2013 ends on a great note, with another poem of mine published in online journal The Broken City‘s music-themed issue, just posted today! (My poem, “At the Bardot,” is on page 9). 13 was a bit my lucky number this year — I had work in Beatdom‘s #13 issue too, and (though it was doesn’t work for a number-13 trifecta) I was terribly excited to be in issue #89 of FIELD this fall.
And now, after a quick reminder that you can sign up to receive an email alert when there’s a new post in the new year towards the bottom of the page (the “Yes Please” button on the lower left under where it says “Be Alerted To New Posts”), here’s my traditional quick look back at what I read and watched this year… first the books:
Best Poetry Collection I read this year tops out with Laura Jensen’s Bad Boats (1977) (thank you thank you thank you, Mom, for getting me my own copy for Christmas!), but Martha Collins‘ vivid and moving Blue Front (2006), and James L. White’s sensual Salt Ecstasies (1982) are up there too.
Best Individual Poems: “Merry Christmas from Hegel” by Anne Carson (which was just published in the Gulf Coast Review and which begins about 3:30 minutes in to this recording of a reading in London — hat tip to my friend Wally for bringing our writing group all copies of this piece. The ensuing discussion included “I want to read her grocery lists” and “She’s so good I want to punch her in the face” which was countered with “She’d totally duck you in bullet-time.”) And A.E. Stallings’ amazing, amazing “Sestina: Like.”
Novel with the Most Memorable Visual Scenes goes to The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. (Hat tip to my friend Jackie for telling me I absolutely had to read it.)
Best Mystery Series: Craig Johnson’s Walt Longmire mysteries — I read all of ’em this summer (the TV show adaptation is excellent too, and back for a third season, yay!) Come to think of it, hat tip to Jackie for the Craig Johnson recommendation too.
Best Short Story Collection is Jodi Angel‘s kickass You Only Get Letters from Jail. Such good writing. You will not forget her characters.
Best Biography, Animal: Man O’War: Legend Like Lightning by Dorothy Ours. She imparts a staggering amount of information without ever confusing or ever losing sight of the telling of the story for the details, and although I knew of course Man O’War’s record I still got caught up in the “how will he win this one!?!” excitement of it.
Most Interesting Biography, Person: toss-up between Stephen Greenblatt’s Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare and Lucy Jago’s The Northern Lights, about the scientist who figured out what causes the Northern Lights.
Best Autobiography (possibly ever): Keith Richard’s Life. Read it even if you don’t care about the Rolling Stones. It’s a really, really awesome read.
Most Interesting Structure for a History Primer: A History of Britain in Thirty-Six Postage Stamps by Chris West. Each chapter bounces off a particular postage stamp to talk about how it did or did not reflect what was going on in Britain at the time. Well-written.
And Best Classic Re-Read was The Great Gatsby, followed closely by The Happy Hollisters On A River Trip. (The combination of reading the Happy Hollisters as a child and listening to Leonard Cohen as a child I think explains a lot about me.)
As for the movies… (all of which are briefly reviewed on the Film page)
Best Indies, which also win for Best Pairing: Mud and Beasts of the Southern Wild. Very different but both excellent coming-of-age stories set on rivers in the south. Veteran Matthew McConaughey in Mud and newcomer Quvenzhane Wallis were especially outstanding.
Best Hollywood: Gravity. Outstanding story, and the truly mind-blowing special effects are all, as special effects should be, in service of the human story.
Most Satisfying Movies with Excellent Leading Performances That Went Under My Radar When They Came Out: The Lincoln Lawyer and Arbitrage. Excellent rentals, I highly recommend them, but note that you’d best be ready to concentrate to keep up with The Lincoln Lawyer.
Most Gawdaful, I Mean SO. BAD. movie: Hansel & Gretel Witch Hunters. Unstoppable was also pretty bad, but not nearly Hansel & Gretel Witch Hunters bad. Hansel & Gretel Witch Hunters bad is the new far-end-of-the-bad-spectrum bad.
Most I Really Wish It Had Been Better Movie: The first of the there-is-no-good-reason-for-three Hobbit movies, though Martin Freeman as Bilbo is delightful.
Movie I Saw the Most Times in the Theater: Star Trek Into Darkness.
Best Hard to Watch Movie: Zero Dark Thirty.
Best Daniel Day-Lewis Movie That’s a Really Good Movie: Lincoln, which is pretty amazing on all levels. Best Daniel Day-Lewis Performance in a Movie That’s Not a Very Good Movie: Gangs of New York which is pretty not great except for his performance as Bill the Butcher.
Best Movie Saved From Voiceover And Flashback Terribleness By Excellent Acting and Heart: The Butler. It shouldn’t be as good as it is, with that structure, but I really enjoyed it, all thanks to the outstanding acting.
Best Movie To Rent When You Sorta Want to Watch A Movie You’ve Already Seen But Kinda Feel Guilty About That And Want to See Something New To You: Hollywood Homicide. It’s really funny, and a little weird, but so hilarious the fact that it sort of ultimately makes zero sense doesn’t really matter.
Funniest movie, also best buddy cop movie: The Heat, hands-down, though I was pleased to see upon umpteenth rewatch that both Top Secret and Talladega Nights are as hilarious as ever.
And that’s it for 2013! Thanks for reading, and see you all in the New Year.