A few thoughts (and a book) for the New Year

Woman reading a novel in watercolor on paper painting by Winslow Homer
The New Novel, Winslow Homer 1877 Watercolor on Paper

Last night I stayed up late reading Gabrielle Zevin’s Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow. I had to request it twice from the library before I actually started it, and when I finally did, had to give it a few goes – mainly, getting past the first chapter – before I was running off into the world and finding myself reluctant to leave, even though it was nearing 3AM.

It’s been a while since I’ve stayed up late reading an actual novel versus doom-scrolling on my phone. * Neither does pregnancy insomnia any favors but in the latter scenario I just go to sleep feeling cracked out and more than a bit self-hatey. It’s a book I think Tom might enjoy too – though our tastes in literature don’t really cross-over, I’m more likely to enjoy something that he’s liked rather than vice versa.

“It’s about two friends who love video games and build a video game and then a video game company together, but also about like friendship, working and love.” I said, lamely trying to summarize its essence without breaking it down too much.

“A book about video games written by a woman? Psh.”

You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.

It’s one of those books that make me immediately want to look up who the author is, read all her interviews, and, if I’m honest, spend a few minutes feeling both awe and despair at the probably safe-to-say-it’s-a-fact fact that I’ll never write anything as good. Is it in my top ten? I don’t know because at the moment I feel a bit… removed from books and the idea of myself as a reader (also I don’t even think I can list ten good books right now), but I’ll recommend it to people for a while until it dawns on me that it’s been like three years since I’ve read another really good book – time to stop scrolling and read a new one.

Of course all this ruminating has to do with timing: we’re six days into the new year and I’m two weeks (give or take a few days) away from giving birth to a second child who will, in all likelihood, compound the sleep deprivation and fatigue and general inescapable atmosphere of groundhog days. But his arrival will also mark a new era in our lives. The nuclear family as Tom and I have always imagined it will be complete.**

On New Year’s Eve Tom and I watched “Meru” and rang in the New Year googling Jimmy Chin, Conrad Anker and Renan Ozturk, three men who also made me feel like, “Man, I have no passions aside from googling shit after reading/watching other people carry out their passions.”

Before I had Artie, each new year I would vow to read and write more. Since having Artie I’ve definitely read more. Doom-scrolling and children’s books aside, I’ve consumed more parenting and early childhood education books these past few years than I’d ever thought would hold my interest. I read them almost as self-administered therapy or medication rather than enjoyment. But I actually enjoy them too, because it makes me feel like I’m trying as a mom. They give me a different type of hopeful feeling from reading a really good novel. (Psst: Also, it’s easier to read parenting books than to actually parent).

After we googled the crazy climbers of Meru, Tom and I turned to each other and said “Happy New Year,” me with a tired smile and Tom with a glum, sleepy look.

“It’s gonna be terrible,” he said.

“Yeah, probably.”

The baby had recommenced his nightly, hourly gyrations in my belly, and despite knowing that the first hour of 2023 was a great time to do otherwise, I continued to jump from Wikipedia article to article, reading about daring ascents by men whose names I promptly forgot. With my non-phone hand I ran my hands over the baby’s oddly rhythmic motions, all the while listening to Tom’s breathing become steady with sleep.

I know myself too well to make any grand plans for reading and writing this year. Babies derail a lot of things. But looking at our shelves, I see two thick volumes by well-known Australian authors, gifted to me by a friend of Tom’s mom. She sent them along with a message written in an elegant hand – someone who became a mother before texting and smartphones existed: “For all those hours you’ll spend breastfeeding or holding the baby to sleep.” I still haven’t gotten around to reading them, but maybe second baby’s the charm.

Old habits die hard, but that’s not to say they can’t be diminished. However, I doubt 2023 is the year I cut back on mindless phone scrolling (notice I did not say “stop”. If I’m honest I predict at certain points it’ll probably get worse). But one can hope. As I both look forward to and dread our lives as a family of four, I’d like to toast to the handful of books that kept me awake and away from the black mirror in 2022. Maybe you’ve read and loved them too. Cheers.

In no particular order:

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

The Outline Trilogy by Rachel Cusk

The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles

The Man who Died Twice (Thursday Murder Club #2) by Richard Osman (for those who like mysteries. I am waiting for this to turn into a TV series on BritBox or Acorn)

Euphoria by Lily King (A reread)

*Ask me anything about Harry and Meghan. Actually don’t, it’s gross how much I know.

**Early on in our relationship Tom expressed interest in having three children since he was from a family of three, but our first six months with Artie revealed that to be a foolish thought.

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