The Victorians were completely obsessed with death and mourning, and so even at Christmas, with all its emphasis on family, gift-giving, religion, etc., there was still this dark undercurrent. So holiday music for me is always a slightly moody affair, particularly since I don’t have too much use for the awful crap that gets blasted in malls and coffee shops this time of year.
When I started the reading adventure on my own, picking my own books, I started collecting the Hardy Boys mysteries. There they are on the bookcase above the bureau in the bedroom that I shared with my brother … six … twelve … twenty-four … extending like the beige walls of a new Rome … an infallible barrier against the scary adult world that I didn’t understand.
It’s rare that good fiction actually gets published, as there is a lack in the attention spans of today’s readers, and the gatekeepers just can’t afford to publish a novel that will give them great reviews, but no sales. Their overhead is too high, they’ve screwed themselves. This year when I got a copy of the phenomenal The Fates Will Find Their Way (on sale 2/11) I nearly lost my mind at just how amazing it was.
Since I ended last year on a crusade to target male fiction readers (see my holiday guest post at EWN), and since this blog is written by three (okay, four—and counting) guys, and since I’m such a macho dude (Baby Bjorn and diaper bag, notwithstanding), I decided to focus my year-end list on manly books. And that’s not to say that these books won’t totally appeal to women, it’s just to say that they all in some way speak to traditionally manly subject matter.War. Hunting. Meat night.
Carver has been an active part of my adult life and for the most part, the reason I’ve tried to become a writer. I like his people, they’re believable, and certainly more real than real, in most cases. Reading the Ann Beattie stories made me want to grab a Carver story, just to have it as a comparison.
As a teenager I’d affected a vaguely literary air—writing bad poetry and growing my hair longer than now seems folically feasible—but I’d never done the deep reading to justify it. That summer, I made a start. I read the Brontes (various); Hardy (the suicidally depressing one); Jane Austen; F. Scott Fitzgerald (the short stories, I think).