2011, A Reader’s Year in Review

Being by nature really quite modest, I’m hesitant to spotlight The Best Blog Post of 2010. True, it’s mine, but a virtuous performance cares not one jot who the performer is. The rendition is what really matters. I don’t even have to cite Foucault to bask in the glow of this certainty. The glory of The Best Blog Post of 2010 is that it breathes life into an exhausted form, you know, the obligatory year in summary reading list. Everyone has one. James Wood’s got one and Coetzee does too. Ends up, however, that innovating on a form even as piddling as a blog post takes time. Which is why I happily follow in the steps of Wood, Coetzee and others, here, here, here, here and here. Theirs are very good lists by the way. Much better than mine so please pay them a visit.

As for my favorite reads of 2011, here they are:

Farmer by Jim Harrison, a slim novel filled with beautiful descriptions of rural life. A cowhide rug is to Farmer what liver is to Portnoy’s Complaint. Except only a wee bit different.

Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates explores inauthenticity without employing this jargonistic term. Thankfully.

Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman. As I said in a comment to Karyn on her very fine blog, Whitman’s poetry is so grand I don’t care if it’s verse and not prose fiction. It can even be termed statistics for all I care.

Herzog by Saul Bellow solves the problem of existence. This can’t be shown. Only felt.

The Dog of the South by Charles Portis is an American odyssey rife with humor. Portis’ storytelling voice is his great, abiding gift to anyone who cares to read him.

Embers by Sándor Márai is simply exquisite. Five, 10, 15 years from now, I will remember 2011 as the year I read Embers. Just fantastic.

Paradoxically Foe by Coetzee and Vanity Fair by Thackeray make honorable mention precisely because I only enjoyed them retrospectively and well after the fact.

Although I haven’t mentioned non-fiction on Interpolations before, Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes is a very fine book. He argues that a low-fat, high-carb diet is unhealthy because it leads to insulin resistance, obesity and the diseases of civilization. For brief articles by Taubes, I direct you here and there.

Have a great holiday season!

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18 Responses to 2011, A Reader’s Year in Review

  1. anokatony says:

    A lot of standouts on your list. My favorites are ‘Embers’, ‘Revolutionary Road’, and ‘Vanity Fair’ could very well be my all-time favorite read.

  2. That was a good old post. How’d you like Immensee?

    • Hi Tom, I feel like I’ve missed the punchline of a joke or have somehow let you down by not reading Immensee. I had to do a quick search on your blog to learn what you were talking about. Even now I’m not sure if its the book or one of your posts about the book. While I know nothing about Immensee, I did recently buy Green Henry!

  3. Danielle says:

    Hmm. I think I might have to go pull Sandor Marai off my shelves today. I’ve owned several books by him for years and your mention reminds me that I need to read him (and his inclusion in your list means that I am in for a treat, too). I know what you mean by appreciating a book after you’ve read it–I have those sorts of experiences, too.

    • Danielle, it’s good to see you here. It’s been a while. Yes, pull it off your shelves and answer for me the seemingly simple question, what precisely does Krizstina mean by the word “coward” and is she correct in calling Konrad a coward, and if “death is eloquent,” if “death is an answer,” according to Marai, what is death saying? K

  4. Tony says:

    A Merry Christmas to you and yours – have a little gift in the form of some recommendations: how about Stefan Zweig’s ‘Schachnovelle’, Shusaku Endo’s ‘Silence’, and Steven Carroll’s ‘Glenroy Trilogy’ of novels about life in suburban Melbourne?

    Ho-ho-ho…

  5. Fascinating list Kevin … I mean to read Revolutionary Road one day and I clearly must add Embers to the list of TBRs. I’m still thinking about whether to produce a best of … but I am planning a sort of highlights post if I can get my thoughts together over the next couple of days.

    Have a great Xmas.

  6. Sue! Did you know that you’re the second most prolific commenter on my blog behind me? It’s true, I have the stats to prove it. Which is an indirect apology for not commenting on your blog more often. I’m sorry. Hope you have a great Xmas too!

    • Well, I’m honoured to be your second best commenter! I enjoy your posts … but no need to apologise (though I am always very happy to see you over my way and would love to see you more) as I appreciate you have different commitments and responsibilities to me. Have a good holiday season.

  7. Second most prolific I mean!!

  8. Kerry says:

    I think you’ve now wrapped up “Best Blog Post of 2011”. If the award goes to anyone else, you were robbed.

    I am, of course, quite pleased that Embers made your list and in style. I want to be proud of that, but I didn’t actually write it.

    Coetzee and Bellow are favorites of mine this year too, though I’ve read neither Herzog nor Foe. And we’ll have to put the camel down and I’ll have to pick up Revolutionary Road.

    I am tempted to gift Skylark by Dezso Kosztolanyi. However, despite being (like Embers) translated from Hungarian, drawing (like Embers) its power from subtlety, and making (like Embers) my own best of the year list, I cannot say it is (like Embers) a masterpiece. Thus, I give you Samuel Beckett’s Murphy. It is a masterpiece with a keen wit which (if you’ve not yet read it), I am sure you will find complements your own.

    Late Merry Christmas and a perfectly timed Happy New Year!

    • Murphy is perfect! I’m staring at a copy of Beckett’s triology on my bookshelves right now and am tempted ala Biblioklept and Times Flow Stemmed’s bookshelving project to snap a picture of it to prove my excitement, but the football game is on and I’m really quite lazy at heart, so you’ll just have to take my word for it. I hope you’ve had a great holiday season and kicked off the New Year in style. I’m looking foward to visiting your blog in the coming weeks and months. Take good care. Many cheers. K

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