Best of 2011
The only thing more cliche than making a year-end list is talking about making a year-end list. And so I won’t. Below is a review of some of the things I enjoyed in the past year.
Books read: 30
Pages read: 13,487
One of the reasons I take literature to be the top artform is that it requires commitment. Listening to an album takes less than an hour; a film around two hours; a painting a few seconds. A book, though, requires over fifteen hours of attention. So while I listened to over 500 albums this past year, I was only able to read 30 books. As a result, books tend to linger with me longer. I find myself thinking back over interactions between characters or interesting quotations. I search for comparisons in my own life or to other books I’ve read. And every once and awhile a particular line in a novel will leave me stunned and unable to go on. Two books more than any other left me stunned this year (actually three, but I can’t bring myself to write about Pale King again):
A Visit From The Goon Squad, Jennifer Egan
Key Quote: “There are so many ways to go wrong. All we’ve got are metaphors, and they’re never exactly right. You can never just Say. The. Thing.”
The Instructions, Adam Levin
Key Quote: “The point was to learn what it was we feared more: being misunderstood or being betrayed.”
2011 was a good year for me word-wise. I started two blogs tried to write for at least an hour a day. Writing, like reading (or jogging, or something), requires routine and discipline. The more you do it, the easier it gets–er…or maybe “the more you produce.” The thing I try to remember is that writing comes easily to no one; you just have to do it. The best thing I wrote this year was also the first thing:
Favorite Thing I Wrote: Obama in 2012: Politics as Usual
Key Quote: “Obama’s political rhetoric has shifted from instilling an ethic through hard work to glorifying the pose of the everyday ideal American.”
Honorable Mention: Weekly Kitsch: You’re Old
Key Quote: “We snark the existence of the shirt in order to protect ourselves from the inevitable truth that culture, once so in love with us, is passing us by.”
Favorite Post I Read Written By Someone Else: Now What?, William Bowers
Key Quote: “I was never too much of an unbearable goober about an act’s unoriginality or detectable influences, as long as their work seemed strong. Or so I thought, until fad-tentacles re-latched onto tones that I lived through the first time.”
Favorite Post I Read Written By A Friend: I am not Fooled by You, Virgin America, AJ Aronstein (incidentally, the best way to find this is to google: “AJ Aronstein Virgin”).
Key Quote: “Next time you fly, just remember that you’re only ever one snowstorm, two malfunctioning on-board toilets, and a few angry New Yorkers away from a riot.”
My Favorite Album: Destroyer – Kaputt
Movies Watched: Somewhere between 50 and 100.
Of all the films I watched this year, only a few were released in 2011. I spent most of the year catching up on Westerns ranging from Destry Rides Again (1939) to True Grit (2010). If there’s one thing I can point to that different between Westerns then and now, it’s that older Westerns tend to be less obsessed with authenticity and, paradoxically, feel realer as a result. It’s as if recent Westerns like True Grit, 3:10 To Yuma, and Cowboys and Aliens are more interested in costumes and randomly name-checking tropes than producing a compelling film. My favorite film this year wasn’t a Western. My favorite film this year was a perfect thematic match for 2011 and it while watching it that I realized our culture’s current obsession with nostalgia has left us nostalgic for actual nostalgia.
My Favorite Film: Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen