Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Pleasures of Reading, Viewing, and Listening in 2010, pt.3: Lisa Tuttle

My Best of the Year: Books, TV, Movies
By Lisa Tuttle

As a reviewer, I find most of my reading time is devoted to the latest SF and fantasy titles, with a little bit of supernatural horror thrown in. My impression is that this was a good year for those genres, although whether I’ll still rate them, or they will be considered significant, ten years from now I wouldn’t like to say. Among those I recall as especially enjoyable are a couple of first novels – The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi and The Leaping by Tom Fletcher -- and one block-buster best-seller, The Passage by Justin Cronin.

But the novels that really stand out as the most moving and gripping reading experiences of the year for me – books I do not hesitate to call great -- are Room by Emma Donoghue and The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver.

Room is one that, initially, I didn’t want to read at all, knowing that it had been inspired by one (or more) of those horrible true stories involving a man keeping a young woman imprisoned in his cellar for many years. But the praise and award-nominations made me take a look, and once I’d read a few pages I was hooked by the voice. The story is told by the woman’s little boy, and it’s all about his perceptions and experiences, growing up in one small room that, to him, is all the world. It’s about the child and his mother, not about the sexual deviant who is their jailer, it’s about love and integrity and growing up, and it is absolutely brilliant.

The Lacuna was the book I most looked forward to, after hearing the author talking about it in a radio interview, even though I still haven’t read her earlier book, The Poisonwood Bible (but I will now!) and it more than lived up to my highest expectations. Intelligent, believable, politically astute, absorbing...what can I say? Just go read it.

My absolute favourite thing on TV this year, as the year before, was MAD MEN. It’s so burnished and beautiful to look at, the actors are wonderful, and the minimalist style of story-telling unlike anything I’ve ever seen made for television, and hypnotic in its power. I just adore watching it. Yes, it’s a downer – all the characters seem set on a disastrous course, fixated on the wrong things, destroying each others’ lives as well as their own, the storylines are depressing, and then there’s all that casual sexism, racism and cigarette-smoking...oh, maybe you are bad for me, MAD MEN, but for the first time in my life I think I will have to buy the complete series on DVD, because I don’t know how I will go on without your company one night a week.

We don’t see many new movies – living out in the sticks -- and I don’t generally much care for even the few that we do see, especially not those big-budget Hollywood monsters. But we will watch (again) anything by Hitchcock that turns up on the small screen, and seeing VERTIGO this year was a real eye-opener. I think it was my third viewing – over the course of as many decades. I had remembered it as being somewhat ludicrous, and in terms of the plot, maybe it is, but psychologically? Wow. What an amazing psycho-drama. Maybe I needed those two earlier viewings to prepare me – I saw it in a very different way this time, and it gave me so much to think about. Definitely my most compelling movie experience of the year.

Lisa Tuttle is the author of numerous novels and short story collections. She has also published nonfiction and more than a dozen books for younger readers. Aqueduct Press published her novella, My Death, in 2008. Born and raised in Houston, Texas, she has made her home in a remote rural region of Scotland for the last twenty years.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you enjoyed Lacuna. It was given to me as a birthday present and I just devoured it. I am old enough to have watched some of the McCarthy era with trials on (fuzzy black & white) TV. Didn't she do a good job of catching the inane insanity of that period.

Do read the Poisonwood Bible. It's painful in places but a brilliant read.