Enjoyed in 2013
by Sarah Tolmie
Starting with Sofia Samatar's A Stranger in Olondria, which I bought at WisCon. As she was there, I have a signed copy. I notice I am in the company of the reviewers at The Guardian in thinking this is a wonderful book. The texture of the prose is lush but never gooey; it is learned without being overbearing, original and intensely atmospheric. It conveys with great poignancy the position of an island community off the coast of a great empire, mapping on in various ways to the historical experience of Sri Lanka to India, or Taiwan to China, or any of several island cultures off the coast of Africa. It is not constrained by any of these, however, being a very fully imagined world of its own, and like many of my favorite speculative fictions, one overwhelmingly concerned with the act of writing and its implications. In this it reminds me of several later works by Le Guin like The Telling or the Voices/Powers/Gifts trilogy, or Lavinia. All of these books share a vision of the sheer heroism of poetry (in the capacious sense that Sidney meant it in his Defense of Poetry, meaning "works of imagination") that is not the least bit Hemingway.
On the Le Guin theme, I also bought her translation of Angela Gorodischer's Kalpa Imperial while at WisCon, and enjoyed it a lot. It was a pleasure to discover a whole new magic realist that I knew nothing about, and to get another sample of Le Guin's supremely unfussed style as a translator.
Also really enjoyed Lesley Wheeler's The Receptionist and Other Tales, another WisCon find, which was hilarious. I read too many poets who are desperately unfunny, and it really gets old.
Movies, forget it. I think I watched Pacific Rim, and marveled again at how long the Crispin Crispianus speech from Henry V has lasted. Other than that, what was there? Remakes, comics, mumblecore. No, no and no. People are surely making intelligent movies somewhere, but I have not made the effort to seek them out. My loss, I am sure, but there you are. I continued to watch Dr Who, and now both my children are well into it (7 and 9). Both have asked for sonic screwdrivers for Christmas. Sherlock went on enjoyably, despite the sudden superstardom of Benedict Cumberbatch (bet he's the only one in the union, huh?). Elementary really grew on me, as I like both of the leads, each extraordinarily sexy in their way. And the British series Misfits was absolutely a scream, just beautiful: world's most gormless adolescent superheroes. I kept on with True Blood, more out of loyalty than anything.
Maybe 2014 will be more of an outgoing year. But, all of the above I truly enjoyed, and you can't say fairer than that.