25 literary resolutions for 2012. What’s yours?


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When 2012 arrives this weekend, there will be resolutions aplenty. Diets! Exercise! Get organized! Figure out Google+! Quit smoking! Jacket Copy asked writers, editors and publishers what their literary resolutions will be. Join them and tell us yours.

Ben Ehrenreich, author of the novel ‘Ether’ and winner of a 2011 National Magazine Award for his article ‘The End’: That’s an easy one: write, write, write and write some more.


Richard Lange, author of the 2013 novel ‘Gather Darkness’ (Mulholland): I’m going to reread ‘Moby-Dick,’ ‘Crime & Punishment,’ and ‘The Scarlet Letter.’ Every time I go back to books that I loved as a kid, I learn more about myself as a writer now.

Dana Spiotta, author of the novel ‘Stone Arabia’: I have many books I want to read this year. For example, I have this inviting stack of Hollywood biographies and memoirs: ‘Rosebud’ by David Thomson, ‘Frank: The Voice’ by James Kaplan, ‘Run-through’ by John Houseman, ‘Memo’ by David O. Selznick, ‘A Girl Like I’ by Anita Loos, and ‘Vanity Will Get You Somewhere: An Autobiography’ by Joseph Cotten.

Antoine Wilson, author of the 2012 novel ‘Panorama City’ (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt): For 2012, I expect to be doing more interacting with strangers, thanks to the new book coming out, so my resolution is simple: To be able to clearly and concisely answer the following question: ‘What are you reading?’

Jervey Tervalon, author of ‘Serving Monster’ and founder of Literature for Life: Start working on a new novel that will amuse and consume me; and I will not allow myself, not even for a second, to dwell on the bleakness of the publishing industry.

Elizabeth Crane, author of the 2012 novel ‘We Only Know So Much’ (HarperPerennial): I don’t know if this is exactly literary, but the only real resolution I’m considering, which I haven’t etched in stone yet, is to give up watching entertainment shows (ET, etc). This might or might not help my writing, if only insofar as it will free up an hour of my life every day, but the hope is that it will help my celebrities-and-celebrity-news-makes-me-want-to-pull-my-hair-out problem.

Rachel Kushner, author ‘Telex from Cuba,’ a National Book Award finalist: This year I am inspired by my friend Marisa Silver’s resolution from last year, which was no internet (except e-mail and occasionally facebook). My resolution is exactly that. Perhaps that’s bookish, in that it might create more time in which actual books can be read. I feel better already, sensing the loss of this convenient form of self-sabotage--of time. Time is of a premium. I don’t want to waste any. I have a feeling I will miss out on very little without the internet. Whatever it is, if it’s important enough it will find me.


Marisa Silver, author of the short story collection ‘Alone With You’: Read more poetry. Use fewer commas.

Evan Ratliff, founding editor of the multimedia iPad magazine The Atavist: I’m not a big resolution maker, but I would say on the literary front mine is pretty simple and obvious. It’s building on something I started late this year, which is to carve out specific, disconnected, undistracted time to read every day. Sometimes it’s sitting outside with a paperback, having left the phone and all other devices back at the office. Sometimes it’s actually reading a book on the phone (as you might imagine, I’m a big fan of reading books on the phone!), but having turned off all the phone’s connections. It’s like exercise, for me: The whole day gets better if I set aside the time for it. And as much as I love reading digital texts, it’s not the same if I stop three times in the middle to deal with some seemingly-urgent-but-not-really email.

Elissa Schappell, author of the short story collection ‘Blueprints for Building Better Girls’: It’s the Russians. It’s always the Russians. Oh yes, I’ll read the Russians in the summer months. Two summers ago, I developed such a bad case of Tolstoy’s elbow from hauling around ‘War and Peace’ I could barely flip through a magazine. The summer before ‘Crime and Punishment’ doubled as a drinks tray at a lawn party, and when I got spooked staying alone at a friend’s summer house, I kept it by the door as a weapon. This year, however I’m more hopeful--I’m starting, more appropriately, in winter. Beginning tomorrow I’m going to make ‘Anna Karenina’ my new BFF.

James Hannaham, author of the novel ‘God Says No’: This year I want to figure out why, when an author says the phrase ‘working on a story collection,’ as in ‘I’m working on a story collection,’ everyone in publishing reacts as if they have instead heard the phrase ‘molesting several children.’ And I will continue to pray for the demise of e-books, or at least the demise of the stupid fear that they will replace printed books.

Ben Greenman, author of the short story collection ‘What He’s Poised to Do’: I want to reread all the Emily Dickinson poems, in order, at a slow enough rate that I understand them but a fast enough rate to keep it exciting. It’s not as easy at it sounds. And I also plan to think about why, in a time of reduced attention spans, short stories aren’t getting more traction.

Mark Haskell Smith, author of the 2012 nonfiction book ‘Heart of Dankness: Underground Botanists, Outlaw Farmers, and the Race to the Cannibas Cup’ (Broadway): For 2012 I owe my editor a novel, so I’ll be working on that.


Patrick deWitt, author of the novel ‘The Sisters Brothers,’ a 2011 Booker Prize finalist: My resolution is to further distance myself from the internet, and to use the time I would have spent re-re-rewatching that ‘screwing/puking dogs’ GIF reading and writing.

Rob Spillman, editor of the literary magazine Tin House: Since I read contemporary work constantly for work, my resolution is to continue my recent streak of reading great older work that I missed or glossed over in my youth. I’m about to finish ‘House of Mirth,’ which I can’t believe I never read before. Next up is ‘Moby-Dick,’ which I half-read when I was twenty. On the horizon Waugh and more Wharton.

Janelle Brown, author of the novel ‘This is Where We Live’: Write a rough draft of a new novel. No pressure.

Johnny Temple, publisher of Akashic Books: 2012 marks the 50-year anniversary of the independence of both Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago (both former British colonies), so my resolution for the coming year is to celebrate Caribbean-inspired independence.

Emma Straub, bookseller and author of the short-story collection ‘Other People We Married’: I think 2012 is going to be my year for one of the giant masterpieces: Anthony Powell’s ‘Dance to the Music of Time,’ maybe, or Proust. Also, since no one answered my call for help and bought me all the NYRB classics in 2011, that resolution will have to shift onto the coming year.

Laila Lalami, author of the novel ‘Secret Son’: For the last couple of years, I’ve been working on my new novel and have been reading almost exclusively fiction and nonfiction that’s relevant to it in in some way. In 2012, I’d like to read some new fiction!


Chad Post, editor of Open Letter Books: In 2012, I’m going to read a ton of really long books. I’m going to start with Murakami’s ‘1Q84,’ but also want to read Nadas’ ‘Parallel Lives,’ the new translation of ‘War and Peace,’ the whole Javier Marias ‘Your Face Tomorrow’ trilogy, maybe ‘Bleak House’ in honor of Dickens’ 200th birthday, and Pynchon’s ‘Against the Day’ (the only book of his I have yet to finish). I feel like I’ve been putting off so many of these books for so long, because they’ll ‘take too long’ to read. That’s ridiculous, and in a way, I think this little project will be a nice antidote to my normal state of being all ADD and jumping from one article or novella to the next.

Ned Vizzini, television writer and author of the young adult novel ‘It’s Kind of a Funny Story’: For 2012 I resolve to read 10 books for no other reason than because I want to -- books (1) by people I don’t know (2) that I am not reviewing (3) that do not have any potential for film or TV.

Pamela Ribon, screenwriter and author of the 2012 novel ‘You Take It From Here’ (Gallery Books): In 2012I resolve to get new curtains, because I believe my neighbors (and various passersby on the street) are watching me whenever I’m playing my XBox Kinect workout. The other day I’m pretty sure I saw one of them with a bowl of popcorn.

Tod Goldberg, director of the creative writing MFA program at UC Riverside, Palm Desert, and author of the short-story collection ‘Where You Lived,’ resolved: ‪My only real literary resolution for 2012 is to finish my new novel, which I then hope Salman Rushdie will read, on his Kindle. ‬

Saïd Sayrafiezadeh, author of the memoir ‘When Skateboards Will Be Free’: Stop looking at so much porn.

Colin Robinson, co-publisher OR Books, which has just published ‘Occupying Wall Street: The Inside Story of an Action That Changed America’: My resolution for 2012 is for OR Books to develop further direct relationships with those who want to read our titles so as to bypass corporate retailers whose only significant role in the publishing process is taking all the money. Oh, and also to publish some great books.



Looking back at 2011’s literary resolutions

37 literary resolutions for 2011

Poll: How many books did you read in 2010?

-- Carolyn Kellogg