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2015: Paris et Charlie, Chuck and Li’l Ol’ Me

I’m still writing like it’s 2015. I don’t mean brainless mis-dating in my chequebook (for those who remember writing cheques), just that my writing nook is a jumble, my mind is a mess and my habits are blowin’ in the wind. 2015 wasn’t any annus horribilis for me, and I’m far too privileged to complain about my lot in life. But although I wrote some things I’ve liked in this space, I wasn’t even a moderately productive pen-monkey¹ this year. I won’t annoy you (or me) with the details. However, I do believe in fresh starts, and before January gets any older, here’s a small bloggish step in any given direction.

¹ Writer Chuck Wendig’s self-description.

Yesterday was the anniversary of the Charlie Hebdo massacre. I wrote about it, though briefly, as part of my January 2015 lookback at a better year of JH.com bloggishness. For the second time in two months, Adam Gopnik was in my radio Thursday commenting on a freedom-of-speech manifesto written by the Charlie Hebdo editor, Stephane Charbonnier, not long before he and 10 others were murdered. Another misguided wretch, butcher knife in one hand and a box of toxic notions in the other (and a fake suicide vest – what in hell was he thinking?), tried to darken Paris, too, with his own in memoriam.

In November, Gopnik, Canadian-born and U.S.-based but with a longtime attachment to the City of Light and Love, had spoken movingly of how the second Paris attacks, that thuggery-in-spiritual-clothing, felt to a lover of the place. (Writer Nancy Huston was on the same CBC Sunday Edition program, and I still think of what she said. I’ll be quoting her in “He Said/She Said” soon; I’ve meant to for a month.) The dark side of the human spirit grossly forced itself upon Paris twice this year, but it was also the site of the United Nations’ COP21 environmental conference, the gathering that spotlighted an awakening world’s mounting concern over, and stumbling commitment to act on, climate change – and all the self-destructive habits and attitudes that are producing it. A long, often painful global roadshow – the one that portrays the dawning consciousness of the oneness of humanity – made three fateful stops in Paris in 2015.

I barely wrote about any of it. A snippet here, an oblique reference there. Bad pen-monkey.

But WordPress gave me a glowing report anyway!² Why, if each page view JH.com had was a person, we’d need the Sydney Opera House three times over to seat them all! And boy, would it be expensive to get them all to Australia: my readers come from nearly 120 countries! James Howden, my colourful report cooed, your writing has staying power! (This was because only one of my 5 most-read pieces this year was actually posted this year. Apparently I was quite compelling in 2013.) And listen to this: of my five top commenters, only one was related to me by blood.

² Reminds me of the surly denunciation, by J.K. Simmons’s snarling, hyper-critical music director in Whiplash: “There are no two words in the English language more harmful than ‘good job’.” Yep, I bin good-jobbed.

This is where Chuck Wendig comes in. (Again.) It’s been a Wendig couple of weeks. He’s among my favourite people to follow on Twitter, and he has a superb web log dealing mainly with how to be a better and happier pen-monkey, though he also loves to extol apples, other writers, his four-year-old son, and his “fully armed and operational Writing Shed”. He campaigned publickly for, and won, the right to be the latest expander of the Star Wars universe. His novel Aftermath, dealing with the gap between Episode 6 (Return of the Jedi) and the brand-new Episode 7 (The Force Awakens), has been a best-seller. I haven’t seen TFA (my resident 15-year-old, who’s “been waiting for this my whole life” has seen it three times), but I’ve enjoyed Master Wendig’s Tweetery and bloggishness and decided to read Aftermath for a holiday seasonal lark. I’ll be reviewing it soon in the “Better Read Than Never” section of this here website, though it only came out THIS YEAR. (Look at me, getting all contemporary and stuff!)

Just to torment me, Chuck casually threw in to his year-end retrospective a few numbers. Like, say, over 3 million pageviews for his blog, read by folks like me plus his thousands of subscribers. (He has about the same number – 9300 – as I had page views. Not that size matters. No.) The guy is phenomenally productive – he published several novels this year – and it inspires me nearly as often as it makes me want to punch myself in the ear. However, I do want to follow his example in these ways:

  • I thank my readers. Thank YOU for reading this, and I hope you’ll stick around.
  • I’d like to put out a “TOP SOMETHING OR OTHER” list of the best pieces I kicked out into the dark, frigid night of the blogosphere. Chuck didn’t even include my favourite rant of his among his T20. (I liked his “Rantypants Grr-Talk About Writery Things”, which was actually a series of tweets but still.
  • If you don’t make any nominations/suggestions to me, then I’m going to choose them myself with all the callous disregard for reader input that that implies so there.
  • I look forward to being a better pen-monkey in 2016, and maybe even a happier one.
[Editor’s note: (and where was that editorial brain when I needed it?) in the
original version of this post, I had spelled the name of the French magazine
wrongly, even though I (thought I had) double-checked it. Thanks to eagle-eyed
readers.]

Comment (1)

  1. Patti

    I’m still checking up on you, pen-monkey.
    Carry on.
    Yours is a voice I love to read.

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