Friday, December 28, 2007

Awaiting the New Year with "Alfred Kropp"

I’ve never been a fan of the New Year’s holiday. It seems so random to use the changing of the calendar as a reason to set goals, a starting-point for change. For many years, friends and I have made a practice of skipping the iconic descending ball, opting instead for the early bird special at a local bistro and bedtime before eleven. Yet as I write this on December 28th, I find myself waiting to begin again.

Perhaps human beings simply need this sense of renewed opportunity to re-prime the canvas and try another landscape, another color. Thus the appeal of New Year’s Eve lies in its very arbitrary (yet grand-scale) embrace of something we want every morning when we rise, every Monday when we return to the desk, and every season when we switch out the wardrobe and adjust the thermostat. As the champagne sloshes and the incomprehensible “Auld Lang Syne” crackles through the speakers, we become the Baby New Year, fresh and darling and full of possibility.

As a non-material gift to each of my sons, I read one book of their recommendation over the holidays. My eleven-year-old chose Rick Yancy’s “The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp.” This splendid reimagining of the Arthurian legend bears mention here for its unique take on notions of death and “rebirth.” The titular character encounters death both literally during the wild adventure and psychologically as his sense of self is transformed through his experience. ‘Who is Alfred Kropp?’—the thematic question of the novel—evolves richly into ‘What does it mean to ask ‘who am I’ and what does the answer require of me?’

This is what New Year’s is all about. While not new information, it bears consideration if you feel at all moved (or distressed) by this quirky holiday. For myself, I plan to think hard about themes of identity and renewal in what I read and what I write…and I’m going to really try to get an agent.

So much for scoffing at that blasted Times Square ball!

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