Life in the offline world

I spent the last couple of weeks of 2009 offline. I surprised myself by not missing it (sorry, World Wide Web. Did you miss me?).

My main interactivity came while engaged with family. I sledded, bowled, played cards, even got bored once in a while. Imagine that!

I spent time in other media, like books.
Bonnie Jo Campbell’s American Salvage contains some of the most vividly drawn and unique characters I’ve seen in years. I told my wife to read these stories because she’ll know more about me. I ‘know’ some of these people, know the places they go. Maybe it’s because I grew up in Michigan, not so far from where Campbell sets most of her stories. I shared one of the stories with my brother-in-law, because I knew it described something he’s familiar with, in ways neither he nor I could articulate. I had two wishes for Campbell.  We only see the main characters once, which made me wish that she’d pull them together in some way, as with Hemingway’s Nick Adams stories, or Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio. And very few of the stories yield even a hint of a happy ending, adding to the enduring notion that small towns lead inevitably to desperation. Since Campbell didn’t win the 2009 National Book Award (I’ll guess that factors included these being short stories, and about people you wouldn’t see at a New York literary party), I’ll have to go read Colum McCann’s Let the Great World Spin, which did. It must be stupendous.

I finished Telling True Stories, edited by Mark Kramer and Wendy McCall. I think I should read something from it every week. It offers so much wisdom, inspiration and practical ideas for writers and editors.

John Coats’ new book Original Sinners, meanwhile, puts Genesis into modern context. I enjoyed much of it, including the fun yarns Coats includes from his life. Fundamentalists of all stripes will hate it, unless they can accept it as the literary work it was written as, and not a book on religion.

I went audio, too, mostly audio books for the long drive to and from Michigan. We listened to a Dave Barry collection,  who wasn’t as funny as I remembered him being (only one had us howling with laughter). We started listening to Water for Elephants, only to decide that it was best not to have it on when the kids might hear. It became the first book I bought on the Kindle I got for Christmas.

I also watched some true crime shows on television. Not bad — it’s like a video game that unfolds once a week. Given the way I binge game, the TV model probably is healthier for me.

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