A Year in Books, 2013

So apparently I haven’t touched this thing in a year, but I figure if I’m paying for it I should be doing something with it.  I had all sorts of ideas of what I would do when I had the time, but no surprise, other things happened instead.

I kept a running list of books and short stories I read in the last year— tried to push myself to pick up a book more ofter rather than staring at Reddit and Facebook.  Didn’t go as well as I would have liked, but there’s always this year.  Here we go: my year in books.

A Storm of Swords – George R.R. Martin
A Feast for Crows – George R.R. Martin
A Dance With Dragons – George R.R. Martin

So I may have started ASOS late December, but I finished it sometime just after New Years.  I tore through the entire series once winter break started (I was about halfway through A Clash of Kings as I was headed home, which would have been about Dec. 20th, but I read ADWD in about three or four days— I knew my life would get crazy as soon as classes started, so I may have kept the midnight oil burning a few nights in a row for Jon, Daenerys and Tyrion.

Invisible Cities – Italo Calvino

I read a couple sections of Invisible Cities for a class my freshman year, and bought the book at a store in Baltimore Spring 2012— but never got around to reading until mid-January.  I wish I could have seen the opera based on Invisible Cities that ran it Union Station, Los Angeles this fall, but we’ll see what happens, maybe they’ll be able to open it again at some point.

The Automatic Detective – A. Lee Martinez

This one was a gift from a Reddit secret-santa style book exchange I did, and unfortunately, the only one of the three I received that I ever got around to reading.  Nothing groundbreaking, but a fun film noir detective story that stars a robot.

A Country Doctor’s Notebook – Mikhail Bulgakov [Записки юного врача, Михаи́л Булга́ков]

I discovered this semi-autobiographical short story collection through the miniseries adaptation starring John Hamm and Daniel Radcliffe—an odd combination that worked out beautifully in a TV show that is every bit as surreal as the books, and filled with with (very) dark humor.  I picked up the book at The Strand and read it in a couple of days.  I then found out my roommate had told me I needed to read Bulgakov six months earlier (specifically, The Master & Margarita), and I had completely forgotten until I tried to tell him he should pick up Doctor’s Notebook when he has the time.  Further proof I am excellent at friendship.

Antigone – Jean Anouilh, tr. Lewis Galantiere [Drama]

I might have cheated this one (I read this a few years ago after watching the Masterpiece film of it back in High School), but I don’t care.  Antigone is one of my favorite plays and this version by far my favorite.  I directed an excerpt for my directing class in the spring, and read through the play again as part of that project.  I know there is another translation out there, but I don’t know if it is newer/better than Galantiere’s.  Galantiere’s includes such gems as, “Being king isn’t just beer and skittles.”

Cloud 9 (Revised American Edition) – Caryl Churchill [Drama]
Brendan – Ronan Noone [Drama]

There were both productions I stage managed this past year, so two more that might be considered cheating, but I did read both before any production work started.  Both excellent plays, both with their own unconventional element to make them fun pieces to work on.

The Master and Margarita – Bulgakov, tr. Burgin/O’Connor [Ма́стер и Маргари́та, Михаи́л Булга́ков]

Borrowed and read on the recommendation of my roommate, an excellent novel.  Reading translation from Russian can be difficult (quality translations are always complicated from Russian), but a semester and a half of studying the language helped grasp the translators intentions where weaknesses showed. I remember one specific section where Behemoth, a cat, discusses peoples’s use of the formal and informal “you” or “thou” when addressing a cat, which reads as somewhat awkward in english (where nobody commonly uses “thou” outside of liturgy).  I’d like to read Heart of a Dog as well, but I’ve heard it is much less accessible without an understanding or familiarity with the Soviet society Bulgakov is attempting to satire.  My classes in the last couple yearshave also left me familiar with Goethe’s Faust and Dostoyevsky’s The Grand Inquisitor (From The Brothers Karamazov), so this was certainly not a book I could have understood or enjoyed as well if I had read it any earlier.

The Sandman, vols. 1-5 – Neil Gaiman
Preludes & Nocturnes, The Doll’s House, Dream Country, Seasons of Mist, A Game for You.

I finally got around to reading Gaiman!  Once summer began I started going to the public library (the first time I’d checked anything out there for fun since about 2006) and started in on anything Gaiman I could find.  I had heard a lot about The Sandman, so I started with that.  I’ve never been much of a comic book reader (I had pretty much just read The Watchmen, V for Vendetta, and The Killing Joke), so it was a new format to get used to, but I liked it, and only stopped becuase my library didn’t seem to have the next book in the series.  I am actually now borrowing book six, Fables and Reflections, from a friend, and it is glaring at me from the shelf as I write.  Maybe I’ll finish the rest of the series by next January?

The Walking Dead, vols. 1-12 – Robert Kirkman

I saw The Walking Dead on the shelf next to Sandman, and figured it would be another quick read for the summer.  I watch the TV show with friends at school, so I was familiar with the basic story, characters, etc, although the show has taken plenty of liberties in its four years.  I finished off everything the library had, so at some point I’ll have to look into buying the rest of the trade paperbacks/issues.

Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life – Bryan Lee O’Malley

Last graphic novel, I promise.  I loved the Scott Pilgrim film when it came out back in 2010, I should get around to reading the rest of these at some point.

Anansi Boys – Neil Gaiman

I check this out because it was the only Gaiman available at my library at the time— not the best book to pick up as your first Gaiman novel, but I DID like it.  Nothing on the book told me it was a sequel to American Gods, so I felt sort of stupid when I got a hundred pages into that one and was introduced to Mr. Nancy again.

Neverwhere – Neil Gaiman

The last Gaiman book I finished over the summer (I started American Gods but didn’t finish before I left) and probably where I should have begun but it doesn’t matter.  I’d like to read the “author’s preferred text” at some point, which combines multiple editions into a new, “fuller” novel, but I figure there’s lots of new books to read first…

Salomé – Oscar Wildé [Drama]

A weird play in Oscar Wilde’s canon, thematically it falls far outside his four famous “society comedies” (Lady Windermere’s Fan, A Woman of No ImportanceAn Ideal HusbandThe Importance of Being Earnest), yet was written right in the middle of them.  Like Bulgakov’s Pilate in Ма́стер и Маргари́та, Wilde takes a plot with biblical and historical context, and makes the drama his own, fleshing out character and motivation, changing just enough from the original story and adding his own twists of lust, desire, and erotica to the story of Herod, Salomé, and John the Baptist.  Aubrey Beardsley’s illustrations from the original publication bring a whole new dimension to the story, and give life to the text even without performance.

The Burial at Thebes –  Seamus Heaney

Heaney’s 21st century translation of Sophocles’ Antigone does not adapt it into a new setting, as Anouilh does, but instead reminds us that a play almost 2500 years old still holds relevance.  Heaney was heavily inspired by Ireland’s history of conflict as well as post-9/11 sentiments of “Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists”.

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