Sunday, December 30, 2007

The best of the season

Best read of the year, hands down the oh-my-gawd-this-book-is-so-devastatingly-inside-my-head book:
The Gold Bug Variations, by Richard Powers.

Best book published in 2007:
Well, I didn't read them all, did I?, but I have a fondness for Divisadero, by Michael Ondaatje.

Book that made me cry:
Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky, by Patrick Hamilton, in particular The Plains of Cement, being Ella's story and the last of the trilogy of novellas published under that umbrella title.

Book that didn't live up to its hype:
The Post-Birthday World, by Lionel Shriver.
Oh, and The Road, by Cormac McCarthy, was a pretty gawdawful excuse for a dystopian postapocaptic novel — hated it.

Best "discovery":
Last Evenings on Earth, by Roberto BolaƱo.

Book I couldn't finish:
Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace.

Book I feel I wasted my time on:
The Wasp Factory, by Iain Banks.

Most awesome book to have received as a review copy and keep on one's coffee table:
The Annotated Cat: Under the Hats of Seuss and His Cats, introduced and annotated by Philip Nel.

Book I've raved about and recommended to the most people, and to cross-dressing lesbians in particular:
The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas.

Book whose publication I'm most anticipating:
The Painter of Battles, by Arturo Perez-Reverte.

Book (on my shelf) I'm most looking forward to reading — OK, books plural, I can't pick one, but oh, which one do I start next?, I can't decide:
The Last Cavalier: Being the Adventures of Count Sainte-Hermine in the Age of Napoleon, by Alexandre Dumas.
The Adventures of Amir Hamza: Lord of the Auspicious Planetary Conjunction, by Ghalib Lakhnavi and Abdullah Bilgrami.

Number of books read in 2007, including the one I expect to finish in the next day or two but not counting the one (of the 2 listed above) that I intend to start when I crawl into bed tonight: 50.

Books I'm still thinking about, 1 and 2 years after the fact, and concerning which I continue to have revelations and mean to explore further (in writing, here):

War and Peace (read 2006), the crux of my idea being that the post-hunt scene — the meal, the dance — is central, the near physical centre of the novel, but the heart and soul of it too, and a turning point, when characters finally feel — know — their Russianness, and the French militarily begin to flounder, almost as if this reclaiming of Russianness thumbs its nose at all things French and aristocratic to claim a moral, soulful victory over war itself.

Don Quixote (read 2005), having an understanding (thanks to Alberto Manguel's Massey lectures) of why it is a quintessentially Spanish book — while its themes are pretty universal, blah, blah, blah, I hadn't understood what was so Spanish about it, why it should strike a chord in the Spanish soul more so than that of any other reader, and realizing that it is because it taps into a cultural memory, that the Spanish reader may not even consciously know, that the book parallels Spain's own history in its struggle for identity, with there always being some doubt as to whether it is authentically Spanish or Moorish in origin, with any physical/cultural/social artefact evidencing the one often masquerading as the other.

Hours spent watching Doctor Who this holiday season (including the Christmas special, available on youtube if you didn't already know): infinite, matching the number of times we've said "Allons-y, Alonso!" in this household.
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