My Anti-Boredom Formula

Whenever my son says, “I’m bored,” my response these days is “un-bore yourself.” I picked up this phrase from a friend’s mother, but I also have a few of my own, such as What’s wrong with being bored? and Good. Maybe you’ll read something now.

It’s great to be bored. I write when I’m bored. I get my best ideas when I’m bored. I’d say we all need time to be bored, because it’s only when I’m bored—aka I stop leaping from frenetic task to task—that I read literary novels or poetry, go to films that challenge me, or watch TV that addresses my own questions about society and family.

My anti-boredom formula is to be bored—or at least to start out in that dreamy, questing way.

With that in mind, I’m pretty sure all the end-of-year “best of” lists that litter the media stream are attempts to ward off boredom—to make sure we’ve always got a list of distractions to hand.

So this December, I tried to approach the “best of” task a little differently. I had a lot of fun coming up with 2012 picks for my favorite book, TV show, and film at the witty online magazine Punchnels.

The criterion I used? Each title had to be more than a pleasant distraction or rip-roaring entertainment or an old shoe. It had to engage my imagination, to stick a thumb in my beliefs—to be one of the most un-boring things I’d encountered all year.

I kept my snappy blurbs to a max of 50 words—as instructed by Editor Ken Honeywell—a terrific writing exercise in itself.

Here are my 2012 picks, which originally published on December 24, 2012. After each of my blurbs, you’ll find links to the full selection of favorites from Punchnels staffers—great, quirky titles that have given me a few more ideas myself. Un-bore yourselves, okay?


Martha’s Favorite 2012 Book

The Emily Dickinson Reader: An “English-to-English” translation of Dickinson’s 1,700-plus poems, this book is hilarious and revelatory. Hipster poet Paul Legault turns her lines into prosaic tweets about zombies and the meaning of life. Sample: “I’m going to remain a virgin so that I taste better when God decides to eat me.”

From Punchnels: “Our Favorite Books of 2012.” For a full review, see “Emily Dickinson, Zombie” in Talking Writing.

Martha’s Favorite 2012 TV Show

Parenthood: Yes, the Braverman family is too goofy, their Berkeley a fantasy. I almost quit watching after last season’s adoption melodrama. But Julia Braverman didn’t get her happy ending there, and this season, Parenthood has tackled Kristina’s cancer and Amber’s relationship with an Afghan vet. And the acting? Superb.

From Punchnels: “Our Favorite TV of 2012”. For my earlier take on Parenthood‘s adoption melodrama—still continuing this season (more to come on that in Athena’s Head), see “Adoption on TV: Modern Family or Parenthood?”

Martha’s Favorite 2012 Film

Cloud Atlas: David Mitchell’s novel reads like an experimental gem. That’s why I’ve never finished it. But the movie’s rocket-fueled pace and actors in gender-bending roles turns the disrupted narrative into great Star Trek for grown-ups. Tom Hanks plays a villager who talks to Death. Bonus: Hugh Grant in warpaint.

From Punchnels: “Our Favorite Films of 2012,” which opens with “Now 100% Hobbit-free.” If you doubt my own feelings about the hash made of Tolkien’s book, see my review here: “Why Did Peter Jackson’s ‘Hobbit’ Make Me Cry?”


Last but not least: Don’t miss my piece about the New Fan (aka Readership 2.0), also publishing today in Talking Writing: “Do Fans Love Authors More Than Their Books?” It’s all grist for TW’s Jan/Feb 2013 issue—”Got Fame?”—which launches next Monday.

Nothing boring about that limo, baby.

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