Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Books of the Year
Once again, fimoculous has compiled all of the best-of lists he could find. If you know of others, please e-mail him.

Among fiction, these are the works most frequently mentioned.

The Accidental by Ali Smith

On Beauty by Zadie Smith

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Arthur & George by Julian Barnes

Saturday by Ian McEwan

Lunar Park by Bret Easton Ellis

We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

The Sea by John Banville

Shalimar the Clown by Salman Rushdie

The March by E.L. Doctorow

I'm glad that Ali Smith is here and it's good to see Rushdie revived. (Incidentally, this blog was -- according to my research-- the website that broke the news about Shalimar. Thank you, Emory, for inviting him to Atlanta.) Lunar Park and Kafka on the Shore are the ones I'm most looking forward to reading because I haven't read those authors before.

Among the non-fiction crowd we have:

Mao: The Unknown Story. By Jung Chang and Jon Halliday

1776, by David McCullough

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond

The Assassin's Gate: America in Iraq by George Packer

1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Charles C. Mann

As crookedtimberites pointed out earlier, the weakness of the Packer book is that it devotes almost no space to war opposers, of both the pacifist and the anti-this-war-now types.

Finally, here are a couple that seem fascinating but didn't make more than a couple of shortlists:
Tulia: Race, Cocaine and Corruption in a Small Texas Town by Nate Blakeslee

Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel by Jane Smiley

UPDATE (1/23): Moved Doctorow's The March from non-fiction to fiction.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Speaking of Frayn
Does anyone else think that Frayn's Sweet Dreams is the yang to the yin of Stanley Elkin's The Living End?


The movie, not the city.

Based on a play by Michael Frayn, the movie uses a shorter script. I haven't read the play so I don't know what was cut out, but the excisions were done neatly and probably with Frayn's guidance, because nothing seemed lost. Even though the movie is subtle when it deals with human relationships, it is also blunt, perhaps necessarily so, when it presents analogies between physical principles and psychological ones. Maybe the bluntness just irritated me because it reminded me of the lack of subtely in Bollywood films. Copenhagen is about the meeting between Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg that took place during the Second World War. The meeting was cut short by Bohr who angrily walked away. No one is entirely sure why, and you can easily guess which principle in physics Frayn will use to address that uncertainty.

Apart from the metaphors, there are other authorial seams showing as well, but the quality of the film as a whole made me want to forgive those flaws. At its conclusion, the story veers from the personal to the global. That Frayn makes the transition seem natural speaks to the richness of this movie.

Incidentally, I picked this film because a review of the Coens' The Man Who Wasn't There (1991) mentioned that a scene in that movie was a parody of the play Copenhagen. The movie was made in 1992. Lots of goodies are to be found at the PBS Copenhagen and BBC Copenhagen websites. And there's this follow up.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Posting has Been Light
  • roommate gets new job in Dallas and tells me his daughter is moving into his room
  • roommate gets heart attack one Sunday morning
  • roommate recovers. roommate's daughter loses friend in car wreck
  • i finally get the job offer from the company that's put me on hold for forever
  • i figure out how to submit my resignation, since I've never done that before
  • the job change gives me immigration woes again
  • my ex's brother dies of complications from pneumonia
  • roommate moves to Dallas
I picked one hell of a time to listen to Giya Kancheli.