"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..."
I know that I have been extremely remiss in posting to ProSe over the past couple of months, but there's been a lot--a great lot--going on in my life of late. This posting, while some of you may find it of interest, is probably written more for my own edification than anything else.
In early-August 2012, my oldest daughter received her Ph.D. in English from the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, Nebraska. I cannot begin to tell you how proud all of us are for the hard work she has put in over the years to achieve this significant milestone. I was extremely honored to have been asked by her to read and review her dissertation prior to it being finalized and submitted to her committee. She is still teaching at UNL while she begins the task of trying to find a full-time teaching position at a four-year institution. I am sure that a good school will snap her up soon.
My very elderly mother passed away after a long struggle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or "Lou Gehrig's Disease") on November 7, 2012. She died quite peacefully in the morning with family and friends surrounding her in the sun-room of my parents' house in southern Arizona. I was able to spend a lot of quality time with her over the past couple of years, and for that I shall always be eternally grateful. ALS is a terrible and miserable disease, and my heart simply goes out to any who have a family member struggling and endeavoring to cope with it. I also want to give a huge 'shout-out' to the magnificent angels who involve themselves in all aspects of home hospice care. I think having my mom in her own home surrounded by her own possessions and memories, her cat, her friends, and my father--in short, her Life--made the struggle so much easier for her to bear. I also want to say that my father is really doing very well, and that my younger brother has moved in with him to lend a helping hand. We all miss you, Mom!
Concurrent with my mother's passing, my wife and I found out that our oldest son (my stepson, my wife's son) had been selected to attend the U.S. Army's Warrant Officer Career College at Fort Rucker, Alabama. He has been in the Army for 14 years and has been deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan over the past few years. He was a Sergeant First Class when selected to become a Warrant Officer, which is a hugely positive career move. At the same time that he was off to Warrant Officer school, his wife (our daughter-in-law) was deployed to the large U.S. military base in Doha, Qatar, in the Persian Gulf. She is active-duty Army too, and began her year-long deployment in early November. So, "Grammie" (my wonderful wife) and I have taken in their two children--a wonderful seven year-old boy, and a sweet little two-and-a-half year-old girl. We set up one of our guest rooms for the kids, and are now back to being full-time parents, running kids hither and yon. I am 56 years old, and I can absolutely attest to the fact that raising young children is most assuredly a young person's "sport"! At the same time, it really is kinda like riding a bicycle, you really don't forget how to do it. Depending upon the needs of the Army, the kids could be with us through July 2013, or as long as November 2013.
Early November 2012 also saw the President being reelected, and I was profoundly relieved that the American people saw fit to give his administration another four years. Personally, I do believe the country is moving in the right direction under his leadership. I just wish that there was some of way of stepping back from the extreme polarization and partisanship that seems to have overtaken the two political parties. I am cautiously optimistic that President Obama can use his second term in trying to find a way to bridge the gulf--more like a chasm--between the parties and get the Congress back to doing the Nation's business.
From a literary perspective, 2012 was a very good year for me. I read over 110 books this year, and I've still a few days left! Of the books I read, some were 'old friends' that I was revisiting, and others were brand new to me. While I read a lot of fiction, 2012 was also a year in which I read a lot more non-fiction than is typical in a given year, as I explored the latest books associated with human origins and anthropology, and a whole raft of relatively recent military history books about the American Civil War. I thought it might be fun to share "My Best Books of 2012"--
Best of Non-Fiction
Lone Survivors: How We Came to Be the Only Humans on Earth, by Chris Stringer (Science/Anthropology)
Hardy: A Biography, by Martin Seymour-Smith (Biography)
Best of Military History
The Battle of The Wilderness, May 5-6, 1864, by Gordon C. Rhea
The Battles for Spotsylvania Court House and the Road to Yellow Tavern, by Gordon C. Rhea
This Terrible Sound: The Battle of Chickamauga, by Peter Cozzens
Gettysburg: A Testing of Courage, by Noah Andre Trudeau
Best of Historical Fiction, Fantasy, or Horror
Hide Me Among the Graves, by Tim Powers(Historical Fiction/Fantasy/Horror, and my review here)
11/22/63, by Stephen King (Fantasy)
World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, by Max Brooks (Fantasy/Horror)
Stardust, by Neil Gaiman (Fantasy)
Coraline, by Neil Gaiman (Fantasy)
The Fall of Troy, by Peter Ackroyd (Historical Fiction)
Something Red, by Douglas Nicholas (Historical Fiction/Fantasy/Horror)
Morality Play, by Barry Unsworth (Historical Fiction/Mystery)
The Road, by Cormac McCarthy (Post Apocalyptic and a re-read for me)
The Forge of Darkness, by Steven Erikson (Fantasy)
Best of Classic Fiction
Far From the Madding Crowd, by Thomas Hardy (A re-read for me)
The Return of the Native, by Thomas Hardy (A re-read for me)
Bleak House, by Charles Dickens (A re-read for me)
The Oresteia, by Aeschylus (Translated by Peter Meinick)
The Lays of Beleriand, by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Iliad, by Homer (Translated by Anthony Verity)
Beowulf: A Dual-Language Edition, Translated by Howell D. Chickering, Jr.
Special 'Kudos' to Neil Gaiman's Stardust, Douglas Nicholas' Something Red, and Tim Powers' Hide Me Among the Graves. These three books may very well be my favorite new reads of the year, and I highly recommend them to readers. I'd have to give an 'Honorable Mention' to Stephen King's new novel, 11/22/63 as well.
A Memory of Light, is being released on January 8, 2013, and I can hardly wait. I have been reading this series for over twenty years, and it really is some of the very best fantasy fiction out there.
A very Happy New Year to each of you as we ready ourselves to leave 2012 and begin 2013. I look forward to stopping by and visiting each of your blogs and sharing our love of all things literary as we start a new year. Cheers!