i’m doing this in questionnaire form because i found out i couldn’t do it in a comprehensive, full-sentenced manner. i think this year kind of sucked reading-wise – not that i didn’t read a lot but most of it was a) on buses; b) while i should have been writing; c) when i didn’t have access to the internet. and probably the last bit explain’s [* !!! DID I FUCKING MAKE THAT SPELLING MISTAKE!?!? I DON”T CARE THAT IT WAS 3 A.M.!!! SHAME ON ME, FOREVER1 I’M NOT EVEN CORRECTING IT, IT SHOULD STAY THERE AS REMINDER. AND IN A POST ABOUT READING!] a lot. it’s totally obama’s fault. well, it’s someone else’s fault than mine. anyway, this is a personal list, duuuh, it means i chose from among what i read this year; it does not mean that any of these books is fresh on the market or ‘should’ be relevant to the general public in 2008, for any other reason than because i tell you it’s good.
1. BOOK OF THE YEAR: philip roth – ‘american pastoral’. (i’d read roth before, and been annoyed by him, so this is singular, and exceptional. i like a solid historical/cultural foundation to a book, i love an abrupt ending as opposed to a rounded, tied-up-with-a-bow one, i adore a twisted bigger-than-life character. it simply touched on some favourite obsessions of mine through time – and it happened here, now. )
2. WRITER OF THE YEAR: richard ford (spring), haruki murakami (fall). i had planned to read murakami for a long time now, and i went through 4 of his novels. being in a murakami book is existing within a universe where anything can touch you, and from where you will emerge subtly changed. by contrast, ford is as real to my mind as a blow to the head – and i mean real and blow in the good way :)).
3.GENRE OF THE YEAR: i’m not sure if short story is its own genre (duuuh, it’s not) – but it deserves to be. i read enough collections this year as to realize i hadn’t really done it before. or not to this extent. ford (‘rock springs’), annabel lyon (‘oxygen’), alice munro (‘open secrets’), lorrie moore (‘birds of america’), and i know i wanted nancy lee’s collection a lot but didn’t get it. i used to only read stories in magazines or anthologies. which brings me to the brilliant thought that maybe the feature of 2008 is the ‘author collection of shorter pieces’.
cause if you don’t accept that answer, i would have to answer ‘non-fiction’. i definitely hadn’t read much non-fiction before. and among other things this was definitely a joan didion year („the year of magical thinking”, but also „slouching towards bethehem”) and, surprise! a slavenka drakulic year. who’d have thunk?
4.TREND OF THE YEAR: a)eastern-european blah: kundera, klima, drakulic. b)a vague, but yet unshaped, tendency to try out comics. c) ??? (this is a shitty rubric, i don’t know exactly what i meant by ‘trend’)
5. WRITER I ENVIED MOST THIS YEAR: miranda july ; rachel k.
6. WORST-TIMED READ OF THE YEAR: reading irving’s „prayer for owen meany”, which is an amazing book, while i was busy thinking of other stuff. also, i finished it quickly, because it’s so good and because i was stressed, which probably means it won’t influence me much.
7. WORST READ OF THE YEAR: robert kroetsch- ‘what the crow said’. i read it because it had been recommended in class, against my better judgment that was telling me not to force it, because some stuff just isn’t for everyone. i should have given it up on page 10. i won’t even say it is bad, it probably isn’t. to me it was unreadable.
8. GOOD ANNOYING READ OF THE YEAR: ondaatje – ‘in the skin of a lion’ and muriel barbery- ‘the elegance of the hedgehog’. they were recommended books, which i knew i’d discuss with people afterwards, and which i had to bring myself to making sort of a case against. during which i, of course, discovered that i couldn’t have gotten so passionate if those books were plain bad.
9. LITTLE GEM OF THE YEAR: paula fox – ‘desperate characters’. (j. franzen’s recommendation)
10. MAGAZINE ISSUES OF THE YEAR: love love love: Granta 47 (‘losers’), Granta 77 (‘what we think of america’), Mcsweeney’s 26 (‘where to invade next’). also, please observe the titles, in case you hadn’t.
11. BOOKS/AUTHORS I ABSOLUTELY WANTED TO READ THIS YEAR AND DIDN”T: nancy lee – ‘dead girls’, david foster wallace, cormac mccarthy, the autobio of malcolm x.
12. ANYTHING ELSE? hellz yes. this year i met 3 people (2 of whom i don’t know well at all and 1 of whom i probably don’t even like) who in my judgment (mostly mean and harsh, no?) deserve to become known at least continent-wide simply on account of talent. not bad, i think, for the future of literature or whatever. it will continue to get written.