Part of yesterday at the shop was spent grumbling about how the Romans had more sense than we did, inasmuch as the end of their year was the last day of February, a month no one would ever regret getting out of. It didn't stay that way, of course: the, um, decemvirate, circa 450 BC, reshuffled the months and put December at the end, where it has remained through all the subsequent years of this calendar. This change perforce moved January to the beginning of the year, which made sense in the Roman context, what with it's apparently having been named after Janus, the god of beginnings and transitions. ("Ianua" means "door" in Latin, which hammers home the point.)

So here we are, on the first day of another year, and this culture of ours — yes, it's yours too, I'm not even slightly interested in playing that "cultural appropriation" game — is wont to spend it looking backward at the year just ended and/or speculating what the year just begun might bring. Janus, traditionally portrayed as having two faces, which is not the same thing as being "two-faced," would presumably have approved.

I'm not sure I want to remember that much of 2015. One chapter closed: the one in which a third of my earnings would be pledged to the expungement of debt, a process which took five years and many thousands of dollars. I'm certainly glad to have that particular burden lifted at last. However, 2015 both began and ended with fairly harsh winters — we had snow as late as the fourth of March — and the current winter has rather cruelly demonstrated that as I become older and more decrepit, the less I am able to maintain what I consider a properly stoic attitude towards the weather here in Tornado Alley.

Then again, a life with no surprises is a life at its end; at most, you're counting the number of days you have left. I began 2016 with a surprise: kind words from an author, one of whose books I had read. The "Now reading" gizmo on the front page is there mostly to encourage me to read more, but the brief (150 words or so) reviews I write upon completion are open to the public, and writers are no less likely to Google themselves than the rest of us. If you've parsed that last phrase, you might infer that I don't think of myself as a writer, which I don't, despite six million or so words on this site and about 75,000 words in that alternate universe populated by pastel-colored überequines. I wrote this review in mid-December. Today, I found this waiting for me on my Facebook wall:

I think you write better — on the level of syntax and sheer verve — than 90% of professional book reviewers. And thanks for understanding the book. Made my day.

So maybe it's a question of attitude, rather than of perceived skill level, that has made me reluctant to embrace that scary word "writer." Maybe I can pass myself off as an "essayist." I'd be in good company if it works. And even if it doesn't, well, at least I only have to get past ten percent of professional book reviewers to claim a place at the head of some table somewhere. Made my day. Might even have made my year.

The Vent

  1 January 2016

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