Thursday, January 8, 2015

Jake Kilroy's 2014 Year of Reading

In 2014, I read a lot of books and graphic novels, and I listened to a lot of audiobooks. These were my favorites.

Novels, Novellas & Collections
1. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugendies
What a gorgeous, honest read. What a vivid, heartbreaking, wonderful history created from nothing. All the weirdness of existence is here, especially for a character that thrives as their own anomaly. Cal(liope), the intersex narrator of the tale, reccounts the family's progression through the whole of the 20th Century. Real life is almost impossible to write, and it's done here with majesty, enthusiasm, and sincerity, painting a rich portrait without ever overusing literary devices.

2. Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon
Even at his supposed "most accessible," Pynchon and his chaotic tale criss-crosses itself a dozen times a paragraph. It's all-out jivey in narrative, not just dialogue, and it's written in the immaculate slang of a doper, not as one of the most enigmatic authors of the 20th Century. It's got a mouthful of noir with tastes for surf lit, and it's totally wild to read and rewarding to dissect.

3. The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
This book is so much goddamn fun, both in dialogue and narration. Philip Marlowe is the smoothest blend of tough guy, goof, and wise-ass. It allows him to be capable of pretty much anything (without having the luck of a saint). Sly and stylish.

4. The Ocean At The End Of The Lane by Neil Gaiman
With Gaiman, it's always the real world that's been shaken up. And he makes it seem easy, almost obvious. Why not? Why can't our perceived reality be just a shred of existence?  Here, a boy narrator takes notice of the very great darkness that lurks in the corners of the quiet countryside, and then everything goes haywire.

5. Without Feathers by Woody Allen
This collection is just as silly, satirical, and ridiculous as it is thoughtful, philosophical, and diligent. It's so precise with its absurdism with each short story, essay, or play. It knows the bounds of every joke, with a tone that could challenge an academic or crack wise with the class clown.

Graphic Novels
1. Scott Pilgrim (Complete Series, Volumes 1-6) by Bryan Lee O'Malley
All of the details of a man's early twenties can be found here. Those minute, tiny, perplexing cracks in existence every young adult has are evaluated here without ever dwelling too long. This series is so over-the-top goofy (with the premise of a spaz musician defeating Nintendo-like exes) and yet strangely accurate in its tenderness and "What am I doing?" moments of hopeless efforts. It's also legit funny. I loved the shit out of it.

2. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi 
This should be required reading. Written with the ease of a conversation, we witness extremists employ Islam as a cultural weapon and turn Iran into a different country altogether in the late 1970s. Told from the point of view of its author, evolving from naive girl to worldly woman, it's charming, painful, educational, and, above all, sincere. Easily one of the most triumphant examples of memoir.

3. Saga (Volumes 3 & 4) by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples
It's still Star Wars with sex, violence, and swear words, and it continues to be so rad. That's all. It's just cool as hell. You should be reading this.

4. Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
Memoirs are an especially delicate bag of tricks, and Bechdel nails it as true without glory and emotional without tragedy. It's breathtaking in its scope of reality, with themes ranging from sexual discovery to familial loneliness. With a focus on the complicated relationship with her father, Bechdel  remembers summers and holidays of the 1960s and '70s. Expansive and engaging.

5. Astro City (Volumes 1-4, 8) by Kurt Busiek, Brent Anderson and Alex Ross
No other series crafts its own world of superheroes so articulately and passionately while remaining so balanced. Heroes and villains are created and then given histories and identities as defined as DC and Marvel characters, but their stories are told with way more focus on humanity than unreality.

6. Daytripper by Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá
A beautiful story, and an equally alluring collection of artwork; a man's life measured if he died continually. Nothing sci-fi, mind you. Just an abstract acknowledgement that life is valuable and fragile. It takes its time to set a tempo of experience, noting how magical and important the mundane can (or should) be.

7. East Of West (Volumes 1-3) by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta
Sci-fi, fantasy, and western genres mash up and kick ass in one of the coolest, loudest outings ever. Three of the four horsemen show up for the apocalypse. Death's missing, and it pisses off the other three. This is all while the dystopian U.S. comes to a boiling point because of the cowboy-twang of a quasi-religious war.

8. Pride of Baghdad by Brian K. Vaughn and Niko Henrichon
A balanced work, Vaughn tells the story of a pride of lions that escape the Baghdad Zoo after the city is bombed by the U.S. in 2003. The animals' interpretations of the fallen world around them is extraordinary (what great beast a tank is, why their keepers have fled, etc). So basic to mean so much.

9. Sex Criminals (Volume 1) by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky
So witty, so endearing, so fun, so self-aware, so alluring, so real, so out there. It's fantastic. A man and a woman can stop time when they have sex. They decide to rob a bank. It naturally gets complicated, and its voice is the best narration in comics.

10. Superman For All Seasons by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale
Loeb takes everything I've ever liked about Superman and carefully assigns him a deep, thorough identity and then examines it. It's a strange, fragile existence for the Man of Steel, as someone who sees the world as a human with entirely different capabilities and, therefore, fears.

11. Ex Machina (Complete Series, Volumes 1-10) by Brian K. Vaughn (and various artists)
Former superhero with enduring power to communicate with machines becomes mayor of New York City and deals with his past heroism and current politics. Humble in its humanity, wild in its weird, the story balances it all. It even makes use of some of the damn good political debates.

12. Pretty Deadly (Volume 1) by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Ríos
Contemporary magical realism meets old-world fable, featuring Death's daughter riding a horse made of smoke. Reads like it's told around a campfire in the Old West. Lush, mystic, and unruly.

13. Clumsy by Jeffrey Brown
Crudely drawn, but conveyed with joyous awkwardness and honesty, Brown tells the story of his first love and adult relationship. It has the most complete collection of scattered moments that I otherwise thought only existed in somebody else bringing them up. Fleeting instances of sex, fights, tenderness, all of it is remembered here in glorious true detail.

1. Man Without A Country: A Memoir Of Life In George W Bush's America by Kurt Vonnegut
Vonnegut understands and explains humanity as if he were an alien doing a century-long thesis. He gets the humor of bullshit, and, here, he really comes to terms with how much mankind is destroying the planet and, more accurately, mankind. This is the angriest I've seen the poet laureate of the humanist movement, and it's really just a super pleasant man pretty damn annoyed.

2. Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
Success is a hard thing to articulate. This might be the closest we ever get to process: what matters, what should, what doesn't, et cetera. It's easy to get ramped up on rags-to-riches tales, but it's better to look at how and why. Often, it's the right person at the right place at the right time. They definitely work their asses off, but circumstance lends itself to the thrilling story more often than not, and it's so very easy to forget that.

3. SuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance by Stephen J. Dubner and Steven D. Levitt
Like its predecessor, this was a grand time. The economy is a spectacularly bizarre deal, and there's so much happening in the crevices, and the larger picture isn't typically even econ. The book jumps between bold stats and human interest stories, showing how cause and effect might be much different from what you thought.

4. Thunderstruck by Eric Larson
Total history, told like fiction. Mixes the Northend Celler Murder with the development of wireless communication. Carefully crafted, extraordinarily well-written. History is fascinating. It just needs a good storyteller.

5. I Remember Nothing: And Other Reflections by Nora Ephron
I just enjoy Nora Ephron. This collection was fun. Even the most saddening observation of aging is told with a "oh, well, you know" class. As a human semi-landmark of the last era of "classic" New York (to me anyway—that late 20th Century New York—pre-9/11, I guess), her writing style reminds me of someone's favorite customer or client recounting a story.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

"the thanksgiving cheer"

"the thanksgiving cheer"
done in true form by jake kilroy.

there was one thanksgiving
when my family mocked my satchel briefcase,
the one you liked,
the one you said made me who i should be.
it was the year they stopped asking about you.
it was the year you disappeared for good.
it was the thanksgiving i didn't wonder.
it was the holiday i was thankful for.
my family asked about the women at my job
and i found myself talking about my job instead.
it didn't make me wonder.
it made me sick.
it made me worry that i wasn't getting laid enough.
it made me wonder what the women thought about.
and then i suppose it simply made me wonder.
but it wasn't about you.
it was the holiday i came home and read frank o'hara poems
to myself.
it was the holiday i cleaned my bookshelves
and left hot sauce packets on my desk.
it was the holiday i recited ayn rand quotes while showering,
masturbating to the thought of you
before someone else.
and it wasn't sexual.
it was mechanical.
it was the mechanics of forgetting.
it was the mechanics of destroying.
it was the mechanics of mechanics.
i smirked when the steam cleared
and went to my room,
drinking water instead of wine,
thinking of you,
and not wondering a single thing.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

2014: The Why Of It

2014: The Why Of It
by Jake Kilroy

Where​ did you begin​ 2014?​​
Politely ringing the new year with the family, ending a 5-year streak of torching a Christmas tree on a beach in Mexico with the usual beloved maniacs and lunatics.

Have any life changes in 2014?​
I got a resident freelance gig that could turn into actual travel writing next year (not holding breath, but fingers crossed).

Where​ did you go on vacation?​
The usual Big Sur. The very rare Argentina

What'​​​s the one thing​ you thought you would​ never​ do but did in 2014?
Understand how and why people give up art. Consider a future without marriage or kids.

What was your favorite moment?
Not my favorite moment exactly, but I do remember lying on the floor of the Mexico City airport during an 8-hour layover, listening to music and reading. I set my book down and people-watched before I spaced out. I was so content. It was just an odd realization of thinking, "Not many people get to have this life."

What was your biggest accomplishment?
Actually copyrighting something. I kind of always forget that part of the creative process.

What was your favorite TV programs for the year?
Mad Men. Sherlock. Bob's Burgers. New Girl. The Mindy Project. The Newsroom.

What was the best book you read this year?
Middlsex, by Jeffrey Eugenides.

What was your favorite film of the year?
Birdman, by Alejandro González Iñárritu.

How would you describe your personal fashion concept this year?
Trying my best. Someone at a party recently described it as "that classic Jake Kilroy lived-in look."

What song will always remind you of 2014?
"The House That Heaven Built" by Japandroids.

What did you do on your birthday?
I was in Buenos Aires. During the day, Ryan and I wandered La Recoleta Cemetery (easily one of the coolest places I've ever been). In the evening, we had a radical homemade dinner with his friends and then headed out to the bars at 2 a.m. By sunrise, we were at a local apartment-turned-bar dive (easily one of the strangest places I've ever been). There, I danced with a local woman who told me in broken English, "You don't have to apologize after every move. Also, you laugh a lot."

What was your best month​?​​​
October. I spent the entire month of November detoxing. What a fuckin' time. I was living like an up-and-coming actor in the Golden Age of Hollywood.

What one thing would have made your year more satisfying?
My mom not having breast cancer, that's for goddamn sure (though one hell of a recovery!). Winning the screenplay contest Scott and I entered (placed somewhere in the top 45 out of a thousand or two though!). Also not, to borrow an old phrase of Katy's, "working like an unhappily married man."

What kept you sane this year?

What celebrity did you fancy the most?
Sandra Bullock. That Sandy is so tight. And that's why Scott and I made an app called Bullock Points (coming next year)!

Drinking buddy of the year?
Scott. Dudettes.

Smoking buddy of the year?
Scott. Dudes.

Whose behavior merited celebration?
Forgiving women folk.

Whose behavior disappointed you?
The government's. The media's. Social media users'. Mine (but not for the usual cooler reasons).

Any regular activities?
Running. Not eating like a scumbag. Reading. Bathing. Drinking. Being a recluse.

Favorite night​ out?
From all third-party accounts, it sounds like my favorite moment was a few missing hours at a cabin mansion in Big Bear the evening after Halloween. I can't remember a time I've fully left my insanity unchecked that hard.

Start​ a new hobby​?​
Making soap. Like Tyler Durden, but more like Jack. Staying in at night to a reclusive degree (by my standards), totally like Jack, not even a little like Tyler Durden.

Any slumps?
Too many.

Been naughty or nice?​​
I'm getting nicer, but I need to be safer with the naughty.

Any regrets?​​​
Too much work, not enough play. Too much brain-dead, not enough creative.

Do you have any New Year'​​​s resolutions?​
Be happy. Doesn't that cover all resolutions?

Overall,​​​ how would​ you rate this year?​​​
50% pretty whatever, 50% trying to arson my own life.

What do you want to change in 2015?
​I want to get what I dream. I want the big goals, and I want the big achievements.

What are you wishing for in 2015?