Yes, that’s right, yet another of those end of year lists… December 24, 2006Posted by WorldbyStorm in Books, Culture, Film and Television, Music, Science Fiction, Television Shows.
Following on from franklittles exhaustive and worryingly appropriate buying for lefties post here’s a few of the books, films and music which made my year.
The most impressive book I read this year was almost definitely Stephen Howe’s Ireland and Empire, Colonial Legacies in Irish History and Culture (for which cheers smiffy). As a means of positioning one’s own thoughts on the matter it was invaluable (and indeed a great reference point for the Post-Nationalism pieces I’ve been posting over the past few months). Beyond that the revised edition of Unionist Politics by Feargal Cochrane was also mightily interesting. It’s a brilliant means of getting to grips with the Unionist identity and it’s internal dynamics. Auschwitz by Lawrence Rees and Interesting Times by Eric Hobsbawm were brilliant if depressing and perfect for dipping into as the mood took. Paul Berman’s Power and the Idealists is a wonderful read, particularly for anyone who feels at home in the left beyond the Labour party. Finally Elusive Peace by Ahron Bregman was a fine overview of the disintegration of the Palestinian/Israeli peace process from the turn of the century onwards.
Fiction. Well a mixed bag this, but a couple in particular stand out. I’m currently wading through Terrorist by John Updike. Good so far. Michael Shaara’s novel of the battle of Gettysberg, Killer Angels, although first published in the late 1960s is an excellent anti-war piece (for which cheers Eagle). It’s a period I had little knowledge of before and accepting all the caveats of historical fiction there was something briliiantly lucid about it’s approach. Towards the trashier end of the spectrum, well, Charles Stross’s the Atrocity Archive was a briliant fusion of Cthulu mythos (of which I was unacquainted with in terms of actually reading the stories until this year) and Len Deighton, highly recommended. I also kind of liked John Creed’s Black Cat Black Dog, a thriller set in the North. But then again I didn’t (like, what’s happened to proof reading this century?), so buyer beware. The various offerings by Alastair Reynolds, Ken Macleod and Peter F. Hamilton, respectively weren’t to my mind as quite as good as previous works but readable nonetheless.
Speaking of books, for those of us based in Dublin the new Chapters on Parnell Street has opened and as a more than usually helpful staff member said to me, it’s the largest independent bookshop in Ireland or the UK. They’re moving their second hand section in over the next couple of days and after that the Middle Abbey Street shop closes. It’s well worth a look.
Films. Of those I saw only a couple really stood out. United 93 was, as noted previously, remarkable. A Scanner Darkly was – to my mind – one of the most interesting films I’ve ever seen. Looking beyond Rob Lowe and Keeanu Reeves performances and just seeing how it messed around with form and somehow was entirely true to the original work was astounding. Goodnight and Good Luck, while really just on the cusp of 2005/6 remained for me another brilliant snapshot, more suited in many ways to the stage than cinema and yet just perfect as a short and thoughtful consideration of the very real dangers of political rhetoric in democratic societies. Miami Vice was pretty good, but sort of flawed. So, Mr. Mann, no change there then…And, yeah, there’s a stack of films from this year I’ve still to see.
Music. Ah, well, by now you’ll know I’m shameless in my retrospectivity and ability to listen to almost anything, although as someone once pointed out to me there’s a difference between eclectic and undiscriminating taste. I signed up with a subscription based MP3 provider early this year and – to be honest – haven’t regretted it once. Granted this provider is one that deals in independent record labels and such like, so of course I’d be happy. Anyhow, what did I like?
Well, a couple of new albums have really impressed me. The White Rose Movement, I Love You but I’ve chosen Darkness, Big Spaceship, VNV Nation, Dykehouse, Airiel and currently I’m listening a lot to Motorhead’s latest release. And of the older stuff, I’ve managed to get much of the Fall’s back catalogue, a heap of shoegazing bands from the last ten years, and realised that my iPod just isn’t big enough. Guilty pleasure? Fields of the Nephilim.
On media, I know I bang the drum for KCRW, but really, can you afford not to listen to it? Little Atoms has been great, even when the interviewees have not. The Daily Show has been good, if perhaps not quite good enough for daily viewing, I’ve purchased the odd issue of the New Statesman and New Scientist, but Scientific American, Prospect and Analog remain must reads. Blogs? They’re all to the right of the screen, no reason to say more.
Finally a small word of thanks to my comrades on this blog mbari, joemomma, franklittle and smiffy, and to those of you who have contributed to discussions and thoughts, and to anyone else who is just passing through and been good enough to pass the time here.
And after that? Well, who knows what 2007 will bring – rocket shoes and holidays to Jupiter perhaps. If not, mines a Beamish.
Le Gach Dea-Ghuí Don Nollaig agus don Athbhliain
Nollaig Shona Daoibh.