Nicole and I celebrate our birthdays as weeks, not days. So since Sunday, that’s what we’ve been doing, COVID-19 be damned. We’ve had friends over for backyard firepit visits, we’ve Zoomed with some homies, we’ve sipped some cocktails, we’ve invested in some new tech, we’ve resisted feeling too much dread (definitely for the time being), we’ve cranked up some disco, soul, and jazz, we’ve indulged in our new culinary concoction (a German delicacy called “dipsundshit”), we’ve revisited the work of Merle Haggard, we’ve bought some presents for family, and we’ve strolled the neighborhood multiply. And we still have three days left!
Apropos of nothing (yeah, sure), here are my ten favorite books of 2020 (so far), in no particular order:
Louise Erdrich: THE NIGHT WATCHMAN
Peter Guralnick: LOOKING TO GET LOST–ADVENTURES IN MUSIC & WRITING
Ross Johnson: BARON OF LOVE–MORAL GIANT
Richard Grant: THE DEEPEST SOUTH OF ALL–TRUE STORIES FROM NATCHEZ, MISSISSIPPI
Lawrence Wright: THE END OF OCTOBER
Derf Backderf: KENT STATE
Octavia Butler, Damian Duffy, John Jennings: PARABLE OF THE SOWER (graphic novel)
Walter Johnson: THE BROKEN HEART OF AMERICA–ST. LOUIS AND THE VIOLENT HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES
Fernanda Melchor: HURRICANE SEASON
David Zucchino: WILMINGTON’S LIE–THE MURDEROUS COUP OF 1898 AND THE RISE OF WHITE SUPREMACY
Streaming for Strivers:
I needed something leveling, something calming this morning. So far, so good.
I know I’ve been wearing you out not only on the NBA, music, books, eating, and mourning, but also, lately, on Albert Camus’ book The Plague. I know it might sound insane to read THAT book right now, but if you have been taking this pandemic seriously, it can make you feel less out of sorts. Though Camus was mostly writing about a different kind of plague than COVID-19, that different kind of plague is perhaps more damagingly in effect right now. I’m re-reading it and it has had a calming (not reassuring) effect on me. As his narrator describes how the citizens of Oran respond to the virus that’s hit them, you’ll find many points of commonality with your own experience–I promise. And it’s not a doorstop tome: it’s an absorbing 300ish pages.
On a less ponderous note (perhaps), I: a) lost my campus ID when it apparently flopped out of my lanyard (I hate those with a passion, which compounds the absurdity), though there’s only about 100 feet where it could have landed that I’ve retraced thrice (I suspect one of the crumbsnatchers in Stephens’ early ed program found it and ate it); b) received my used VHS copy of Sammy and Rosie Get Laid in the mail; c) tried to help Nicole bake a plate of enchiladas and, in doing so, attempted to RE-shred some jack cheese; and d) intentionally slept on the couch in the “TV room” to watch our dog, who is showing signs of age that are bedeviling him.
Streaming for Survivors:
For the formalists in the house, and fans of Illinois power pop.
I don’t like the idea of doing something just so I will have subject matter to write about the next day, so I don’t, and I didn’t. To me, the day was quite exciting but I read for hours, which beats bunji jumping by a mile. I’m lucky to have four great books going at once, but you’ll hear about those later, rest assured.
Wait! There was some traditional excitement! Nicole and I did enjoy watering our friend’s garden, flowers, and shrubs while she was out of town, and as I was putting her trash out, I became transfixed by the fancy (to me) insulation in her garage. I’ll have to get us some of that.
Oh yes, and my former student Joseph Kenney invited me not only to guest on his rap podcast (not as a performer!) but also to add tracks to the show’s companion YouTube playlist. He may live to regret both choices. He did survive my class, back in the relatively halcyon Nineties.
Streaming for Survivors:
Product of a deep crate-dig. For Joe…