Don't get me wrong...it's a good problem to have, I think. But right now I'm struggling. I'm in the home stretch for my current work in progress, and it's probably about 80% complete. I feel good about it, but I keep finding my attention lured away by other possible projects. I've got the second John Starett mystery almost all plotted out, as well as ideas for the third and fifth (I have a whole story arc in mind for Starett--though no plan yet for his fourth adventure for whatever reason). I also have more short and flash ideas than I can even count, thanks to my rush-hour commute and non-functioning car radio. But I can be a little superstitious about writing, in that I don't like to turn away willfully from one WIP to work on something else for fear that I won't be able to pick up where I left off. Momentarily pressing PAUSE on a project in order to think about another story doesn't count, according to my particular superstition, which makes no sense--I guess that's why it's a superstition and not a method. It does result in a bit of creative gridlock, though.
The good news is that once I've finished my current novel, I have quite a few things just waiting for me.
I love checking out all the end of the year, best-of lists--it helps me catch up on bits of pop culture that I missed out on. But when it comes to books, I thought I was in the loop enough to contribute a list of my own. Thus, in no particular order, my picks for best books of 2013.
Pacific, Tom Drury
Tom Drury writes the most effortlessly lovely sentences imaginable. Full of sly humor and spare prose that manages to hint at the surreal without breaking deadpan character, Pacific is Midwestern minimalism at its most poetic.
Until She Comes Home, Lori Roy
Set in 1950s Detroit, this novel follows the lives of one block of Alder Avenue as the residents deal with the disappearance of a developmentally disabled girl from her own yard. Though much of the action is unspoken--the novel is told through perspectives of the women while their husbands are out actively searching for the missing girl--Lori Roy manages to craft a truly suspenseful mystery that had me flipping pages furiously.
The Humanity Project, Jean Thompson
More of a series of connected stories than a novel, this one explores the domino effects of violence on a cast of acquaintances as they attempt to sort out their lives. As an aside, Jean Thompson is one of the best writers out there when it comes to creating realistic voices for teenagers.
Visitation Street, Ivy Pochoda
I read about this book in a magazine before it came out, and I could just tell I would love it. And I did. Ivy Pochoda brings the Brooklyn neighborhood of Red Hook to life in this account of a young woman’s disappearance. Similar to Lori Roy’s novel mentioned above, the narrative doesn’t follow the search for the missing girl but rather the lives of those close to her. Good stuff.
There Once Lived a Girl Who Seduced Her Sister’s Husband and He Hanged Himself: Love Stories, Ludmilla Petrushevskaya
The title is certainly eye-catching. But the title is nothing compared to these stories. I devoured this in one sitting. Bleak, pessimistic, and fascinating, this is a must for Russian lit lovers and short story enthusiasts alike. (Translated by Anna Summers)
Dissident Gardens, Jonathan Lethem
Spanning 80 years and three generations of communism in Queens, this is a family saga for readers (like me) who usually don’t even like family sagas. This isn’t a book you can read quickly, or enjoy much if you only get to read for a few minutes at a time, but it’s definitely worth holing up with this weekend.
Claire DeWitt & the Bohemian Highway, Sara Gran
This is the second book of a series, so you’d be doing yourself a favor if you, unlike me, started with Claire DeWitt’s first adventure. But even if you don’t, you’ll enjoy one of the most interesting lady detectives in recent memory. Layered with philosophy, spirituality and quite a lot of cocaine, this is a wild ride. Claire is a troubled soul, a detective of intuitionist persuasion, obsessed with the writings of an old French detective turned writer as well as an old comic book series starring a Nancy Drew-esque teen investigator. She's also obsessed with herself. What starts as a look into the murder of an ex-boyfriend quickly turns into a downward spiral as Claire studies her past and realizes everyone she's ever loved, and who ever has loved her back, is gone.
Mira Corpora, Jeff Jackson
I wrote about why I like this book at length on Black Heart. But in short, it’s a punk rock bildungsroman with an electric hope you can feel just from turning its pages.
The Facades, Eric Lundgren
A kind of existential noir, this novel is also the kind that makes you feel you’re not quite smart enough to be reading it. I mean that in all the best ways, of course. An erudite, philosophical mystery about the disappearance of a Midwestern opera singer, The Facades has been stuck between floors of my subconscious since I finished reading it a few months ago.
The Good Boy, Theresa Schwegel
I also wrote about this one for Black Heart. But fitting with what seems to be my overall theme for the year, The Good Boy is less of a mystery than a rich story about the people affected by the central crime.
What are your favorites for the year?