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Archive for December, 2014

2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 7,100 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 6 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Book lists, particularly those at the end of a year, always catch my attention. I usually read through and pick one or two titles to hand on to for future purchase; but I rarely keep the list as I have no mountain climbing ambition. This year I did something different; I copied out four lists before deciding four were more than enough.

They are “Jonathan Yardley’s favorite books,” and “The ten best books of 2014,” from The Washington Post. From The New York Times, they are “100 Notable Books of 2014,” and “Human Costs of the Forever Wars, Enough to Fill a Bookshelf,” the last list by Michiko Kakutani.

I know the article by Kakutani does not need my promotion; however, I want to comment on it anyway. It is a thoughtful look at how we are recording for our understanding and memory the wars of our own making in Iraq and Afghanistan. Those wars need our attention and wise response as much as does the battered environment; and we seem to be as lost in one confrontation as in the other.

I was surprised to find I have read only two titles Kakutani writes about: Kevin Powers’ The Yellow Birds, and Brian Turner’s My Life as a Foreign Country; both of which are sure to bring your emotions to the surface. These two books should be in every public library in America; and I am confident they are not the only books in his list that should be tagged as such.

I do not doubt there are other books fully deserving of being listed in the article. Our country should act this coming year to completely choke off the bloody creation of new authors. There are already too many at work and in the development stage. Enough is enough.

As I write this the day before my local Christmas Bird Count, I must mention the only birding book from the Forever Wars, Jonathan Trouern-Trend’s Birding Babylon: A Soldier’s Journal from Iraq. Just now I looked up from my desk to see outside a Pileated Woodpecker tearing a hole in a hemlock looking for a mid-afternoon meal. If we don’t kill or maim life, it seems to work well. Charles Marlin

Image by Zoriah Miller at zoriah.com

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Put them on your wish list, assign them as gifts and buy early so you can read them before you have to give them up, I suggest you keep them for your self. They are among the best of the year.

My Life as a Foreign Country: A Memoir by Brian Turner is the perfect gift for readers interested in how men think and feel in war and stress by an author who is a protein poet and who served two tours in Iraq. Because he is a poet, what he writes is not confined to only his experience; it is universal. Men, whatever you think of them, are well served in this book.

Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh, A Biography by John Lahr is the best biography of a writer I have read; and I have read a hell of a lot of biographies. The man, his family, his neuroses, his early struggles as a writer, his successes and collaboration with Elia Kazan, his failures, and cannibalization of himself are all woven together as one great American narrative of one of our greatest playwrights. To enjoy to the fullest any of his plays, you need to first read this book. Before you put the book down, you will be eating fruit cake, drinking martinis, and swiming through the massive genius of Thomas Lanier Williams III we know as Tennessee Williams.

Lila by Marilynne Robinson again brings us full frontal with the enormity of what we think of as the small lives of unimportant people; but the author does it with a tenderness that is never false, and is always empathetic. She is the author Home and Gilead; and she has again returned to the bare town of Gilead, Iowa. She makes you wish you knew the townspeople; and of course your wish confirms you already know them. She demonstrates how imperfect, people deal with unanswerable questions; they live with them by getting up and attending to the duties of the day.

Undeniably we live in a time of great writing. The riches seem to overwhelm us; still, it is a happy gluttony. Charles Marlin

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