Saturday, January 30, 2010

Books read in 2009

This is an incomplete list of books I read in 2009, starting sometime in April and finishing with January (yes, of 2010, I know). I've posted the previous post and this with the full intention of getting back on the blogging horse. I've figured out what I'm going to do with my life, and it's only a matter of time. In the period of waiting for my real life to begin (after Colin Hay), I will be mounting a few endeavours, including reading all the Booker Prize winners, and perhaps perhaps perhaps, tentatively beginning a long-gestating novel. So without further delay, the incomplete list of books I read (in random order) interspersed with some comments.

The first part includes the Booker Prize winners:

Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre
-very overrated, I found this disappointing - worst of the Booker
The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
-this was an absolutely fantastic read... possibly one of the best novels I've ever read in my life
Paddy Clarke Hahaha by Roddy Doyle
The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje
The Gathering by Anne Enright
Disgrace by J. M. Coetzee
-I would place this high on a list of Best of the Booker
The Life and Times of Michael K. by J. M. Coetzee
-unbelievably awesome
The Sea by John Banville
Amsterdam by Ian McEwan
The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
Last Orders by Graham Swift
In A Free State by V. S. Naipaul
-Undeserving of the Booker; definitely a minor work for Naipaul
The Ghost Road by Pat Barker
-I felt wholly ambivalent of this work. Perhaps it's because this is the third part of a trilogy that I hadn't read the first two parts
The Conservationist by Nadine Gordimer
-extremely difficult work that reminds me of Gaddis mixed with Coetzee
The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai
Holiday by Stanley Middleton
-a very British work that reminded me strongly of Yates

The rest of the list:

Swan Song by Robert McCammon
Last Night at Twisted River by John Irving
-shockingly amazing. I couldn't believe how good this was
Until I Find You by John Irving
-terrible.
Slow Man by J. M. Coetzee
Enduring Love by Ian McEwan
Age of Iron by J. M. Coetzee
Last Night at the Lobster by Stuart O'Nan
Songs for the Missing by Stuart O'Nan
Under the Dome by Stephen King
-not bad. definitely the mark of an expert plotter
The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell
Masks of God Volume One Primitive Mythology by Joseph Campbell
Masks of God Volume Two Oriental Mythology by Joseph Campbell
Child in Time by Ian McEwan
Saturday by Ian McEwan
The Progress of Love by Alice Munro
A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge
Bones of the Earth by Michael Swanwick
The Chronoliths by Robert Charles Wilson
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
-I should have read this years ago
A Tragic Honesty: The Life of Richard Yates by Blake Bailey
Clockers by Richard Price
Light in August by William Faulkner
A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
-I have a difficult relationship with his prose. I can never get past the cold surface and enjoy whatever the world loves about his work
Soul Circus by George Pelecanos
The Way Home by George Pelecanos
A Frolic of His Own by William Gaddis
-hilarious
Freedomland by Richard Price
Samaritan by Richard Price
The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
Wiseblood by Flannery O'Connor
The Stars my Destination by Alfred Bester
-perfect
Disturbing the Peace by Richard Yates
Babel-17 by Samuel R Delany
Empire Star by Samuel R Delany
-this is one of the best science fiction works I've ever had the pleasure of reading.
Ripley Under Ground by Patricia Highsmith
Ripley's Game by Patricia Highsmith
Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill
-decent
The Penultimate Truth by Philip K Dick
The Crack in Space by Philip K Dick
Never Let me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
-heartbreaking, graceful, beautiful, and almost fragile in its exquisite prose
On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan
-not sure why critics are so divided on this... I loved it.
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
-fantastic!

Here's what I've got on my plate for the next couple weeks:
Possession by A. S. Byatt; Saville by David Storey; Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey; The Gold-Bug Variations by Richard Powers; Beloved by Toni Morrison

I will attempt to review these as best as I can. Looking forward to seeing you again at a lay of the land...

2009's Film In Review

My girlfriend and I saw a ton of movies in 2009. More than she's probably seen in one year ever. 2009 was a definitely fantastic year for movies, including a couple films that I would consider some of the best ever....

Here are my personal top ten films of 2009.

10. A Serious Man
The Coen Brothers' most personal film, it's very funny, very dark and very allegorical... The lead actor was absolutely amazing. Very deserving of an Oscar nod.

9. Watchmen
I hated this in the theatre. It was three in the morning and I was falling asleep. The plot twists couldn't keep me awake, considering I studied the book in university I was familiar enough with it. But... the director's cut on Blu-Ray? Well, it fixed all the problems I had. The pacing felt better, the scenes were fleshed out. It's certainly not The Dark Knight, but it's a damn good enjoyable flick.

8. L'ennemi public n°1
A four hour French movie split into two parts, this came out in 2008, but I saw it in 2009. Absolutely balls to the wall crime movie about the real Jacques Mesrine, a bank robber and all around badass. Great action scenes, great character building and great performances make this movie.

7. The Hangover
Infinitely quotable, this was the surprise of the year. I wasn't expecting much, but I was blown away. I wish most comedies were this tight, this well written and this entertaining.

6. Paranormal Activity
Another 2008 movie, but it hit theatres in 2009, Nadya and I saw this at home, in the dark (with the vastly superior original ending) and both of us had problems sleeping. Very effective horror is mostly suggestion, and this movie delivers.

5. Up
I cried harder in the first ten minutes of this movie than I ever have in a theatre. In ten minutes, Pixar manages to elicit a more real emotional response than thousands of other movies. Anybody who says animation is for kids is a complete idiot. Even after the perfect intro, the movie continues to amaze, astound, and move. The sensational character of the year? Dug....

4. Avatar
The amazing visuals alone would make this movie, but it's got more. It's got a great performance from Sam Worthington and a fantastic one from a sixty year old Sigourney Weaver. I never felt that this was a three hour movie; I was enthralled the entire time.

3. The Hurt Locker
Edge of your seat action movie. A war movie that isn't ABOUT war. It's about the men serving and the crazy stuff they must put up with. Jeremy Rennie, as the lead, is a revelation. Add in the amazing camera work, the cameos from Guy Pearce and Ralph Fiennes, this is a great action movie.

2. Drag Me to Hell
This is what horror movies are all about. Sam Raimi announces his dominance of the genre with his trademark humour, gore, slapstick, and nihilism. Absolutely hilarious and a perfect use of sound in a movie. Unfortunately it won't get the Oscar for Best Sound, but it damn well should.

1. Inglourious Basterds.
What a fantastic perfect film. Hilarious, offbeat, violent, engaging, and filled with tons of that trademark Tarantino dialogue. In 2009, I saw this movie THREE times. Once in the theatre and then twice at home. I love the odd structure to the movie, the disparate plot threads that come together, the odd tangents and the musical cues.

Movies that didn't quite make the cut?
District 9 was really good, but I fell asleep in the theatre, so I missed like half of it.
I Love You Man was very funny, and enriched my life with Rush fandom.
Last House on the Left is the winner for most uncomfortable theatre experience of my entire life....
The Lovely Bones was superficially entertaining, but the murky philosophical undertones ruined the experience for me. See Roger Ebert's articulate review for details and why I hate this movie.
Star Trek was good, but I could write a whole essay on the plot holes in the screenplay.
World's Greatest Dad was a fantastic dark comedy starring Robin Williams that nobody saw, but I did and I loved it. Its reliance on its pop music soundtrack is a negative, but that's it.
The Final Destination was okay.
Bolt was okay.

I didn't see Public Enemies although I wanted to. I also have waiting to be watched on DVD The Fantastic Mr Fox, Where The Wild Things Are and Up In the Air, all three of which I'm excited to watch.

Most movies I saw this year I liked. There was only a couple movies that I outright disliked, and even then I was able to find some positive aspects.

I look forward to 2010... but it has some stiff competition from 2009, that's for sure.