Feeling Listless

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Hours of the Universe

Here is a list of my favorite things about December in descending order:

5. The Dallas Cowboys have yet to fall out of the NFL playoff hunt.

4. As much Turkey as I ate on Thanksgiving, I know I will eat still more before the year is out.

3. A Charlie Brown Christmas

2. The guy who rings the Salvation Army bell at the corner of Church and Sherman in Evanston.

1. End of year lists.

There are lists of the year’s best, and the year’s most, and the year’s worst, and the year’s least. The list, so goes the saying, goes on and on. I read them, love them, mark them up, and in January I throw them away. I suspect you are no different. Now, though, I will let you in on a little secret. Each year, about this time, I make a list of my own. Don’t believe me? That will go on two lists: A List of Things Mark Will Never Know and A List of Things About Which Mark Has No Opinion. Without further ado, here is A List of At-best Marginally Literary Things That Mark Really Liked About 2011 in a Very Specific Order, The Algorithm for Which He Will Not At This Time Divulge:

1. Kindle Fire – I know. I’m the bookstore guy. I’m supposed to hate it and everything it stands for. Amazon has been extra naughty lately. But this was an early Christmas gift from someone I love, and I bought nearly every word Charles Dickens ever published for $2.99. The Dark Side of The Force is rife with temptation.

2. Book People – I went back to Texas for a few days this summer, and stopped by this local gem the afternoon I was in Austin. It’s two floors of literary, air- conditioned bliss. The "Staff Recommendations" are thoughtful, the selection is wide and well organized, and the list of in-store readings is always exciting. It was a nice reminder, after a few months in Chicago, that Texas truly is the Promised Land.

3. Shakespeare at Winedale – On that same trip to Texas, I spent a night in the booming metropolis of Round Top, Texas. My sister was an English major at The University (of Texas), and is now working on an MFA in Shakespeare Performance at Mary Baldwin College. She is both the sweetest and most talented person I know. She spent the summer performing at Winedale and seeing her ply her craft was, as always, one of the great joys of my year.

4. Victory for St. Mark’s Bookshop – Score one for the good guys. I wrote about it here a few weeks ago, which I will allow that to assuage my guilt for loving my Kindle so much.

5. The Pale King – David Foster Wallace's posthumous novel is as unfinished as death is final. The first chapter, published by TriQuarterly, might also be the most beautiful thing I’ve ever read. I read it three consecutive times on the bus from Evanston to downtown Chicago, and had to put it down because I have a policy against crying in public.

6. The death of Clarence Clemons – This isn’t something that I liked about 2011. In fact, it’s one of those things that will forever mar the year in my memory, but it bears mentioning. It may be that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, but the same is not true of soul. Now that the Big Man is gone, there will forever be just a little bit less of that in the universe.

7. Calamity Song - the Decemberists' music video for this single off of their 2011 release, The King is Dead, is inspired by the Eschaton scene in Infinite Jest. I hereby pronounce 2011: The Year of the chewable Ambien tab. 

That's where I'll leave you for this year. I hope the end of 2011 finds you at least as happy as it finds me. Whatever celebration you make as the year comes to an end, I hope you find yourself making it with someone you love, or at least someone you don't want to punch in the head.