Writers' New Year's resolutions: Freedom, tilting tables, and reaching the marrow
Three of our favourite Canadian writers—Julie Bruck, JJ Lee and Michael Redhill—divulge their innermost desires for 2014.
Years ago, I copied a short excerpt from Zadie Smith's novel On Beauty into a notebook. In the passage, a grown son visits his father, from whom he is cut off by age, class, geographical distance, and more:
There were four more hours of quality viewing lined up before bedtime—all of which he and his son might watch together in silent companionship, occasionally commenting on the presenter's overbite, another's small hands or sexual preference. And this would be another way of saying: It's good to see you. It's been too long. We're family. But Howard couldn't do this when he was sixteen and he couldn't do it now. He just did not believe, as his father did, that time is how you spend your love...Howard moved into the kitchen to wash up his cup and a few other things in the sink. Ten minutes later he left.
"Time is how you spend your love" won't be my banner for 2014. Though I wish it were otherwise, I've learned that big resolutions quickly become fool's errands. But perhaps I can write something this year—if only a line—that does for an unknown reader even a fraction of what Smith's passage does for me. A line that reaches the marrow. Something that illuminates a human limitation, allowing the reader no easy exit, and in so doing, touches that part of us that is limitless.
Is that a resolution? Let's just call it a wish.
Happy New Year!
—Julie Bruck, poet, author of Monkey Ranch
1. I would like to clear my writing desk. It came from a great family friend, the niece of Margaret Laurence, though she would be mortified if I mentioned her name. She used it in college as her drawing table and, like all good drafting surfaces, the top tilts. One day the locking mechanism will fail and everything on top of it will come crashing down. It would be best if little hit the floor instead of nearly every precious thing I own which includes: a jar of sand and the corroded rubber centre of an ancient baseball, a brass penny whistle from Melbourne, Australia, a corncob pipe I used to smoke on snowy days, and a old bowl which my mother insists is an artifact from dynastic China.
2. The other thing I resolve to take care of in 2014 is our family's bookshelf situation. We don't have any. My books are piled on the dresser and the corner of our bedroom. The playwright Elaine Avila sends pictures of candidate bookcases via Facebook every so often. The images she sends me include Umberto Eco's collection of 40,000 volumes (or whatever it is) or clever mods of suitcases hanging from the wall filled with books. Just awful. The real bookcase that I wanted was a giant Neo-classical revival affair that would have filled the whole living room wall. It had columns and cornices and a giant pediment. It appeals to the failed architect in me. I've had my eye on it for two years but this fall the shop that had it burned down. Now, I'll have to buy a villa or castle to get a bookcase like that. Maybe 2015.
—JJ Lee, author of The Measure of a Man: The Story of a Father, a Son, and a Suit
My resolution is to replace Internet time with reading time. I've got Freedom (the internet time-out program) and I intend to set it for two hours every day and sit in a chair instead of playing Scrabble, doing research, or even writing. My bookshelves reproach me with unread or unfinished books.
Michael Redhill, author of ConsolationRead Part 1 of our writers' resolutions for 2014, with Kerri Sakamoto, Drew Hayden Taylor and more »
Read Heather O'Neill's 10 New Year's resolutions for 2014 »