February 8, 2004: “Regular garden-variety cantankerousness”

Regular garden-variety cantankerousness—now
regularly euphemized as “contrariness” or “curmudgeonly
behavior”—is responsible for my life-long (as least
adult life) disregard of the Justinian calendar. The lapse in my
attention to my journal was superceded by the end of the annual
end-of-the-year hysteria that has firmly rooted itself in the American
culture—it might be thus in other cultures, but I have little
direct knowledge of how others weather this monsterish blend of
religious mythic celebration with the Cyclopean consumer engine
that drives much of the American civilization. So my plan to resume
at the beginning of my year, nominally Martin Luther King Day or
my son Cuba's birthday, fell by the wayside—as the days came
off the calendar.

Over a year ago, I decided I wasn't doing enough writing and also
that the journalism I was reading about books was not satisfying.
What resulted was a reader's progress—a journal with which
I intended to satisfy/rectify at least those two concerns. Of the
few things that I was clear on when I began to bare my soul, was
that arp (as we insiders soon began to refer to it) was not a blog
(that disgusting verb/noun) but a kind of personal journal, commonplace
book and catch all for things I wanted to remember or get off my
chest. And a kind of narrative calisthenics for my atrophying writing

Certainly I was hesitant to categorize a reader's progress as a
diary or journal largely because my life-long experience with journalizing
has been pretty much fruitless. So why attempt such a thing, personal
account—a diary—in everything but name?

For one thing, lots had changed in my life—a significant
transformation of scenery from the so-called People's Republic of
Brookline to a small-town, exurban life in Exeter, New Hampshire.
And a good part of that brave new life has been 'no cable hook up'
or television. And to top those changes off, there has been a significant
down turn in my consumer activity—except for the supermarket,
film-processing shops and a local Gap where I continuously find
comfortable useable clothing for about 25% of the original price.
Seemingly big changes internally and externally warranted some navel

A natural consequence of being an avid reader is that one (I) spend(s)a
lot of time in my head either engrossed in a narrative or cogitating,
fulminating, rationating, ideating, or contemplating a steady flow
of—what to call it?—information? The idea of getting
myself out of that headspace and onto the (a) page has had a lot
of good effects, not the least of which is a modicum of reality
testing for my ideas and theories and hypotheses. Curiously, what
ended up happening was divergent from my original vague intention.
Dan Wicket over at EWN, in some exchange, pointed out to me that
I was less and less writing about books. Mostly, I became more caught
up with the writing than the reading component and the reading I
was doing was increasingly web-based.

My current intention in redressing my deviations is to stick more
to thinking about the books I am reading—and also the books
I am not reading. This has been helped by my current decline in
interest in the endless solipsistic monologues that have overwhelmed
the brave new media world. That and a certain high-school-cafeteria-style
cliquishness that infests the Internet, happily, have freed up some
more reading time for me.

So, here are the books I have had a chance to read and complete
in the past few months:

Azar Nafisi, DARK HOLLOW - John Connolly, VOYAGE TO THE END OF THE
ROOM – Tibor Fischer, LOVING CHE – Ana Mendes, ABSOLUTE
OF THINGS UNSEEN - Marianne Wiggins, MAILMAN – J Robert Lennon,
– Michael Pye, COLD MOUNTAIN – Charles Frazier, STRAY
DOGS – John Ridley

I found, as is frequently the case, writers who are every bit as
worthy of attention as critic favorites. I am thinking of the likes
of Marianne Wiggins and Michael Pye. John Lecarre is still a very
potent writer and George Pelecanos gets better with each book. Charles
Frazier's book was much better than I expected for a best-seller.
Finally, I fell in love with Azar Nafisi.

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to finish BLOOD MERIDIEN when I started
to reread it in October, and I haven't gotten around to the new
Edith Grossman translation of DON QUIXOTE. My bad.

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