Wednesday 9 January 2008

Best of 2007

A bit of a hotch-potch. My preferences are never fixed, but it’s nice to remember a few things that made me happy.

Best book
Difficult. Both Half of a Yellow Sun and The Inheritance of Loss, two such different novels, were wonderful as much for exquisitely enjoyable writing as for importantly capturing a place and time. The Time Traveler's Wife, published earlier but new to me in 2007, was deeply memorable for its powerful and engaging metaphorical treatment of what love, life and relationships really feel like. Reading whole books of poetry is still quite new to me: Wendell Berry’s Given:Poems was a recent joy. Like almost every one of his books, John Berger’s 2007 essay collection, Hold Everything Dear was unmissable - his politics, his aesthetic, his deeply personal take on everything. The essay on desire was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever read. (And seeing him in the flesh was just the best, best, best). Orhan Pamuk’s Istanbul: Memories of a City stands out too, a hauntingly deep and thoughtful memoir of a man and his place. But I think I have to go for Suite Francaise, a true long-lost masterpiece and long-lost writer of the very highest calibre.

Best music
No hesitation here. Bach’s Cello Suites played on the viola da gamba by Paolo Pandolfo. I’ve heard so many different recordings, and liked many, but found none to surpass my cheaply remastered version of Pablo Casals. This is a bit different, though: even deeper and more naked.

Best film
I didn’t see a lot. I wonder why. I used to be such a cinephile. The one I loved most was The Singer. I’ve always been a big Depardieu fan. Great to see him at his very best in this gentle, subtle and intelligent film.

Best art
I’ll never forget Antony’s Gormley’s Iron Men, both in London and on the beach near Liverpool. Amrita Sher Gil was a wonderful discovery. Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s photographs were very special. But most fantastic pleasure of all was the Louise Bourgeois exhibition.

Best city
New York. I’m so emphatically not a city person, and prefer them small if I must. But New York on my second visit beguiled me just as much as it did the first time, 17 years ago. Funnily enough, London is feeling quite a bit better lately too.

Best food
Not a doubt: rhubarb pavlova. Just perfect. So good I named my blog after it.

Best drink
Ultra-trendy, expensively packaged cider – semi-sparkling, not-too-sweet, preferable organic, preferably single-variety. Yes, it is expensively packaged and ultra-trendy, but much cheaper than a bottle of wine, thirst-quenching rather than dehydrating, good with most things, and tastes excellent.

Best beasts
Red squirrels at Formby, rabbits at Gaia House, dragonflies on a hot day in Dulwich Park.

Best new blogs
Both new initiatives by established bloggers. Bird by bird, daily sketches by artist and birder Pica of Feathers of Hope is just like peering over her shoulder into a sketchbook - totally satisfying and since she’s a talented graphic designer as well as artist it looks just beautiful. The Morning Porch by Dave of Via Negativa is a beautiful use of the new Tumblr blogging software. Both of these appeal to me so much, I think, because they use the form in a way that is particularly appropriate and well-defined and thus take it to a higher level.

Best blogs new to me
Tales From the Reading Room, literary essays stylishly written by a British academic, and Brave New Words, on writing and translation, especially literary translation, by a Swedish/English translator and writer who is American and currently based in Wales. Regular reading of more like these is the way I want to go.

Best 2008 New Year’s Resolution
“Stop sleeping with the laptop on the other side of the bed” (Ernesto)


Zhoen said...

Wonderful. I too have seen few films, despite loving movies for so long. The best resolution feels a little to familiar, though I don't quite take the laptop love that far. Taking some days away would probably be good.

You remind me I have gotten into a blog rut. But the ones I read feel like old friends, and I don't know if I can take on more and still be a good blogfriend to the folks I read now.

Zhoen said...

too familiar, sorry.

Anonymous said...

Gosh, Jean, thanks for the nod! But what you must really tell me is this: how do you make rhubarb pavlova?? Sounds divine!

Jean said...

Pica, it's just stewed rhubarb in a meringue case, but the combination is outstandingly wonderful.

Anonymous said...

Hey, thanks for the mention of the Morning Porch. I am pleased and humbled to find myself in such good company.

This post almost makes me regret not doing a year-in-summary post of my own, this year, but it's fun to read everyone else's. Harry's at Heraclitean Fire was especially exhaustive.

My parents and I are extremely fond of rhubarb, which our Amish friends cut for us throughout the growing season. We even freeze it and eat it in the winter. It's really good with strawberries, too!

litlove said...

I'm thrilled to be included in your list - thank you so much! I consider that to be a real honour, and it's very nice to meet you, too!

Jean said...

Hello Litlove, how nice to see you here - I'm a fan!