This is not a recommended reading list or my choice of the best books of 2014. I just want to share with you some of the most memorable books I have read or reread this year. Afterall what better way to celebrate and share the New Year than share your favorite books. Apart from books I also want to mention a few other items from the Republic of Imagination.
Gabriel, a long elegy for his young son, by the great American poet Ed Hirsch, published in 2014. There is no consolation against death, no real closure, especially when one mourns the death of one’s young son. But poetry can be a way to respect, to celebrate, to continue to love, & in one way, perhaps the only way, defy death, resist & protest its absolutes, its indifference. This is what Ed Hirsch does, without an ounce of sentimentality or self-pity, or self flagellation. It is celebration of a life & mourning for an irretrievable loss in which through the poem life wins even the mourning will continue.
Conference of the Birds, (2011?) by the great Check born illustrator & artist, Peter Sis, who by the way created the tapestry for Vaclav Havel in the Prague airport & for Seamus Heaney in the Dublin airport. I so love this book. I especially love the hard cover version because it is so very sensual. Peter Sis has turned the mystical Persian poet Attar’s (born in mid 12 century) famous poem, Conference of the Birds, into a festival of color & imagery. Images are so lyrical, so filled with movement. Seldom have I felt the poem within and through the image in this way…a feast for the senses.
The Unspeakable: And Other Subjects of Discussion, Meghan Daum (2014) beautifully written essays, self-deprecating in a good funny way, in the way of people who are self-confident, and who know what they are doing— in this case writing. She has insight but unlike some who have insight but are too full of themselves to let go, she is clearly enjoying what she writes. So the essays have an airy manner about them, while being quite serious.
My Uncle Napoleon, (1973) by Iraj Pezeshkzad, just in case you want to read a tender, funny, heartbreakingly comic, lovingly critical novel from Iran. I have written this before and I still believe in it: best recommendation for those who take foreign policy seriously enough to pay attention to a people’s culture. The book became an all time best seller, turned into a great and popular television series before the Islamic Revolution and even after the revolution although it was banned it enjoys enormous popularity. Anyone interested in great Persian literature, classical and modern you can go online & check out the Mage Publishers. They are the best, from great Persian Cooking and wine to poems, history, fiction…
This year I took time off to watch some classical films, a sort of private festival, which happened to have Humphry Bogart stat in them: Casablanca with Ingrid Bergman, The Big Sleep, Have & Have Not, with Lauren Bacall, & Maltese Falcon with Mary Astor. I also taped & watched Love & Death, with Woody Allen& Dianne Keaton, discovering that I still enjoyed watching that film.
By the way if you live in DC or are visiting, don’t forget the museums. We saw an amazing exhibition of Andrew Wyeth at the National Gallery, Freer has Nastaaligh, & of course the one & only Philips Collection, their current exhibition on neo-Impressionists is fantastic.