Monday, December 27, 2004

AKA Year in Review: The Books

And so another Christmas comes and goes. I won’t go into any great detail about it here, seeing as, barring the odd superficial difference, Christmases are the same all over. I ate far too much. I probably drank too much. I’m positive I didn’t deserve the quantity and quality of presents I got. I will say, though, that it was a treat to have my first Christmas with little Buttercup. Even at the tender age of 3 months, she got a real kick out of it.

Anyway, enough of my yakking. Nothing can stop the AKA Year in Review, and the time has come to shoot a dirty look at my heaving bookshelves and eulogise the words of wisdom causing the wood to creak. Onwards!

Percival Everett – Erasure – A well-respected black author, who writes worthy but virtually unread academic tracts, is incensed at the soaring popularity of ghetto fiction. With a desire to put a gun to the genre’s head, he assumes the nom de guerre Stagg R. Leigh and pens My Pafology (later retitled Fuck), and then looks on in horror as the book becomes a massive success, as his life unravels out of his control. A great book where the storytelling is more important than the story told. Outstanding.

Newton Thornburg – Dreamland – Another well-deserved re-release from the long-forgotten crime writer behind the undisputed genre classic Cutter and Bone. First published in 1983, Dreamland is another tragic, elegiac knife in the guts of modern America, as money, drugs, porn, booze and corruption cause seeping lesions on the overfed white meat of Los Angeles, destroying lives indiscriminately. Strangely beautiful and sadly still relevant.

Mikhail Bulgakov – The Master and Margarita – The fabulist masterpiece about the appearance of the Devil and his minions in Moscow, as they turn the city into a heaving lunatic asylum. I read this under duress, thinking I would hate it. I was wrong. One of the finest books I’ve ever read.

Susannah Breslin – You’re a Bad Man, Aren’t You? – Breslin’s reports from behind the open sets and sticky lenses of Porn Valley were astonishing, so I was really looking forward to this first collection of short stories. I wasn’t disappointed. Harsh, terse, sharp little stabs of fiction to disturb and unsettle, peeling back the flesh on the modern American psyche. Go grab an insight into her first novel here, and see what one of the freshest voices in fiction sounds like.

Hunter S. Thompson – Kingdom of Fear (Loathsome Secrets of A Star-Crossed Child In the Final Days of the American Century) – Conclusive proof (not that we needed it) that those who believe that the Good Doctor is past his prime are wrong, wrong, wrong. His power to take unerring aim with well-chosen words is undimished, as he slices away at the short-sighted evil fucks dismantling the world piece by piece. Still the Daddy.

George P. Pelecanos – Hard Revolution – The Greatest Living American Crime Writer. Fact. Another piece of history clicks into place as Pelecanos looks back to Washington D.C. in the days surrounding the assassination of Martin Luther King. Pelecanos has yet to write a book that wasn’t stone brilliant, and this is no exception.

Don Siegel – A Siegel Film – I forgot I even had this book until I dug it out of a box that had been sitting in the corner of my office for the last year and a half. The man behind Invasions of the Body Snatchers and Dirty Harry writes his memoirs in a disarmingly honest, funny and entertaining way, slapping down all the fools he was forced to tolerate over the length of his impressive career.

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