Following a tradition I’ve held since 2000, I’m pleased to wrap up the year I had, primarily in terms of my favorite cultural experiences. A more personal note is saved for the bottom.
Sight, Jessie Greengrass
Design and Content, Abbott Miller
Reading Between the Wines, Terry Theise
We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy, Ta-Nehisi Coates
My Struggle: Book 6, Karl Ove Knausgård
The Odyssey, Homer (Emily Wilson, translator)
Paula Scher: Works
Feel Free: Essays, Zadie Smith
Lost Property: Memoirs and Confessions of a Bad Boy, Ben Sonnenberg (repeat)
Medardo Rosso: Experiments in Light and Form (Pulitzer Arts Foundation)
The World As It Is, Ben Rhodes
Obama: An Intimate Portrait, Pete Souza
Architecture's Odd Couple: Frank Lloyd Wright and Philip Johnson, Hugh Howard
Yes We (Still) Can, Dan Pfeiffer
Frenemies: The Epic Disruption of the Ad Business, Ken Auletta
Happiness: Ten Years of n+1
Mona Hatoum: Terra Infirma, Michelle White (The Menil Collection)
The Threat Matrix: The FBI at War in the Age of Global Terror, Garrett M. Graff
Magnitude: The Scale of the Universe, Kimberly K. Arcand
A Tokyo Romance: A Memoir, Ian Buruma
Saving Central Park: A History and a Memoir, Elizabeth Barlow Rogers
An Equation for Every Occasion, John M. Henshaw
Pops: Fatherhood in Pieces, Michael Chabon
Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, Chip Heath
Yes!: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive, Noah J. Goldstein
Books I didn’t connect with: Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility by Patty McCord; Aaker on Branding: 20 Principles That Drive Success by David A. Aaker; Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport (though I enjoyed the author on Ezra Klein’s podcast); and Autumn by Karl Ove Knausgård (I suppose he can do wrong in my book).
The 900-page William H. Gass Reader is not listed in my book list above, since I’ve already read everything in it. But as a new release in 2018 — and a brilliant one — it needs to be called out.
Two of my all-time favorite novels are William Gaddis’s The Recognitions and JR, both giant hills to climb. Throughout 2018, I listened to parts of the complete audio recordings in the car. If you’ve read these novels, you know how difficult narrating them might be. Nick Sullivan does an incredible job, particularly with JR, which is basically non-stop, almost-always-interrupted dialogue for 900 pages.
A Ghost Story
The Death of Stalin
The End of the Tour
The Big Sick
Meh: Baby Driver; Chris Rock: Tamborine
The Americans (Final Season!)
Atlanta, Season 1
Succession, Season 1
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Season 3
Bojack Horseman, Season 1
Silicon Valley, Seasons 1-3
Beyond the many hours of classical music I listened to at work through the headphones, the the albums I most enjoyed this year were Jonny Greenwood’s sublime soundtrack for Phantom Thread (nearly a daily listen for me), as well as new/newish records from Julien Baker, Boygenius, Jeff Tweedy, Pusha T, Earl Sweatshirt, Cat Power, Damien Jurado and Lomelda, whose song “From Here” has a final third that lifts off in a way that always makes me smile and sing along.
Close to home:
Ruth Asawa: Life’s Work at the Pulitzer Arts Foundation (curated by my wife and called “the year’s most beautiful exhibition” by the Washington Post)
Mona Hatoum: Terra Infirma at the Pulitzer
Lola Álvarez Bravo: Picturing Mexico at the Pulitzer
Amy Sherald at Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis
Kehinde Wiley: Saint Louis at the Saint Louis Art Museum
During a wedding trip to Chicago, I enjoyed diving back into the permanent collection of the Art Institute Chicago and doing quick cruise through the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.
While attending and speaking at a conference in D.C., museum highlights included:
Watching “Love Is the Message, The Message Is Death,” an unforgettable, gut-wrenching video work by Arthur Jafa at the Hirshorn
Baselitz: Six Decades at the Hirshorn
The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial
A trip back to The Phillips Collection
Less happy note: Excitedly took a morning cab to the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, but there were no tickets to be had. Great for the institution, though I was bummed.
During a day-and-a-half trip to NYC, I was able to see a remarkable amount of world-class art, including:
The stunning Hilma af Klint: Paintings for the Future at the Guggenheim
Bruce Nauman: Disappearing Acts at MoMA
Charles White: A Retrospective at MoMA
Toward a Concrete Utopia: Architecture in Yugoslavia, 1948-1980 at MoMA
Delacroix at the Met
Jewelry: The Body Transformed at the Met
Relative Values: The Cost of Art in the Northern Renaissance at the Met
Martha Rosler: Irrespective at The Jewish Museum (plus the permanent collection)
Odds & Ends:
During that same short NYC trip, Tamara and I were able to get rush tickets to Kenneth Lonergan's play “The Waverly Gallery,” starring Lucas Hedges, Michael Cera, Joan Allen and Elaine May. Small theater. What a treat.
For our living room we bought a used piano from the wonderful folks at STL’s Jackson Pianos. Leo’s starting lessons in 2019, and I hope to get back to it after several decades away.
Amid lots of technology, Mac OS Mojave’s new screenshot feature — where you can drag a just-taken shot into use without it being saved to your computer — is something I’m grateful for daily.
While I still read Twitter, I didn’t post much this year, particularly the last six months. I tried to spend a bit more time posting what I would have shared there on my website, which had previously grown very quiet.
Speaking of web publishing, I spent a few months trying Micro.blog, which I found to be a wonderful, light-weight micro-blogging service. I was tempted to move entirely to the system, since so many of my posts are short links to content of note, but I’m going to stay with the system I have. I’m not much interested in the social/timeline aspect. But I’m keeping an eye on it.
It’s been inspiring and humbling to be part of the 2018-19 Leadership St. Louis class, the 43rd since this program began. I hope to post some reflections on the program when it ends this coming spring.
For whatever goodness 2018 brought, it’s been a sad year for our family. This summer, my father-in-law, Omer Huremović, died after battling cancer for several years.
Tajkic, as I called him, was perhaps the bravest, most resourceful and resilient man I’ll know.
He was also an artist. Little made him happier than hand-making and shipping off one of his wire-tree sculptures — some massive, others that could lay in the palm of your hand — to buyers around the country, improving their lives one sculpture at a time.
We miss him daily. We live with his art, and all that he taught us.