Professor Wu's Rulebook

10 resources for your literary New Year’s Eve celebrations



Parties! The opportunity to kiss strangers! Unrelenting fun and endless bonhomie! It is the last day of the year – a time to remember the year just past, make resolutions, plan for the year ahead and, perhaps, have fun over an alcoholic beverage or two. Fireworks may or may not be involved. Yet so much emphasis is often placed on New Year’s Eve that the night frequently fails to live up to expectations. Indeed, it can often feel quite like mandatory fun – the expectation that you must absolutely have the most wonderful time at all costs, even if it’s cold outside, everyone is at different bars – all of which are overcrowded or fully booked – several people are already arguing with complete strangers and the clothes you’re wearing hardly fit after the overindulgence at Christmas.

Of course, you still want to try to have fun on New Year’s Eve – yet leaving the house almost guarantees you’ll spend at least part of the evening crying drunkenly, shoeless and wondering what the point of anything is. As literary giant W.H. Auden said of New Year’s: “The only way to spend New Year’s Eve is either quietly with friends or in a brothel. Otherwise when the evening ends and people pair off, someone is bound to be left in tears.”

In light of this, and out of a desire not to suggest visiting a brothel, we’ve put together a brief crib sheet of resources you can use to have the perfect literary New Year’s Eve, safe in the comfort of your own home. So, crack out a bottle of something bubbly, and get reading!

  1. Seven short stories by Junot Diaz you can read for free

The recipient of countless honours and accolades, Junot Diaz’s writing has been referred to by critic and playwright Gregg Barrios as “a deft mash up of Dominican history, comics, sci-fi, magic realism and footnotes.” What better way to spend a New Year’s Eve than reading the short stories of a writer whose unique voice, swinging between street slang and profanity to incredibly formal academic prose, gives us lines such as “As soon as you start thinking about the beginning, it’s the end,” which are surely appropriate for a night of new resolutions and insistent new beginnings.

  1. Bad sex in fiction: the connoisseur’s compendium

Spasming muscles, groans, whispers, licked ears, sweat, bucking, otherwise central zones and bulging trousers. If you’re hoping your New Year’s Eve will feature at least some of the above, you can guarantee it by checking out our collection of all the winning entries of the infamous ‘Bad Sex in Fiction’ award.

  1. Rare audio recording of James Baldwin discussing the real meaning of words and the artist’s struggle for integrity

Who needs the latest pop culture mash ups blaring over speakers in a sweat-drenched club when you can sip a civilized glass of merlot and listen to the smooth, dulcet tones of literary giant James Baldwin giving a lecture on the real meaning of words, and the artist’s struggle for integrity?

  1. 16 short stories by Alice Munro you can read for free

Junot Diaz provided the evening’s early entertainment; now move onto the short stories of Alice Munro – the author described by Jonathan Franzen as having “a strong claim to being the best fiction writer in North America”. 16 of the best short stories by one of the best short story writers.

  1. Hunter S. Thompson’s advice on finding your purpose

As we move through the years, signposted by New Year’s Eve parties and New Year’s Day hangovers, there is a risk that we begin to find ourselves borne along through life via currents not of our choosing. This sensation that we are not quite in control of our destinies – though ultimately still personally responsible for them – can be crippling both mentally and creatively. So, instead of heading out for the annual expensive night out, featuring in all likelihood tears and disappointment (or a brothel, if you follow Auden’s advice), why not take the evening to read some of the finest life advice from one of the finest writers of the 20th century?

  1. One letter from Charles Bukowski that will make you want to quit your job and become a writer

At that time of year when we take stock of where we are in our lives and careers, you may struggle to do better than listen to the words of acclaimed poet Charles Bukowski, as he looks back on what it takes to quit your soul sucking day job and pursue your authorial dreams.

  1. 33 writing competitions for 2017

Now that Charles Bukowski has convinced you to become a writer, put your pen to paper and get your own writing out there. This collection of upcoming writing competitions for the year ahead is as good a place to start as any when looking at places to submit your work. All power to your typewriters!

  1. Raymond Carver reading ‘What we talk about when we talk about love’

After your burst of creativity and writing, settle back down with that glass of port and enjoy the smooth voice of Raymond Carver reading his most celebrated short story, ‘What we talk about when we talk about love’. After all, if the holiday season is about anything at all; it’s love.

  1. Living Room Les Mis

The stage adaptation of Victor Hugo’s timeless classic, Les Miserables, has been thrilling audiences for decades. Yet going to the theatre is just so darn expensive. Surely there must be a better way to capture the same thrills – the same spills – but without having to spend half your paycheque on seats with an impeded view of the stage? Thanks to the power of Youtube, you can bring this classic of the literary canon to musical life right where you’re sitting (or preferably, up on your feet, singing). And after the bubbly, merlot and port, you’ve probably reached the stage in the evening where it would be rude not to participate musically.

  1. Kurt Vonnegut’s letter to the future

It is a little known fact that Kurt Vonnegut, one of the true titans of literature, collaborated with TIME Magazine to write a letter to the future population of Humanity, in the year AD 2088. The purpose of the project was simple: to provide “some words of advice” to those living in 2088”. For our last item needed to make your literary New Year’s Eve a success, it seems pertinent to look forward to the future – not only to our own lives for the year ahead, but to the direction of mankind over the coming years.

Vonnegut’s words of advice are, of course, that trademark and distinctive blend of satire and sincerity, and – at a time when the world increasingly seems destined for catastrophe (what with the election of various demagogues-cum-fascists in major countries around the globe, along with the passing of the carbon threshold, mass extinction of flora and fauna, rising global temperatures and increasing inequality) – it seems we need to revisit Vonnegut’s words now more than ever before.






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