). Another stole but did not kill two lovers. (That was 2000, it turned me 28.) Don’t get me wrong. Those years sucked, hard. And that’s the thing.
When the colors and sounds and sense drain from the world and stay gone for so long, you you can’t help but feel every twitch, remember it in your muscle and bones when it comes rushing back at you all swinging sticks, reverse avalanches, and noon sun on every diamond top ocean. Then’s when you catch the small stuff: the crackle of leaves beneath Sasquatch (or some other mysterious thing, like maybe the local white tail). The heartbeat-hum of the Calliope. That flash of redder than red you (hey!) happen upon. The flutter of love come back. So delicate it hurts.
Anyway, here they are, some bests of 2009. Many are tied in my writer brain to good reads. Anything to make the good pain last longer:
:: Taro Yamasaki ::
I stumbled onto this collection of Taro Yamasaki Pulitzer Prize-winning photgraphs this year while I was rooting around the web for something else. They’re from a series the photographer shot in 1980 for the Detroit Free Press, but the feeling I get from them–especially, in context, the sixteenth print–is immediate and long-lasting. Like a good pummeling.
This. Heart-breaking. It’s whisper-close to the most meaningful moments in my life. It is my Detroit. Not good. But strangely, yes, a best.
Joyce Carol Oates’s National Book Award-winning novel THEM puts me in mind of this image. It’s a sustained aria really, of pain and lack and gone, and their lover, empathy.
:: Delhi, India, 5pm ::
A best is grabbing, unrepeatable, near unbelievable. In a word: true. In another word: surreal.
I caught this image, as the caption indicates, at 5pm in Delhi, India. For an epic example of the novel life that surrounds this real foot, read Aravind Adiga’s THE WHITE TIGER.
When it come to writing–the work of it, the ache and joy–the conversation goes necessarily to inspiration. And, laying bare the heart inside the heart of the matter, it also goes to criticism and plagiarism. The two discussions above (one at htmlgiant about and between the authors of PEOPLE OF PAPER and LIGHT BOXES and issues of “borrowing”; the other a criticism of criticism here at Big Other concerning Tom Bissell and Jorge Volpi) mine the issues. Perhaps not gospel, they’re surely a living testament to our craft–one that still and always rubs the skin off and gingerly salts the wound.
:: Bad Sweater Guy ::
Sometimes it takes a guy wrapped in something woolier than Sasquatch, busier than that hummingbird, more shocking than the cardinal to unwrap us from the mundane intensity of this writing life–the thinking, thinking, weighing, translating, metaphorizing, thinking some more. In those moments Bad Sweater Guy is just the salvation I need. Perhaps you’ll agree. . . .
Feel free to share some of your own bests with me here or at email@example.com. Because bests, like just about everything else fleeting and life-changing, hoist us highest on their crooked shoulders in the sharing. . . .
Here’s to many more citings in 2010.