A discussion near the pitcher’s mound ensued. There were clenched fists, red faces, cursing, nose-to-nose confrontations, spittle flying, threats, pushing, and gloves lifted high overhead then slammed to the turf in anger quickly followed by baseball cap—just as we had been taught by watching the adult, professional ball-players on television when they had their bench clearing brawls. The participants were careful to keep the belligerence this side of fisticuffs. Bitter experience had taught us once punches started flying there’d be bloody noses, black eyes, and, even worse, termination of the game. Nobody wanted that. We were here to play ball.
A love sonnet I wrote for my beloved bride. (First published in Woods Reader, Spring 2020; Vol. 3, Issue 1).
A coworker, Angie Neubecker, was kind enough to do the calligraphy. I framed it and gave it to Monica for her 48th birthday.
Here is the explication:
1st quatrain – Monica is fearful of bears and the BW, of course, has many black bears. She was always unhappy when I went to the BW. Pine sap and pepper grass are some of the best smells in the BW. Monica’s smile shines like the full moon in a cloudless BW night.
2nd quatrain – The BW and Monica are uniquely, yet comparably, beautiful which carries us over to the
3rd quatrain – As I continue relating Monica’s beauty to the BW: her brown eyes to the clear brown waters; her flushed cheeks after our love-making to the pinkish hues found in some of the granite outcroppings.
Closing couplet – I missed her so much but was able to see her loveliness in so much of the BW’s beauty.
Powerful reads on which language comes first, second, or even third.Disappearing Language: A Reading List on Losing Your Native Tongue — Longreads
I read 89 books in 2021. These are, subjectively and in order, my top 21 in 2021.
|21||Mefisto in Onyx||Harlan Ellison||1993||Mark V. Zeising Books||Another powerful story from H.E. in a beautiful, oddly shaped 1st edition. One of the only books written for adults that is wider than it is tall. Keeping in character, Ellison could not resist a shot, in his Acknowledgements, at some folks who had rejected the book. MiO is a gritty, noirish novella of murder and suspicion.|
|20||Typewriters Bombs Jellyfish: Essays||Tom McCarthy||2017||New York Review Books||The essays are full of erudition and odd insights. They carom off delightfully in every direction. My favorite was The Prosthetic Imagination of David Lynch which provided a glimmer of understanding of the film director’s strange and tenebrous aesthetic.|
|19||Christopher Durang Complete Full-Length Plays 1975-1995||Christopher Durang||1997||Smith and Kraus, Inc.||Durang’s plays are funny with caustic commentary on the foibles of modern American society. I’d already read Beyond Therapy and seen it in a small theater in L.A. with my son Tristan playing the part of Andrew. My favorite play in this collection was The Vietnamization of New Jersey.|
|18||Get in Trouble: Stories||Kelly Link||2015||Random House||Link is a faultless stylist and a master of the outre.|
|17||J. G. Ballard: The Complete Short Stories||J. G. Ballard||2001||Flamingo||I had already read a number of the stories in this massive, 1200 page volume because they’d been published in so many ‘Best of’ anthologies. My favorites were Minus One, The Smile, and Love in a Colder Climate.|
|16||On Wings of Song||Thomas M. Disch||1993||Easton Press||Another gorgeous leather-bound volume with gold-leaf embossments and gilt-edges from Easton Press. It is a modern fairy tale and biting satire of American society and Christianity. Disch never disappoints.|
|15||The Fires of Heaven||Robert Jordan||1993||Tor Books||The fifth in the epic fantasy series the Wheel of Time. There is good reason WoT is mentioned in the same breath as GoT, LOTR, and Narnia.|
|14||The Arrest||Jonathan Lethem||2020||Ecco||Lethem is one of our best writers and a rarity in that he is equally adept at writing speculative and mainstream fiction. The Arrest is a dystopian novel set in America’s near future and depicts what happens when cars, computers, airplanes, etc. stop working.|
|13||The Lowland||Jhumpa Lahiri||2013||Vintage Contemporaries||This novel was apparently a finalist for the National Book Award and the Man Booker Prize so, yeah, it’s pretty good stuff. Set in India from the 1960’s to the present day, it is a family tale about two brothers replete with love, tragedy, and contemporary Indian history.|
|12||Bartleby in Manhattan & Other Essays||Elizabeth Hardwick||1983||Random House||E. H. was one of our best essayists and literary critics. If you don’t believe me ask Robert Atwan who chose her over the likes of Joyce Carole Oates, Annie Dillard, and Susan Sontag as the first guest editor in his Best American Essays series started in 1986 and still going strong.|
|11||A Memory of Empire||Arkady Martine||2019||Tor Books||Arkedy Martine is the pseudonym of Dr. AnnaLinden Weller. This space opera is full of action and intrigue and won the 2020 Hugo award for Best Novel.|
|10||News from the World: Stories & Essays||Paula Fox||2011||W. W. Norton & Co.||P. F. is the under-appreciated author of Desperate Characters. These essays and stories have both sparkle and depth, a difficult trick to pull off. My favorites were Clem and the eponymous piece.|
|9||The Complete Poems of Philip Larkin||Philip Larkin||2012||Farrar, Strauss and Giroux||At 700 pages this is the definitive work for Larkin scholars. It has as much commentary as poetry. I read it for the poems only. Some of my favorites were Night Music, No Road, Ignorance, The Old Fools, and Winter Nocturne.|
|8||The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Eighth Annual Collection||Gardner Dozois (Ed.)||2011||St. Martin’s Griffin||This annual collection of the best science fiction from the previous year is always one of the best books I read in any given year. I’ve always wondered about the correct pronunciation for this multiple Hugo-award winning editor’s last name. My favorite stories were The Emperor of Mars by Alan M. Steele, Under the Moons of Venus by Damien Broderick, and In-Fall by Ted Kosmatka.|
|7||The Drowned World||J. G. Ballard||1965||Doubleday & Co.||This 1st edition volume also included The Wind from Nowhere which could easily have landed in the top 21 as well but three works from one author in the list seemed excessive. This post-apocalyptic world in which sea-levels have risen drastically is described n Ballard’s signature dreamy, moody atmosphere.|
|6||Less||Andrew Sean Greer||2017||Back Bay Books||This Pulitzer Prize winning novel is a clever, heart-warming, and funny look into the over-lapping worlds of literary writing and academia.|
|5||Raised in Captivity: Fictional Non-Fiction||Chuck Klosterman||2019||Penguin Books||This much better-than-expected collection of short story[/essays?], all of them about a dozen pages or less, features Klosterman’s wit, humor, weirdness, and crazed imagination.|
|4||The Portable Veblen||Elizabeth McKenzie||2016||Penguin Books||The funniest, sweetest novel I read in 2021, it takes a clever and witty look at families and Big Pharma.|
|3||The Largesse of the Sea Maiden||Denis Johnson||2018||Random House||Everybody who is anybody in the literary world loves Johnson’s writing. Who am I to disagree? He is a master word-smith. I liked the prison story Strangler Bob the best in this collection where every story is good.|
|2||The Hotel Eden||Ron Carlson||1997||Penguin Books||Another great collection of short stories that edged out Johnson’s above only because of the superb story Keith.|
|1||Perdido Street Station||China Mieville||2000||Del Rey Ballantine Books||A wonderful meld of science fiction and fantasy. This Arthur C. Clark award-winning novel set in the steampunk world of New Crobuzon (which bears a more than passing resemblance to London) is an enthralling tour-de-force.|