We began the year by reading Just Kids by Patti Smith, which is as much a celebration of making art, and making life, as anything we've ever read. What we were especially captivated by was the copious attention, hunger, desire, impossibility of anything, but making art vibe that permeated, and permeates, Smith's life. She has loved and lost, traveled, lived well, and not, but making art was paramount. During this past year, we have wondered whether these things can be quatified in some form? How much attention is required? How much life? How much must be given up? How much pursued? And how much must any or all of these things intersect? We don't have any more answers to any of these questions at the end of the year than we did at the start, and we are not concerned, it is an endless search for ideas, motivations, lived lives, words to describe them, and finding a voice that somehow captures all of it. Your voice. A unique, authentic, grouping of words and sentences and images that says this is who we are, and how we see it. Do you want it? It is also no surprise to us then that we finish the year reading the three books we most looked forward to at the start - The Sarah Book by the Scott McClanahan, we are never meeting in real life. by the samantha irby, and The Wrong Way to Save Your Life by the Megan Stielstra - because these are authors whose voices are so distinct, one could pick nearly any page from any these books and know who wrote them. All three authors are people we know on varying levels. We have read with them and watched them read many times over many years. We have also podcasted, broken bread and drank with some derivation of the group, and been inspired by them all. As a group their writing is fierce and funny, raw nerves, real time, and lived. We have always been driven to the electric, sentences that throb, and jab, with The Basketball Diaries serving as template and religious tome. There are other authors we love, have read with, and have read this year, who write, and live, like this as well, Joshua Mohr, D. Foy, Wendy C. Ortiz, explosively, and personal, no pain too great to record, no fucked-upedness to horrifying to illustrate.
But it is these books, at this time, that I have read, and it is these authors who were already part of the collective ether, who have broken out in new and profound ways, publicly, and yes personally, and so it is these books that require the extra attention they deserve. All three books hammer, and expand on themes these authors have visited time and time again - Stielstra a combustible, heartrending, beautiful mix of family, artmaking, teaching, triumph, tragedy, and being a woman today, yesterday, tomorrow; McClanahan, utterly unpacking, smashing, and illuminating, every feeling about even the most quotidian ways of being in relationships, communication, hurting, and being human; and Irby, gut-punchingly looking, finding, chasing, and running from love, apartments, family history, work, Chicago, pop culture, illness, and food, in a mad sprint of words and near travelogue of how we live now. And yet these books do so in new, bigger, and more focused ways that transcend their previous, but still mighty efforts. How does this work? Is it a culmination of expereince, hours of writing, performing, thinking, living, loving, detroying, searching, and editing? Is it putting in the time in some newly attentive way? Does the voice finally, or at least more perfectly, match the energy that was already there? We still don't know. But we can celebrate it. Authors we love making art we love and finding more love in return than ever before. These books are political as well in a time that requires them to be so. They are about poverty, class, red states, misogyny, sexuality, equality, weight, violence and abuse - sexual, physical, and emotional, and making art as an act that upends societal expectations, hence radical, and we would suggest beautiful as well. We also started the year here, art as political, as statement, and as a fuck you. All thee authors do the fuck you well, and if there is a better way to finish this year correct, we cannot imagine what it would be.