Tuesday, 23 December 2008

list one

i read a fair amount of poetry this year. most of it, it has to be said, was older and, maybe because it's stood the test of time, better. best of the (new-ish)bunch came early on with soirbheas by meg bateman. i loved it from the first and nothing else has come close.
honourable mentions to robert alan jamieson for nort atlantik drift.

of the old stuff open world by kenneth white is something i've browsed most of the year, i was very happy to get octavio paz's collected works and i was, as usual, stunned by margaret atwood's poetry but, just because of sheeer enjoyability, my favourite collection of the year (old school or dead) was raymond carver's all of us. tess gallagher sold me on it sufficiently at this year's stanza that i got a copy over from the states and i haven't looked back since. everyone should have one.

books. i got even less lucky with books this year, especially fiction. on the non-fiction front i started the year with geert mak's in europe, which i enjoyed so much i'll be reading it again, even if i felt it flagged a bit towards the end and i don't necessarily agree with his conclusions. i'd also recommend his, much smaller, the bridge, about istanbul and i'm currently enjoying his history of amsterdam. if you haven't read him i'd thoroughly recommend him .

fiction. while kc constantine's hardboiled dialogue driven grievance sparked a late interest my fiction(esque) book of the year has to be marie carter's the trapeze diaries. small, perfectly formed, perfect. i enjoyed it so much i owe her a story in return, something i'm having to write from memory no less!

non-fiction. i was luckier with non fiction. robert crawford's scotland's books is an absolute must for anyone with an interest in the subject. peter conrad's creation is compulsive if maddening and not as good as his book on modernism. there were many but the clear winner was richard holmes age of wonder. utterly fabulous, assuming an interest in science and romantic poetry and the crossover of the two. if so you need to steal a copy of this if you can't afford it

film. early on i very much enjoyed the squid and the whale but beyond that there wasn't much in the way of quality english language cinema i enjoyed. genre wise shoot 'em up managed to distill the whole of the action genre so that it was as stylised as noh theatre. from the immortal line 'fuck you, you fucking fuckers' i was transfixed. for those without genre sense it will be utterly hateful, but for me it's triumphant, hilarious genius. and while i'm on the subject, in the year of obama if i see a better satire about race relations than the harold and kumar movies, esp the guantanamo bay effort, it'll be a surprise. throw away your copy of crash (really, just throw it away) and get this. honestly.

the others seem kind obvious - ne le dis a personne and das leben der anderen probably my favourites of the year. all health care workers should watch the diving bell and the butterfly and i was engaged and entertained by paris je t'aime. i was also surprised by the assassination of jesse james, a slow and compelling look at celebrity, rather than just a western. worth a look

special mentions - the savages (laura linney again), in bruges, flawed, under-rated and not the painterly film it might've been but quality. and fur, which it appears only me and the cast have seen. not quite the diane arbus story but if i've seen better set design i don;t know where

film of the year tho? a musical. walk hard - the dewey cox story. funny, knowing, a delight

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