By now, 2016 has been almost universally condemned as a terrible year. It started badly enough, with the strange, talismanic passing of David Bowie but at least that tragedy was wrapped in mystery and muted (somewhat) by the beauty and brilliance of his final creative act – his perfectly stage-managed death. But then there was Prince, overdosed on painkillers in the night. And Brexit. Closer to home, the King of Thailand passed away. And in the final and most savage twist of all, Donald Trump did the seemingly unthinkable and grasped the US presidency, transforming himself into a strange and strangely opaque human question mark, now hanging over the globe.
But for all that, it was a pretty quiet year for me. Same job, same apartment. If the world was in crisis, my world had rarely been calmer. I continued running, ate some good food and had massages, and saw some good movies (Rage, The Lobster, Train to Busan, The Wailing). I also travelled a little: starting the year off back in the cold streets of Tokyo and jetting from there to Vietnam (twice) and the unexpected pleasures of Taichung and Shanghai. Next week I am heading back home to Australia for the New Year.
And I read. It was books that provided me with the greatest discovery of 2016 : the works of Karl Ove Knausgaard. I devoured his six-book series of autobiographical novels, one after the other, and felt transformed by them. Despite the glittered genius of Frank Ocean and his similarly immersive music, for me it was Karl Ove who ignited my imagination the most this year, making me think about writing in a new way. His was a memoir not of events, but of feelings, a refracted world of mundane desires so acute and so honestly observed that it inspired me and made me wonder why I write – even this blog, for example, and if there is any value in it.
Next year – a little over a few weeks from now – will be tenth anniversary of this blog. Tenth! But for now, I am content to look back on the year that just passed before making too many plans for the future.