Looking back at 2011’s literary resolutions


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When the year 2011 started to come over the horizon, Jacket Copy asked writers, readers and other book lovers to share their literary resolutions. We checked back with some of them, now that the year is at an end, to see how their plans had panned out. Soon, we’ll post what these and other writers resolve for 2012.

Saïd Sayrafiezadeh, author of the memoir ‘When Skateboards Will Be Free,’ resolved to ‘write one thousand words a day, every day, and try not to despise myself too terribly when I fail sometime around mid-January.’ The result? ‘It went well. As anticipated, I failed around mid-January and didn’t despise myself too terribly. Then I resolved that I would write two hours a day. That lasted for a while.’


Emma Straub, bookseller and author of the short-story collection ‘Other People We Married,’ resolved: ‘I’m going to challenge myself more as a reader. More nonfiction! More esoteric subjects! I want to give myself the chance to say, ‘You know, that really wasn’t for me,’ and the chance to be surprised by loving something unexpected.’ How’d that work out? ‘Ha! It didn’t work very well!’

Mark Haskell Smith, author of the novel ‘Baked,’ resolved ‘to read more books about diet and exercise.’ Yes, a joke, but not only a joke, apparently. ‘Last year, I did manage to read a book about exercise. It was the excellent, inspirational ‘Born to Run’ by Christopher McDougall, which describes an ultramarathon held in the Sierra Madre between elite American athletes and some of the best distance runners in the world, the indigenous Tarahumara. The book didn’t inspire me to run, but I lent it to a friend and it inspired him. He went from not running at all to eight miles a day.’

Pamela Ribon, screenwriter and author of the novel ‘Going in Circles,’ resolved: ‘I will finish writing a novel, a screenplay and a TV pilot script. Am I cheating by using my deadlines as resolutions? Because it’s not like I’m going to stop biting my nails or wasting writing time surfing the Internet. I’m only so strong, people.’ Was she successful? ‘Well, the novel comes out July 3rd 2012 [‘You Take It From Here,’ Gallery Books], the screenplay is in final edits (TBA when they let me), and I wrote two pilot scripts, but neither of them got made (Pour out a little of your 40 on the steps of ABC Family).’

Antoine Wilson, author of the novel ‘The Interloper,’ said: ‘My resolution, for the second year in a row, is not to talk smack about books (or authors) I haven’t actually read.’ How’d that work out? ‘Last year’s resolution went pretty well, until about a week ago, when I couldn’t take it any more. I called a buddy of mine and gossiped about a number of authors whose work I had never read and whom I don’t know the first thing about personally. And by ‘gossiped,’ I mean I tore apart systematically, based on pure conjecture. That little relapse aside, I’m back on the wagon. No talking smack (or praise) unless I’ve actually read it.’

Chad Post, editor of the books-in-translation publishing house Open Letter, resolved: ‘I have two main book resolutions for 2011: Next year, I’m going to give away as many books as I acquire, and I’m going to read 52 translated titles starting with Günter Grass’ ‘The Box’ and the new Antonio Lobo Antunes title. With a little luck, I’ll post short reviews of all these books at Three Percent...’ How’d that work out? ‘I more or less completed my 2011 resolution. Looking through my Goodreads account, it looks like I finished 51 works in translation so far this year, including ‘The Box’ and three Antunes titles. I’m almost done with Heinrich Böll’s brilliant ‘Billiards at Half-Past Nine,’ so I’m sure I’ll hit that goal. I failed at writing all these up at Three Percent, but I did write a bunch of reviews there and elsewhere. (Not quite 52, but c’mon, that was an insanely ambitious resolution of reviewing.)’

Ned Vizzini, television writer and author of the young adult novel ‘It’s Kind of a Funny Story,’ resolved ‘to move into a home with an actual bookshelf and get away from my current ‘pile system.’ ‘ Did he? ‘I did move into a home with an actual bookshelf -- three, to be exact! I love living in Los Angeles and having enough space for living-room books that I’m proud of and books in my home office that I’m ashamed of.’


Janelle Brown, author of ‘This is Where We Live,’ resolved to ‘stop reading Amazon and Goodreads reader comments about my books. For really reals this time.’ The result? ‘Hey, that worked out pretty well. Of course, it’s now been almost 18 months since my second novel came out, which makes it a lot easier to have distance from it.’

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: ‘I’ve decided that in 2011 I’m going to attempt to read several books I’ve lied about reading over the years. So, that means I’m going to read a book by Salman Rushdie (because I’ve lied about every book of his, ever; people always ask, ‘Did you read ‘Shalimar the Clown?’ ‘ and I always say, ‘Oh, the words. So moving.’). I’m going to also read all of ‘Moby-Dick.’... And because I’ve never done it, I’m going to read an entire published book (versus the thousands of manuscripts I’ve read on my computer over the years... many of which became published books) on some kind of e-reading machine. Apparently, it’s the wave of the future.’ The result? ‘I regret to report that I did not complete ‘Moby-Dick,’ though I actually did try to kill two birds with one stone by downloading a free version of it onto my iPhone, where it has kept a restful silence for about, oh, 10 months. I look at it sitting there sometimes and sort of marvel that an allegorical novel about the whaling industry written over 150 years ago now lives, unread, on my space alien technology machine. I also didn’t manage to read any novels by Salman Rushdie, but I did actually read a couple very good short stories by him, most notably ‘In the South’, which appeared in the New Yorker two years ago, and which I found, in a counterpoint to ‘Moby-Dick,’ in an actual physical copy of the magazine that was conveniently in my doctor’s office... and which I then stole. As for reading ebooks, I admit it’s been a slow go too, but I’m beginning to learn the allure. I just read Susan Orlean’s excellent ‘Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend’ on my Kindle and nothing bad happened to me afterward, so I’m feeling like there’s a chance words are words no matter where they are printed, or delivered.’


37 literary resolutions for 2011

How to read 462 books in one year

Poll: How many books did you read in 2010?


-- Carolyn Kellogg