To continue with the lists...
In any year when I re-read Middlemarch for the long-lost-count-ofth time, it is going to be The Best Book I Read This Year. Unless, of course, I've also re-read Rebecca West's Black Lamb and Grey Falcon (certainly due for a re-read), in which case it would be a tough call to make. My major fiction discovery this year has probably been E. H. Young, who wrote quietly but definitely subversive 'domestic fiction' during the 1920s to 40s, much of which has been reprinted of recent years by Virago and by Persephone Books.Young's books are particularly engaging when they focus on the lives of relatively middle-aged women and the stories they continue to have, as in Miss Mole and Chatterton Square. The works of neglected early modernist writer May Sinclair are also becoming much more available - this is surely something that could not have happened without the internet, first to demonstrate the ongoing interest in this fascinating writer, and then to facilitate Print-On-Demand production and dissemination of the texts - and I managed to get hold of and read several of these.
There have been some really excellent new books out this year, both non-fiction and fiction, especially genre fiction. I've just been updating the Recent Recommended Reading page on my website after several months of letting it lapse, and my thoughts on a range of recent publications can be found there.
I've seen a whole lot fewer films than I've read books: they included an assortment of new movies, plus a number of classics - leaning heavily towards screwball comedy with a seasoning of Rogers/Astaire musicals (which perhaps count as fantasy, especially those sequences when, the protags having finally overcome the obstacles to their happy union, the whole world appears to break out in dancing). I have completely failed to keep up with any of current TV series. The media work that struck me most this year was definitely the 1996 television series Neverwhere, with a script by Neil Gaiman (it has also been turned into a novel and a graphic novel), recently out on DVD. I found this short series (only 6 action-packed episodes) quite amazing.
It takes place in a world where a phantasmagorical 'London Beneath', drawing on Hogarth, Dickens and Lewis Carroll, co-exists with the
The story - the chase, the quest, the ordeals - are exciting and suspenseful as well as full of mythic resonance in themselves, but what I particularly liked was the very clearly multi-cultural nature of this hidden
I'm not sure it's for everyone (there are undoubtedly some criticisms that can be made of the production) but I found it haunting and memorable.
I spent most of 2007 catching up on books I missed from previous years and following random fancies with my husband through Netflix such as Paul Verhoeven (not Showgirls) or South Korean movies. So, I didn’t read as many new books as I usually do nor see as many movies. The Verhoeven spree did lead us to go see his latest movie, Black Book at the beginning of the year. The movie is set in the
For TV, I really enjoyed a couple of new series this year. AMC’s drama, Mad Men, is set at a Madison Avenue advertising agency in 1960, a setting that provides a great backdrop for an exploration of gender, class, sex, and nuclear family politics, including a chilling look at the psychiatry of the era, as well as a series of interesting story lines. I’ve also really enjoyed Saving Grace, starring the wonderful Holly Hunt as
For books, I really enjoyed two books marketed as young adult novels, China Mieville’s Un Lun Dun (Del Rey, 2007) and
My reading is completely determined by what I am writing at the moment, either as contributing to it or affording escape from it. So my reading this year tended to fall along the fault line of what I intuited to be relevant to the origins of Gothic literature, and what could take me as far away from that subject as possible.
Maria Edgeworth, Belinda (novel)
Rohan Kriwaczek, An Incomplete History of the Funerary Violin (alternative history)
Roy Heath, Kwaku, or The Man Who Could Not Keep His Mouth Shut (novel)
Ingeborg Bachmann, Last Living Words (fiction and poetry)
Eliot Weinberger, What Happened Here: Bush Chronicles (essays)
Elechi Amadi, The Concubine and The Great Ponds (novels)
Yashar Kemal, Memed, My Hawk (novel)
Ignazio Silone, Bread and Wine and Fontamara (novels)
Flora Tristan, Peregrinations of a Pariah (travel and memoir)
Greg Dening, Mr. Bligh’s Bad Language (history/cultural studies)
Tete-Michel Kpomassie, An African in Greenland (travel and memoir)
For escape I found the following books completely successful choices:
Torgny Lindgren, Light (novel)
Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Living to Tell the Tale (autobiography)
Sigurd Hoel, The Road to the World’s End and The Troll Circle (novels)
Dino Buzzati, The Tartar Steppe (novel)
Margaret Wertheim, A Field Guide to Hyperbolic Spaces (art/mathematics)
Olivier Cadiot, Colonel Zoo (novel)
Yuri Rytkheu, A Dream in Polar Fog (novel)
Philip Rawson, The Art of Tantra (art history)
In film the Gothic seems to be flourishing in documentary and semi-documentary form around the world. Here are some must-sees that fall into the unacknowledged genre I call “environmental/industrial Gothic”:
The Charcoal People
The Devil’s Miner
The Boys of Baraka
Turtles Can Fly
and other Gothic:
The Magdalene Sisters
The Lives of Others
Osama (not about Osama bin Laden, but about a young woman who is a brilliant carpet weaver who must disguise herself as a man so she can support her family)
and others not Gothic but also great:
The Weeping Camel
The Cave of the Yellow Dog
I’m Not There