It is hard to limit myself to books. There were so many other things that helped me survive this year. Here are my most memorable reads and watches for 2009
Sarah Waters‘ books. The new one released this year is titled The Little Stranger, but I also highly recommend the others, including Tipping the Velvet, Fingersmith, and the Night Watch. Her books are trilogies. Tipping the Velvet, Affinity, and Fingersmith give an outsiders perspective on Victorian England. Featuring lesbian relationships, the books are Dickensian in nature – an amazing power of observation and description of lives of those disfranchised, but not defined or beaten by the era they live in. Besides, her insights into the nature of sexuality and relationships transcend gender or sexual orientation. The Night Watch and now the Little Stranger take on the post-war England of the 1940s and are an evocative and haunting accounts of society emerging from the emotional and literal ruins of that war. As always, deeply personal, deeply resonating accounts.
As I think of it, this wasn’t the best year for film. But since I teach a Monster Film course, I’d like to refer to a horror movie that gave me the most pleasure this year – Drag Me to Hell (directed by Sam Raimi). Raimi is the director of The Evil Dead series (“Good… Bad.. I am the guy with the gun“) and he knows how seamlessly to blend together horror and humor. A deranged, brutally funny, scary film that features goats, kittens, and the economic crisis. The most entertaining experience I had in the theater all year. This is the movie that makes me wish Raimi would stop making Spiderman sequels and do this full time.
As bad of a year this was for movies, its been a great year for TV. First of all, Battlestar Gallactica came to a thought-provoking, if frustrating, end. If you are into sci-fi and haven’t check out this metaphorical examination of life in the age of terrorism, do so immediately. This summer I also discovered The Wire, which wrapped up its last season last year. A character-driven drama about crime-ridden streets of Baltimore, it slowly unfolds, much like a novel, to reveal layers of social conflict and institutional injustice, which inform so many of characters choices. One of the best recent explorations of race and class in America. Finally, there is Mad Men, a drama set in the advertising world of the 1960s. A fascinating window into the time when “everything has changed”, its a stylized and fascinating ethnographic study of that time period. Season 3 ended this year with JFK’s assassination, a poignant and well-researched portrayal of the effects of a national tragedy on the psyche of an “innocent” nation. Good stuff.
These are the things that kept me sane this – very difficult – year.