I’m a fan of New Year’s Resolutions, whatever you might call them — goals, hopes, etc. Some people think the concept is hokey. Or maybe they’re intimidated by the thought of making big, mountainous goals that will be abandoned by the end of February.
I guess I get that. But I’m constantly re-adjusting those things I’d like to achieve, and I’m kind of an epic-minded person anyway. I’m always wishing for (planning and striving for, really) financial independence, travel adventures, better health, more peace in my daily life. Not little goals, I know.
This year, the rosy 2022 that’s already smoldering into a hot mess for many of us, I have a mixture of big goals and little goals. I’ll share one goal with you, but that’s it. See, in pursuit of this resolution — to read more what I call “munchie” books and also more classic works of literature — I stumbled across one of the better literary introductions I’ve read in a long while. It’s printed in the opening pages of “A Death in the Family” by James Agee. The introduction is written by Steve Earle, a prolifically multi-talented artist who lived for a time in Knoxville (where I live), which is the setting for the aforementioned Agee novel.
Earle wrote a lot of things worth reading in his introduction, but one of the concepts that really stuck out to me is this: “There can be too much light.” He’s referring to artists (or producers, publishers, etc.) who reveal all the parts of themselves and their creative processes to the public eye. Honestly, he wasn’t even referring to social media, and its rampant oversharing. He was talking about releasing song outtakes, or including cut scenes from movies or chapters that were edited out of the original publications. Part of the character of a piece of art (I paraphrase) is that the artist, editor, etc. had put out the best possible version already. That’s how the thing was intended to be experienced.
There are lots of artists out there who disagree, who live their lives in an aggressive state of self-exposure. Who post every hangover, every intimate moment, every version and draft, editing nothing out.
I’m not a fan of perfection. In fact, I think sometimes it’s the imperfections that lift a voice, or a passage or painting up to the divine. But I am a believer in privacy. The human psyche doesn’t do well with too many observers. And I think … maybe all those different drafts of my books are a map of my thoughts, in a way. And, really, those are none of your business.
I’m several chapters into Agee’s book. I wholeheartedly recommend it, for the opening passages alone — the man turns lawn-watering into a heart-breaking cacophony for the senses.
Happy New Year, all! I hope — on the balance — it’s a good one.
If one of your resolutions is to read more, consider buying Haints, my debut novel. You can find it on BookBaby, Amazon or your local bookstore. Or, choose BookShop.org, where you can select an independent bookstore to benefit from your purchase.