I wasn't sure whether to bother with this having published my books of the decade last week but this blog has always included more than the written word so I hope you'll indulge me a little further. I was pleased to be able to continue reviewing generally, what with the arrival of baby No.2 into our lives, and only hope the quality of what I have to say hasn't dipped too dramatically. I'll try to keep the reviews coming as quick as I can next year but if there's a bit of a pause in between posts you'll know why.
You already know that I picked Lark and Termite as my novel of the year (other notables include Simon Mawer's The Glass Room, Stefan Zweig's Beware Of Pity and Fred Wander's The Seventh Well) so I'll draw your attention to some short and non-fiction if I may.
Plenty of other bloggers as well as the mainstream press have been queueing up to praise David Vann's collection of stories, Legend Of A Suicide. It is a book which almost defies categorisation and indeed has been presented differently here from the US (where each section is numbered as you might chapters in a novel rather than headed with story titles as it is in the UK). A fictional exploration of his father's own suicide, the stories are like broken fragments that reflect something unique about the experience. The facts change in each story but remain linked by their common themes and inspiration. The book is dominated by its central tale which makes the book worth buying on its own; a thrilling and horrific short that has a twist in the middle that will take your breath away.
Two Weeks by Grizzly Bear from Veckatimest
White Blank Page by Mumford & Sons from Sigh No More
Laura by Girls from Album
Keep The Streets Empty by Fever Ray from Fever Ray
It was released right at the start of the year and remains the film that made the biggest impact on me at the very end. Darren Aranovsky's film was a comeback for him as much as its star in my eyes and the unflinching honesty of this portrayal of a former wrestler's comeback makes it uncomfortable but essential viewing. We are so used to watching polished film stars being beautifully lit and shot from angles that compliment, dare I say it - enhance their features that the harsh daylight and shadow of this film, the way that every imperfection on that pummelled face and body is highlighted make it all the more extraordinary. It isn't only Mickey Rourke who allows himself to become the object of our scrutiny, Marisa Tomei is just as brave in her own performance and both are to be commended for the way they open themselves up for our perusal.
I won't bother about Theatre and Art as I've done virtually none of either. Suffice to say that theatre wise you should all come and see me in War Horse. As for Art, all I can suggest is that you give the latest installation in Tate Modern's turbine hall by Miroslaw Balka a miss. You make your way up and into the vast shipping-like container via a ramp, the light gradually disappearing inside, the sound deadened by felt-lined walls. In theory you would be tentatively feeling your way forward, afraid of colliding with others, scared of bumping into the dead end of the space, unsure of where that is. Balka hasn't taken into consideration the mobile phone however. There are two types of people: those that would turn off their mobile phone when going into a gallery/theatre etc in order to enjoy the experience and those that wouldn't even consider doing that and certainly have no worries about using them. Despite a sign saying that phones and cameras are not to be used I'd be surprised if you could find a time of day when that black space isn't being illuminated by someone taken a picture/video, texting, or simply finding there way about via their mobile phone screen. It's a shame but I'm not convinced that I'd have got an awful lot more from the installation if rules had been observed or I'd been on my own.