As I finished writing this, I just found out that my wonderful friend Cynthia Jaynes Omololu passed away this morning in her sleep after living in style and with spirit for more than a year and a half with stage 4 cancer. I canâ€™t even begin to list the ways that Iâ€™m grateful to her or how deeply this news affects me. What a reminder to go forth and live with the time we have remaining!
Every year I try to look back on highlights and progress. Here are some of the things that made 2015 memorable.
Iâ€™m proud that I finished the draft of The Shadow Clock, started the revision for it, began other writing projects, and even finished the first short story that Iâ€™ve written in ages, all while working, commuting, and being a mom.
Itâ€™s getting tougher, though. I find I cannot stay up at night to write like I used to. My sleep patterns have changed and Iâ€™m often far too tired now after work. Or if I stay up I cannot then get to sleep. So 2016 will be a challenge as I tweak my process and schedules and try to be relentlessly disciplined. I have so much more I want to write, and it is up to me to do it.
Lovely writer friendsâ€™ book launches
Iâ€™m eternally grateful to have such wonderful writer friends. I was lucky enough to get out to a few launch parties and celebrate them:
- Marilyn Hilton: Full Cicada Moon (although technically I missed the party and the moon pies, I did get my beautiful copy from Linden Tree Books)
- Stacey Lee: Under a Painted Sky, a fantastic story of friendship (and a littleÂ romance) on the Oregon Trail
- Kim Liggett: I was not there in person, but was certainly there in spirit for the delicious horror-romance Blood and Salt.
- Anne Nesbet: The Wrinkled Crown, a gorgeous middle-grade.
- And, of course, The Third Twin by CJ Omololu, a devious mystery. Her launch party in February was the highlight of the year.
I know Iâ€™m forgetting people or leaving them off. So please forgive me!
I was enthralled by Elena Ferrante from the very first pages of My Brilliant Friend. I read all four books through late summer, by the soccer fields, on the train to work, lugging around paper copies and constantly dog-earing favorite pages or marking up favorite passages.
I often feel American literary fiction works very hard to convince that itâ€™s important, and it often announces this ambition through style. Itâ€™s relentlessly written.
So I love the directness, the brusqueness, the rawness of Ferrante. With such humble material â€“ a friendship between two poor girls â€“ there is no place to hide. I thought about cooking and how (as Iâ€™ve heard multiple times) it takes real skill to make a dish of simple ingredients. I think itâ€™s hard to write so naturally and honestly about real life.
There was so much I related to in the struggle to be free and self-determined, a female artist and mother. But beyond that, I especially loved how the struggle to escape the past is rendered so physically â€“ how fathers and mothers are there almost as monsters inside their children. How a pair of shoes can have such meaning. How two dolls from childhood can cause shivers. Absolutely masterful.
Uh, this was year I probably listened to the most Drake I ever have. Really, I just gave up and listened to Drake constantly. He was always there, so what could I do?! But Iâ€™m somehow disappointed or feel lazy. I feel the need to branch out more, musically. Just tons of pop/rap, Iâ€™ve given up on â€¦ I donâ€™t even know what to call it, â€œalternativeâ€? Havenâ€™t listened to rock in forever. I listened to familiar stuff because I was working and needed not to think. Perhaps my avoidance of â€œdifficultyâ€ is why I resisted Kendrick Lamarâ€™s ambition on To Pimp a Butterfly and found myself singing along to Fetty Wap instead.
There was some late happiness on the classical front. I heard â€œThe Bells of St. Genevieveâ€ by Martin Marais for the first time randomly on the radio and loved it. Also, I am super excited to be following this Spotify playlist: â€œPeaceful Choral Music by Living Composersâ€ â€“ aside from the music, I love the oddly specific title. And it is exactly as advertised, so yay!
And a last minute discovery coming at the close of the year. I loved the gorgeous choral work â€œI Lie,â€ which I encountered first on the soundtrack to The Great Beauty. Then what joy to discover that the composer, David Lang, also was responsible for the score to Youth, another beautiful Sorrentino movie, and that he wrote the gorgeous â€œSimple Song #3â€ for the film. I predict Iâ€™ll listen to much more David Lang in 2016.
I got out to only a few shows in 2015, but loved Keith Haring â€œThe Political Lineâ€ at the de Young, as well as the show on Turner, â€œPainting Set Free.â€ Both made me see anew.
I canâ€™t wait for the new downtown BAM/PFA to open in Berkeley. And it will be wonderful to have SF MOMA back again. Hoping that 2016 is filled with art and museum-going.
It was yet another year of low-level moviegoing. Here are a few favorites.
- Creed: Just when I think I cannot be a bigger Michael B. Jordan fan, Creed comes along. Jordan and director Ryan Coogler blew me away with Fruitvale Station last year and made me cry. Creed made me smile. And Sylvester Stallone is great in this!
- Mistress America: This was absolutely lovely. Greta Gerwig is fantastic.
- Youth: Saw this at the very close of the year and so far it is staying with me. May we all have careers as long-lived and varied as Michael Caineâ€™s!
Life and the rest
Kids are growing, soccer abounds. Grant continues to press forward on multiple creative projects, leaving me in awe. Our dog is still handsome and yet something of a pain. I would like to drink less red wine and go back to cross-fit (2015 was a year of alarming sedentary-ness). But perhaps most of all I hope to get enough sleep and reflect positive energy back into the world.
Happy 2016 to all!