Zachary Heinzerling: Cutie and the Boxer (2013). Ushio Shinohara is a famous painter who punches his medium onto giant canvases with boxing gloves. Noriko Shinohara is his wife, also an artist. She puts the needs of her husband and son before herself. Life has been a struggle, never enough money, and Ushio is an alcoholic (he stopped drinking in 2006). Noriko keeps things together; Ushio somewhat jokingly refers to her as his assistant. When she begins drawing stories with the semi-autobiographical character “Cutie” and her husband” Bullie” she finally feels she is a true artist. With this newly-found confidence, she carves out long-overdue space and time for herself and her drawings. This love story shows how dark and difficult a marriage can be, especially for two artists fighting to maintain individuality within their relationship. It’s both heartbreaking and sweet.
Oliver Burkeman: The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking (2012). Not only does this book validate my skepticism of the “Cult of Positive Thinking” it shows alternate ways to view failure, insecurity, and death via interviews with scientists, doctors, and philosophers, that just might lead to a happier existence. Burkeman uses his journalistic skills to examine happiness, and gives a conversational, eloquent, and often humorous account of his findings.
The South Downs, England. In May 2013, my bandmates and I crossed the Channel from France to England by car after a month-long tour of Europe. We chose to take the long way home from Folkestone to Southampton, driving through quintessential small towns and villages, and stopped for a picnic at Beachy Head, near Eastbourne. The view was gorgeous and surreal: the water and sky were perfect blues, the springtime-green grass was dotted with dandelions, and the cliffs (as well as the wandering Samaritan nuns’ habits – for Beachy Head is a popular spot for suicide) were glowing white. The sun warmed us as the wind cleansed our spirits, after a very trying and somewhat unsuccessful venture on the continent.