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Lit For The New Year

new+year+cherub+Welcome to the end of 2013. If you are on Facebook, whoo hoo, you’ve got your own best of 2013 link to examine your life and either be pleased or depressed with the gains/losses of the past year. Since they base it on the amount of “likes,” the most popular posts probably had to do with the new kitty, the cool “selfie” on the day Oxford Dictionaries chose “selfie” as the word of the year, or some appetizing food shots.

I don’t know about you, but I think basing the big moments of your life on Facebook is probably not the best of ideas.

With a January 5th birthday, the New Year is usually just the start of my revels. Resolutions do not happen until the 6th. After all – I would break them in a week! But with 2014 fast approaching and another Solar Return to boot, I’ve been thinking about triumphs and tribulations…

The end is maybe not so near...

The end is maybe not so near…

I went searching for list of great world events in 2013 and got horribly depressed. Want to be depressed too? Go here.

When a list of noteworthy accomplishments is roughly 90% death and bombings and maybe 2% positive, well, can we all say together – The End Is Nigh. Maybe not exactly as nigh as that guy Harold Camping, heralded at all the Manhattan Street fairs a couple of years ago. But it sure seems like we’re driving fast down a dead-end road.

We’ve got an excellent educated generation that can’t get jobs, kids needing to live at home well into their thirties due to massive student debt, politicians in the pocket of corporations, a president all about positive “change” who now seems to be all about how much “change” he can put in his pocket, the ever increasing debt/death of our middle class, and Duck Dynasty is all over the news with their racist, bigoted, hate speech (!?!). We could use a little Donald Duck right now.

MileyOkay, so maybe the year wasn’t all that bad? We did get a great new Pope who actually believes in giving to the poor. Will it trickle down? We’ll see. And Edward Snowden, who’s probably still reeling from his loss to Pope Francis as Person of the Year showed us that big brother really is “watching.” We learned to “twerk” with our little rubber fingers and we got a royal baby.

But Amanda Bynes – one of my favorite young stars – melted down to bong water, and we lost so many celebrities – James Gandolfini, Cory Montieth, Ray Manzarek, Paul Walker, Chris Kelly, Roger Ebert…The list is way too long. Go here if you are a glutton for punishment. We also lost the beautiful peacemaker, Nelson Mandela to the selfie heard round the world and a demented sign language interpreter.

Yes, Chicken Little, the sky is falling.

But when times get rough and you’ve had enough, I say bury it all in a book (or use it to cover your head). So for a fresh start in 2014, I’ve compiled a little list that will inform, entice, enlighten and hopefully help you move forward into the Brave New World. Nope, not on the list (that was for 1999).

For when you’re facing gender-biased issues:

Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale. We girls need to read (or re-read) this now and see the world for where it could be heading if we don’t stand up for ourselves and take off the coverings, bare the legs and brains and keep our red-power centered. We can’t afford to fall into the trappings of a growing political in-accuracy. And we need to be aware of the nuances and the brain-washing in this power grabbing world of politics and stolen fertility. Our men (the real ones) will love us all the more for our power, and those that have issues will lack the strength to stare in the face of our collected intelligence.

For when you need to laugh in the face of Fox News and crazy right-wing idiocy:

George Carlin, When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops. “I think one of the problems in this country is that too many people are screwing things up, committing crimes and then getting on with their lives. What is really needed for public officials who shame themselves is ritual suicide.” Laugh, cry, and wish like me that George was still around to comment on the crazy-making headlines of today.

le-petit-princeFor when you want to slip into the comfy pajamas and leave the world behind:

Antoine de Saint Exupéry, The Little Prince. “What makes the desert beautiful,’ said the little prince, ‘is that somewhere it hides a well…” “All grown-ups were once children… but only few of them remember it.” Reading this always makes me warm inside. The lone rose, the volcanoes, the silence and the underpinnings of longing – it gets me every time.

For when you need ancient insight and comfort:

The Teachings of Rumi, edited by Andrew Harvey. “Become a fool,” “Be a lover,” “Find a home in the heights,” “Draw strength from reality through form.” Read this when your spirit needs restoration.

For when you need solitude to drink and write and for insight:

Charles Bukowski, Slouching Toward Nirvana. For “We Dissolve,” for “Checkmate,”for “Vulgar Poem,” and “The Wine that Roared.”

For when you need to read to forget your problems and absorb the problems of others:

Mary Gaitskill, Bad Behavior. Not for “Secretary” which is an awesome story, and kind of a decent movie, but for “Romantic Weekend,” and “Connection,” and “Trying to Be.” And because Mary Gaitskill is the kind of woman I want to be when I grow up – powerful, intelligent, a bit shy, beautiful, talented and not afraid to buck the trend or do what she believes needs doing.

For when you need to rail at the universe, the powers that be and what they hold over us and for when you need to find your power to be unique:

Allen Ginsberg, Howl. Because we are all “Angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection” and we need to be reminded we really are the best minds…

For when you want more personal power:

The Collected poems of Lucille Clifton 1965- 2010. For her way with small words and succinct phrases. And because when you read Lucille Clifton, you are transported to a unique mind-space, with clearer understanding of your surroundings, your power, and your worth. And of course for this gem: Wishes for Sons.

For when you need to get lost in a story, develop empathy, and see from another’s eyes:

Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye. For her gritty, fabulous, phenomenal, harrowing, and brilliant voice. You will cry at Pecola’s longing and her horrific predicament. And you will leave those pages wiser and so much more human.

41llipWLXBLAnd finally, for when you need to kick something or throw the kitty out the window (No! Please don’t throw the kitty out the window!):

Baudelaire, Paris Spleen. The horror, the smells, the vampires, the solitude, the poor children… and this: “Who among us has not dreamt, in moments of ambition, of the miracle of a poetic prose, musical without rhythm and rhyme, supple and staccato enough to adapt to the lyrical stirrings of the soul, the undulations of dreams, and sudden leaps of consciousness.” Oh! You will have so much fun!

Use these books to help form your personal literary arsenal. Keep them handy for when the world wants too much from you. Find your minds-eye and open yourself to alternate worlds and views, and sit happily on the ledge. Keep your balance. Spread your wings.

Happy New Year, Readers!

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