Largehearted Boy's collection of every "Best of..." list published. I thought, instead of simply telling you about the best books I've read this year, let's do something a little more encompassing. So here's a look at literary 2010 from several different angles, in short lists of two items each. Why two? Because, if I've learned anything this past year, it's that our collective attention span is approximately equal to the half life of the element Astatine (that would be 125 nanoseconds), and getting shorter all the time. (2011 New Year's Resolution: Stop being so cynical.) But 2010 was still a fantastic literary year. So here's a look at the year that was:
Two Best Books Not Titled Room or Freedom
1. The Instructions, by Adam Levin -- I just read this recently and was floored by Levin's range as a writer, and ability to keep me interested in a 1,030-page story that takes place over only four days.
2. Bloodroot, by Amy Green -- My prediction about this novel winding up on the year-end awards lists didn't come to fruition, but I still count it as one of my favorite novels of the year.
(Two more: Nemesis, by Philip Roth & Skippy Dies, by Paul Murray)
Two Biggest Literary Stories of 2010
1. Google launches eBooks store -- This is hugely significant because Google's ebook standard is open, allowing users to purchase ebooks for any ereader (except Kindle). It's also significant because independent book sellers can sell Google eBooks directly from their sites.
2. Franzenmania -- From about the middle of August (when Time put him on its cover, and President Obama was spotted carrying a pre-release copy of Freedom) to just a few weeks ago, when he appeared on Oprah, Franzen dominated literary headlines during the second half of 2010. I can't ever remember a literary novel garnering as much hype; hype which, thankfully, the novel lived up to.
(Two more: Tinkers by Paul Harding wins Pulitzer, & Lords of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon wins National Book Award.)
Two Best Literary Articles of 2010
1. James Frey's Fiction Factory -- This New York Books piece profiles egomaniac Frey and his attempts to extort writers for their creativity. It's a wonderful read!
2. The Unconsoled: Profile of David Grossman -- This is George Packer's intense, moving portrait of Israeli novelist Grossman.It's long, but not a single word is wasted.
(Two more: Publish or Perish & Letters To Santa By Shakespeare Characters.)
1. J.D. Salinger -- Reclusive The Catcher in the Rye writer died Jan. 27 at age 91.
2. Jose Saramago -- The Portuguese novelist most famous for Blindness died June 18.
Two Biggest Non-Stories of 2010 That Took Up Disproportionate Amounts of People's Time
1. Picoult and Weiner Jealous of Franzen, Good Novelists -- When Freedom came out in late August, womens lit (is that the right PC term?) novelists Jennifer Weiner and Jodi Picoult picked a silly, jealousy-fueled fight with Franzen over the perceived slight that the NY Times prefers to review fiction written by men. Even most women were annoyed.
2.Celebrities Publishing Novels -- I wrote about this annoying trend back in May, and that was before Snooki announced that she (and her ghost writer) is publishing a book. And, after typing that last sentence, I just threw up a little bit.
Two Biggest "Eff You, Amazon" Literary Stories of 2010
1. Amazon sells pedophile book -- People were outraged, and Amazon eventually relented and pulled the book. Its author has since been arrested in Florida for indecency.
2. Amazon still refuses to remove one-star "protest reviews" -- If you've followed The New Dork Review of Books for any period of time, you know the practice of leaving one-star reviews, as many ebook readers have on Ken Follett's new novel Fall of Giants, to protest ebook pricing really, really grinds my gears. I've sent countless emails to Amazon suggesting that if they can decide to not allow a review that includes the word f#$% (and not even the actual word -- the dingbatted word!), then they should remove reviews that have nothing to do with the content. Still no dice. You suck, Amazon. And, you suck, one-star reviewers.
Two Funniest Literary-related Things of 2010
1. Nicolas Sparks Feels Sad -- If you thought Nicolas Sparks is a romance novelist, well, you've got another thing coming...according to Sparks. He's tired of being miscategorized, but no one could stop laughing long enough to take him seriously.
2. Guy Steals Franzen's Glasses -- Some dude swiped Jonathan Franzen's signature intellectual-chic glasses at a signing in London and demanded a ransom of $100,000. The literary world was taken utterly aback. A fake Franzen twitter feed @EmperorFranzen screamed: "I need them back to read your friggin' ransom note. Idiot." The glasses were eventually returned.
Two New Dork Literary Accomplishments
1. I read Gravity's Rainbow without losing my marbles.
2. See #1 -- it counts as two.
(Two more: Podcast interview with writer Teddy Wayne & Getting to meet novelists Jonathan Tropper and Joshua Ferris.)
One last thing: I want to say a heartfelt thank you to all the New Dork readers and commenters. I honestly never thought I'd still be posting twice a week after 13 months of this blog, but it's never stopped being fun - and that's because of you. Really, thank you.Cheers!