I know you’re up to your ears in year-end and “best of” stories – I’ve already posted my traditional ‘Top 20 Cultural Events’ piece – and I don’t blame you a bit for zipping right past this one.
But if you’ve got the time this lazy holiday weekend, I’m trying something a little different this year. I decided for the first time to compile a tally of my 10 favorite stories of the year from a writer’s standpoint. These pieces stuck with me, either emotionally or in terms of craftsmanship, and I want to share them with you.
My favorite piece of the year. Reading Orhan Pamuk’s gorgeous novel of obsessive love and then visiting the museum he crafted in tandem with it in Istanbul was a dizzying meta exercise in the power of literature. Part travel story, part homage to creative brilliance, I’ll never forget this one.
You could say I worked on this article for 15 years. As conductor Theodore Kuchar prepared to leave his post at the Fresno Philharmonic, he was at times brutally honest with me, going places where high-profile figures leaving their jobs often don’t go. Besides, Ted is such a distinctive character that it was a delight to be able to give readers a backstage glimpse of this talented musician.
This was a quick, dashed-off review, but when I reread it today, I’m proud of how Brugger’s gorgeous vocals challenged me to attempt to describe her memorable vocals. Great artistry can be inspirational in itself.
The fanboy in me can still come out, and this preview piece for the opera’s “Music and Verse” series was a chance to introduce the genius of composer Ricky Ian Gordon, one of the most likable people I interviewed all year.
A late-spring trip to the islands of Terceira and Sao Miguel in the Azores archipelago was a chance to document a beautiful and fascinating culture with a strong connection to our own San Joaquin Valley. Besides, how often do you get to stand 4 feet away from a raging 2,000-pound bull?
This one is all about the video. I had a blast subjecting the StageWorks Fresno cast of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” to an unscripted spelling challenge. (Hardest word: “autochthonous.”)
Hung Liu was the Fresno Art Museum’s 2016 Council of 100 Distinguished Woman Artist, and it was a delight to meet her and her curator husband, then translate her fascinating odyssey from post-Cultural Revolution artist in Beijing to an acclaimed California career.
My review of Woodward Shakespeare Festival’s scrappy and insightful production gave me the chance to muse about life, death and Shakespeare.
It might not have been the height of literary brilliance, but this sad-sack column about the perils of flying in and out of Fresno certainly was one of my most popular offerings of the year. I’m still getting phone calls from people offering FYI horror stories.
Allow me to indulge myself for this last one. I think I managed to work more “Heathers” dialogical illusions from the cult movie into 950 words than should be legal. Are we going to prom, or to hell?
We all have fascinating stories to tell. I’m glad I got to share a sliver of Mr. Vavoulis’ remarkable life with my readers.