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Weekly Round-Up: Best of 2013

Best of 2013

Best of (not) 2013: A Long December

Welcome to the Words After War Weekly Round-Up: “Best of 2013” Edition. In this space we share links relevant to our mission of improving the military-civilian dialogue through high-quality literary programming. 

It’s December, the end of another year, and time to aggregate the best of 2013, or at least a bit of what our culture has offered us from the previous 52 weeks. Here are the “best of 2013” highlights, in no particular order:  The final season of Breaking Bad was not universally loved by all; Sherlock Holmes is owned by no one; we are living through the renaissance of Matthew McConaugheyJonathan Franzen does not have a Twitter account; and, as it turns out, social media is now owned by the corporations. As for me, I read a few exceptional books, caught a couple of Montana trout on a fly, and somehow managed to co-found a literary nonprofit.

Harnessing any literary momentum I have left in the tank, I plan on finishing the year with Steve Coll’s Ghost Wars and the 20,731 word investigative piece in the Los Angeles Times, “The Manhunt for Christopher Dorner.” If there’s any idle time on New Year’s Eve, I’ll round out the final week of December by making a bunch of empty promises to myself about working out, saving money, and reading the Economist and New Yorker from cover-to-cover every week in 2014.

Instead of adding to the homogenous “Best of 2013” reading lists that have been cascading down my Twitter feed for the past month, I want to look forward to some of the things I am excited to see happen in the coming year:

1. Podcasts. Longform Podcast #74: George Saunders. I have a deep appreciation for both the Longform podcast and George Saunders interviews. Now that these two things are somehow converging at a single place and time I suspect this episode will be one my favorite hours of the first weeks of 2014.
2. Writing workshops. Over the past six months, I’ve found the work-life-art-balance to be rather challenging and downright impossible at times. Which is why I am looking forward to hopping the subway more often from Midtown to Brooklyn to be a part of the Words After War workshop at Mellow Pages Library on Wednesday evenings. Fair warning, if you don’t see me there, I am probably stuck at work.
3. Book Launches. Afghan Post by Adrian Bonenberger. This is Words After War’s first foray into promoting an author’s book. We’re excited for Adrian, and we’re just as excited for the general reading public to meet him and read his words. We hope you can join us.
4. Book ReleasesRedeployment by Phil Klay. I’ve written about Phil’s work on the blog before, so it shouldn’t be any surprise that we’re marking down the days until his story collection lands in book stores. Street date for this collection is March 4th. A few more books to look for: Cutting Teeth, The Great Glass Sea, and Made to Break.
5. Books to read. The first book I have queued up to read for 2014 is Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch. I bought this novel about a week or so ago, read the first 10 pages, and I could tell immediately it’s going to be an important novel, which is why I want to give myself the time and space to truly enjoy it. A few more books to read: The Woman Who Lost Her Soul, The Son, and Life Among Giants.
6. Journalism to read. I am obsessed with reading magazine quality investigative journalism, especially when it’s focused on transnational crime, terrorism, war, or the outdoors. If 2014 is to be anything like 2013, then journalism’s cultural relevance is safe for another year. And for my money, these journalists (along many others) are delivering some of the most inventive reporting from around the globe: Patrick Radden Keefe, Mitch Swenson, John Shiffman, and Nicholas Schmidle.

In case you were wondering, here’s a short “Best of 2013” round-up of a things I found interesting:
Favorite Book: All That Is by James Salter
Favorite Literary Journal: Consequence
Favorite Movie: Mud
Favorite Podcast episode: Evan Wright, Episode 67, Longform Podcast
Favorite Album: Trouble Will Find Me by The National
The article that broke my heart: “19: The True Story of the Yarnell Fire,” Kyle Dickman, Outside

From all of us at Words After War, we wish you good health and immense happiness in the New Year!


P.S. Mike drafted his own newsletter. Happy reading.

From The Billfold:

“The Michael McGrath Holiday Newsletter”

Happy Holidays to family, friends, Missed Connections and temp agency administrators.

Tis the season for expiring unemployment benefits and fundraising emails from journals that rejected your work all year, but don’t worry, the exposurelance writer is a resilient beast (you’ll never work for free in this town again!) and I’ve got plenty of irons in the ash pile.

It was another great year for Masters of the Universe and the benefit concert industry. Still, 2013 was not without its disappointments. The following so-called “Get Rich Quick Schemes” fell flat: a Tumblr dedicated to movie theater carpets, self-published “creature erotica,” “Mike & Molly” fan-fic and an Oral History of a Well-documented Celebrity Gaffe, menial labor, Mega Millions, literary busking, ghost writing, day-trading, power-washing, paywalls and NYBR personal ads.

Many moves were considered. Move to Los Angeles! Move to New York! Move to the Fracking Belt! Bogota, Berlin, Detroit (what is this, a Pitbull verse?), Providence, either Portland. Move back home (again) into a partially refurbished chicken coop, apply to Aldi’s (again), dust off The Great American Cover Letter, distribute an abridged resume pruned of degrees among the sprawl, maybe sell drugs or open a black hat social media dojo.

Yes, a life of crime and spam looked better than ever as the machinations of late-capitalism drove us ever deeper into the crags of a blasted post-Recovery Hellscape. Touchy billionaires and corporate overlords organized food drives for their own employees. HR memos encouraged slow chewing to stretch household budgets. Benefits include: free uniform! Benefits include: complimentary productivity-assurance chip implantation! Pay based on experience (no experience necessary). In an effort to scale back my professional goals to reflect the “new Millenium economy,” all I ask is to one day be famous enough to open a successful book store. I’ve always said, it’s too bad sheiks and dictators are into shitty dance pop instead of experimental fiction or independent publishing.

I’ve been so busy with the day-to-day drudgery of the un(der)employed—closing two-figure deals, applying for reduced application fees—that unfortunately a few personal relationships fell by the wayside. For instance, the other day I realized I haven’t heard from my Made coach in like six years.

It’s almost like all these admissions boards, HR reps, landlords, editors, agents, bouncers, loan officers and ATM screens are trying to tell me something. Who knows. Here’s to another year of crying over onion rings, howling into the void, nursing load-bearing delusions, printing out resumes at the library, emailing Central American language institutes and entertaining fantasies of adopting a wealthy baby.