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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Claire of the Sea Light and Do You Guys Remember Nibs?

Even from those very first hours, Claire was an easy and quiet child. It was as though she already knew that she could not afford to be picky or make demands. - Claire of the Sea Light, Edwidge Danticat
2015 has been a good year for me, books-wise. I read close to 50 books, which is pretty good I think considering how many video games I've been playing lately. The trick is just to ignore your kids. It's that easy! I wish I could do audio books, because then it would be way more, but listen, I don't have to justify anything to you. If you think that you can stand there (I assume you're standing while reading this, standing desks are so 2015) and tell me that filling in the gaps in my classic video game knowledge is any better than reading books, well I don't know. Maybe.

This isn't a discussion about what's cooler and makes you more interesting and handsome: books or Playstation One games. It's actually nothing yet. Right now this blog post is an intro with nowhere to go. Likely this whole paragraph will be gone when I think of something better. Put some money on it and then come back in a couple minutes. It will be a fun way to spend the day at the office.

Oh yeah, I was talking about how many books I've read and humble-bragging about it. I know a lot of people have read more than me, but what are they, sexy librarians? Not all of us can be sexy librarians. Some of us have to be sexy wildlife biologists. And we don't get to sit around and read all day like it's our job. This beard does not grow itself.

Some of us, in addition to reading and fighting bone dragons, have also been cooking delicious, low-sodium meals. We have been hiking, winning fantasy football leagues (YES), and getting into Facebook arguments about politics and Star Wars. We have been reading a lot of comic books. In other words, one full-sized book a week is pretty good for us.

Of the 50 books, I gave 18 a full 5-star rating on Goodreads (This post is sponsored by Goodreads. Goodreads: where failed writers use their mom's internet connection to demonstrate the reasons for their failures) which I think is a pretty good ratio. Many more got four stars. Few got less than three. This means close to nothing, by the way. It reflects how I felt at the moment and assigning a quantifiable number to an overall impression is a fools game. It also says that I want to enjoy every book I read and give them the full benefit of the doubt.

A few of them I didn't finish. I don't feel bad about this one bit. A couple I skimmed towards the end. Some of them I tore apart into little tiny pieces (metaphorically, all you sexy librarians) and devoured them like little niblets of licorice, savoring their corn-syrupy goodness, their words sticking in my mind like candy stuck in the filling I had to get replaced because of all the licorice. To be explored and probed by the tongue of my inquisitiveness and swallowed by the throat of my psyche.

Some of the ones that are still "sticking" (please let this be the end of that metaphor) with me are My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante, Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel, Undermajordomo Minor, by Patrick Dewitt, and Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel. The Plague of Doves, by Louise Erdrich is a book I think about literally every day.

You guys looking at that paragraph makes me realize that I'm going to have to link every one of those books to their corresponding blog post and that just makes me tired. If there are links up there I sincerely believe that I should be congratulated both for the accomplishment and for living such a life where menial tasks are a good justification for such extravagant praise.

Ugh, it isn't even a good list! H is for Hawk isn't on there! Neither is How to be Both and Breath, Eyes, Memory! I am so bad at this. Just read my blog. Or my Goodreads (Goodreads, I took a class in literature once in community college so I know what good fiction is) list. Talk to me. Like a human being does one to another. Let's go get cocoa (you can drink coffee, I don't judge) and talk about books. There is a doughnut shop right across from my office. Let's eat doughnuts together.

My point is that I read a lot of good books this year and am a better person for it. Just up there I mentioned Breath, Eyes, Memory which is the book that introduced me to Edwidge Danticat. She wrote another book, too! Well, a bunch, but the the one I read was Claire of the Sea Light. And guess what, I like it.

Claire is celebrating her seventh birthday, which is bittersweet for many reasons. The first being that her mother died in childbirth, so each birthday is an anniversary of the death of her father's wife. Her father, Nozias, is a poor fisherman who worries about dying in the sea as his best friend does at the beginning of the book. He wants to give Claire away to a wealthy widow in their community.

You know, upon thinking about it, it's actually just bitter. I don't think Claire is having a very happy birthday at all.

Anyway, though Claire is the central piece around which these characters focus, we find that each one has a long history that intertwines with one another like lives do in small communities. There is a mayor who is also the undertaker, there's a schoolmaster, and a radio host. There's murder and corrupt politicians and true love and tragedy.

Like with Breath, Eyes, Memory, the story takes place in Haiti. And her writing is just my favorite kind. Danticat can be poetic at times, but for the most part it's spare and doesn't call attention to itself. It's hard to pull "beautiful" language from the book to put in the blog, but that's good. She lets the stories spin out in a way that doesn't waste time or energy. When it comes to writing styles, I'll always pick spare and lean over flowery. Probably because I seem so incapable of doing that myself.

Here's to a good year, you guys. Let's have another one. Thanks for reading.