My 2016 – Listicle

My slate of year-end posts has been delayed because of holiday family and travel, but will be rolling out over the next several days. In the spirit of routines and trying to buck some of the frustration that comes with this season, I am again putting out a series of reflection and planning posts, including this listicle, a reflective essay on 2016, by the numbers, best of 2016, and a new one that will be strictly dedicated to writing and academia.

Getting back into the swing of things Last Year’s list.

Lists for 2016/2017:

Three international news stories I’m following going into this year

  • Trump’s impending Presidency and the global ripple effect
  • Ongoing crises in Turkey, including terrorist attacks, the war in Syria, and centralization of power
  • Refugee crisis, particularly with the rest of Europe sending refugees back to Greece.

5 Books I’m Looking Forward to Reading [To my shame, there are three repeats from 2016, as I only managed to hit two of the books last time]

  • Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie
  • Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace
  • 1493, Charles A. Mann
  • Beware of Pity, Stefan Zweig
  • Silent House, Orhan Pamuk

Two books I once started, but didn’t finish…that I’d like to give another shot in 2016 [I knocked two books off this list, plus War and Peace in 2016]

  • Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
  • Bleak House, Charles Dickens

Seven Favorite Books I read in 2016

  • Seven Madmen, Roberto Arlt
  • The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood
  • The Samurai’s Garden, Gail Tsukiyama
  • Basti, Intizar Husain
  • The Dispossessed, Ursula K. Le Guin
  • The Post Office Girl, Stefan Zweig
  • The Blind Assassin, Margaret Atwood
  • Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin

Three new-to-me music groups I found in 2016

  • Dessa
  • The Honeycutters
  • The Dustbowl Revival

The Plague – Albert Camus

They went on doing business, arranged journeys, and formed views. How should they have given a thought to anything like plague, which rules out any future, cancels journeys, silences the exchange of views. They fancied themselves free, and no one will ever be free so long as there are pestilences.

Looking at them, you had an impression that for the first time in their lives they were becoming, as some would say, weather-conscious. A burst of sunshine was enough to make them seem delighted with the world, while rainy days gave a dark cast to their faces and their mood. A few weeks before, they had been free of this absurd subservience to the weather, because they had not to face life alone; the person they were living with held, to some extent, the foreground of their little world. But from now on it was different; they seemed at the mercy of the sky’s caprices—-in other words, suffered and hoped irrationally.

No longer were there individual destinies; only a collective destiny, made of plague and the emotions shared by all.

Albert Camus is an author whose work I have been making my way through starting about three years ago when I read his treatise The Rebel. The Plague is now added to a list that also includes The Stranger and the short story collection The Stranger and the Kingdom.

Oran is a vibrant community until an outbreak of bubonic plague throws the town into disarray, first as people do not understand why their loved ones are dying and then when the city is quarantined to prevent the epidemic from spreading. The Plague addresses how a community confronts such an outbreak, both in the immediate form of an agonizing death and the accompanying psychic trauma. Although it is a story about the community at large, it mostly follows the efforts of the narrator, Doctor Rieux and his band of friends, including the journalist Raymond Rembert and the clerk Joseph Grand, in their efforts to combat the plague and ease human suffering when all else fails. Rembert, a French journalist trapped in the quarantined city, is particularly interesting in this regard, since he is desperate to get back to his wife.

I like this review about the continuing importance of The Plague, for what it says about physical and psychic epidemics in the modern world, but am not prepared to offer a detailed analysis of the book myself. I found it hard to appreciate The Plague as a novel, feeling largely detached from the events as though it was a philosophical allegory instead of a story. This is not without good reason. The Plague is about physical suffering, but it is also an allegory about fascism. Another way of saying this is that I liked The Plague as philosophy, but not as a novel, for which it alternated between scenes of brilliant poignancy and ones that just got in the way. (As a novel, I much preferred The Stranger.) That said, I’m not certain that The Plague would work as philosophy, but the mixture just didn’t quite work for me.

ΔΔΔ

Next up, I am nearly finished with Fazil Iskander’s Rabbits and Boa Constrictors, a tale about two competing social systems, with some intrepid inhabitants of both being frustrated with what their peers regard as an ideal society.