I think there is a widespread cultural feeling that 2016 was a shitty year. We had to listen to all the election crap, and then when the election was finally over, things just got crappier. But regardless of all the crap, I love writing this post and looking back at all the great things that I found during the year. Things I loved. Things that made me happy. Things that may have changed my world or me as a person. And 2016 was not devoid of those things. Here they are, in no particular order.
I worship at the altar of Vince Gilligan. As I said last year, the idea of doing a spinoff of one of the greatest shows ever is fraught with peril, and such a show should not be any good. But, Better Call Saul is really good, and if it’s possible, season 2 may have been better than season 1. And the show somehow manages to tie itself in with Breaking Bad completely seamlessly, while still being a completely different show. You could watch this show having not seen a lick of Breaking Bad and still understand it and think it was the best show ever. I cannot wait for season 3, but to paraphrase our favorite children’s author, I will have to. Speaking of which…
Children’s books are a mixed bag, and there are plenty that should be put in a bag and thrown straight out the window. I feel like if I have to read another rhyming couplet, my brain will melt and seep out of my ears. So thank God for Mo Willems. His stories are always creative, entertaining and devoid of saccharine. The Knuffle Bunny series and Waiting is Not Easy are my favorites, but with the help of the library, Sonja and I have read just about everything he’s ever written. Speaking of which…
I’m putting the library on my list for the second time in 4 years. I used to take Sonja to library story times when she was little, and now we go all the time so she always has new stories to read. As I have put the pressure on myself to read more, I have been really impressed with the library’s collection. In the past couple of months, the only thing I could not find was an F. Scott Fitzgerald memoir*. When the public library didn’t have it, I realized that I was an employee at a community college, and that the community college has a library, and that the college library might have it. And they did! We talk a lot about the great access to information we have in the information age, but let’s not forget the original, and still best way, to access information. Speaking of which…
I read a bunch at the beginning of the year during my Facebook hiatus. Then, I went back to Facebook and found less and less time for reading. Then after the election, like everybody else, I had to turn off Facebook for a while. So I started reading again, and I was like, “hey, this is really great, and it was great at the beginning of the year, too. What was with me during the middle part of the year?” After all, it was this self-imposed self-control that led to the best discovery of the year, which was…
How did I ever live without Shirley Jackson? I first heard about her book, Life Among the Savages, on the podcast, Mom & Dad are Fighting. When I needed something to read at the beginning of the year, the library had it. Though Shirley Jackson is a horror writer, this was a memoir (if you’ll recall, my favorite genre) about raising her kids in the 1940s and ’50s. I immediately fell in love with her prose and connected with her. I mention in my Best Of: Entertainment Edition that I abandoned a book I was reading called, I Want My Epidural Back. I read a good chunk of it and laughed a couple of times, but it was just another boring attempt at comedy through generalization. There was little in the way of narrative, and much vulgarity directed at this modern mythical creation known as the supermom. I don’t know if it’s our current culture that has created this motherly insecurity, or just our current technology that amplifies it, but I don’t find it productive or enlightening. There were no generalizations in Shirley Jackson’s memoirs, only characters. She definitely did not consider herself what we would now call a supermom, but she didn’t demonize anyone else, either. The only person you could call a villain is another mom that Jackson argues with over which of their kids started a fight, but even that ends in hilarity when they bump into each other at the store.
Mrs. Howell and I met at the meat counter in the grocery the next morning; she smiled and I smiled and then she said, “How is Laurie today?”
“He seems much better, thanks,” I said solemnly. “And David?”
“Fairly well,” she said without turning a hair.
“Horrible little beasts,” I said.
“Liars, all of them,” she said. “I never believe a word they say.”
Contrast that with the Epidural author:
Speaking of rugrats, I’ve got two of them. Zoey is six and she is AWWWWESOMMMMME. I also have a three-year-old named Holden who kicks ass. I don’t mean he literally kicks ass. He’s more of a hitter and a puncher. But not a biter, thank God.
I read every non-fiction story and essay of Jackson’s that exists, and now I’m left wondering if I’ll ever love reading anything as much again.
This show packs in more laughs than most anything else you can watch on TV, and it also does two or three musical numbers every week. Pretty impressive.
I’m generally not interested in any malarkey about the monarchy, but this was so well done. Though just because it is a well-done period drama does not mean it can fill the void Mad Men left, I really enjoyed watching it. So that’s something.
I’ve never read an entire Jane Austen novel, but this book made me want to. I think it’s just because I adore the writing of William Deresiewicz. But, with all that reading I’m doing, I’m sure to make time for Jane Austen at some point.
This film had been on my radar for some time because the screenplay is by Nick Hornby, and it was nominated for an Oscar. However, I just can’t get that excited about any movie these days though, so I sort of settled for watching the radar blips, knowing eventually I’d probably get around to it. Plus, the last Hornby screenplay, An Education, was decent but forgettable. However, I really liked this movie. Saoirse Ronan was terrific, and I found I had a very strong opinion in her America vs. Ireland decision, which surprised me. It’s been a while since I felt emotionally involved in a film. So this one earns a hearty recommendation from me.
So there you have it. Not a bad haul for a year like 2016. I cannot wait to see what 2017 will bring. But I will have to.
*The library now has it available to borrow as an e-book.