End of year thing

I feel like there should be an end of the year post but I have such a lousy memory I can’t recall all the things I liked best. I listened to Nicki Minaj a lot  and I have much love for her. “Did it on ’em” was a song that actually made me go “What the fuck is this? What is she saying?” and then “Oh my god, it’s amazing. She’s amazing. This is perfect.” I’m so glad there is a woman more than equal to the top guys in the field, and that she is recognised as such.

I have sadness that there’s still “top guys in the field” instead of top people. It’s true all over – TV, comedy, writing, whatever. There are the successful men and then the select women who are deemed of rare enough quality that they get to hang there too. Even on twitter amongst the people who tweet about lit stuff it seems there’s a boys club (with separate UK and US branches of these in the blog world too) and only a few honorary women. Anyway, a massive cheer for Caitlin Moran who somehow managed to write a clever, funny, brilliant, best selling (number one on the list for weeks and weeks) book about feminism (even if it is mainly a biography) How To Be a Woman.

Favourite novels of the year are The Canal by Lee Rourke and The Coward’s Tale by Vanessa Gebbie. Fave short story collections are Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned by Wells Tower and Ayiti by Roxane Gay. Speaking of Roxane Gay, it’s been a pleasure to read her intelligent, articulate thoughts online in a wide variety of places (HTML Giant, The Rumpus, and her own blog to name a few.)

Fave TV show was Sons of Anarchy. Compelling viewing that just kept relentlessly building. We’re a season behind the US here and I am so looking forward to watching Season 4 when it airs. I also loved The Mentalist. I want to be Patrick Jane, and date Cho.

Film of the year? No idea. I saw Thor yesterday though and really enjoyed it. Home and Away boy has done good! And learned how to open his eyes. How buff? More fun than I expected too. I appreciated the Shakespearean swagger and am really looking forward to Whedon’s Avengers.

Scent of the year – Amazing Grace by Philosophy. Absolutely gorgeous. Fresh, clean, non-cloying.

Meal of the year was in the Fork and Field where I tasted the best pasta I have ever had. Seriously so good that I couldn’t stop smiling. It was Gratin of Macaroni with spinach, parmesan and fresh truffle and was perfection.

Book-selling hurrahs were realising we’d sold over 100 copies of Janice Galloway’s Collected Stories, and selling out of Kuzhali Manickavel’s Insects Are Just Like You and Me Only Some of Them Have Wings yet again, selling heaps of The Best British Short Stories, and ordering in goodies like Roxane Gay’s Ayiti and Breece D’J Pancake‘s Collected Stories. I get a real thrill introducing people to damn good writing and I’ve never had anyone come back and complain about a recommendation I’ve given so I hope that’s a good sign.

More personally, my family have struggled through hellish times this year but emerged stronger. I pack the sad, angry, bitterness down inside me and carry on. What else to do? One of my boys made up a song – “I’ve got an arch of love for you” – and he sings it, complete with arm gestures, to me. I congratulated my other son on how well he dealt with an awkward situation – “I model myself on you,” he said. There is nothing more precious, more wonderful, than my twins. My resolution for 2012 is the same as the advice I give to my beautiful boys – “Be the best you that you can be.”

Happy new year y’all.

Two jolly good books

I recently read a couple of damn fine books and made a mental note to blog about them. The problem with mental notes is that they end up muddled and mixed in with all sorts of gubbins from my mind so I am unable to offer much in the way of constructive thinking. Ho hum, no reason not to say that I really liked them is there?

The first book is Luke and Jon by Robert Williams. It’s now available in paperback for only £6.99 which is a bargain. It’s one of those books that was originally marketed as Young Adult and is now Adult Fiction. (It’s fairly meaningless but when I read it I certainly didn’t feel I was reading a children’s book, equally I thought that my 13 year old boys may enjoy it. Dylan has just begun it though he’s a little wary in case it’s too sad as I told him it was about a boy whose mum died.)
Anyway, the story is about a 13 year old boy and his relationships with his father, in the wake of his mother’s death, and his friend Jon. It’s not a showy book but it’s full of calm, quiet truths. I’m not over keen on the phrase deceptively simple but, erm, yeah, this is. Williams creates a wonderful voice and a story with proper depth. He’s good at capturing the difficulties of being a lad at school, and he’s written a novel with real heart. Oh, and it totally sucked me in and toyed with my emotions. Yes, I may have shed a tear or two. 
“Eventually I got surer on my feet and looked up to see what was overhead. It was a trick I learned from my mum. She said that every now and again, walking your usual route through town or to school, you should look up as you travelled instead of straight ahead, that you would see things you hadn’t seen before. And she was right. The first time I walked through our old town and lifted my head up I saw things I’d never noticed in a town I’d lived in all my life. In the forest the trees stretched high and higher into the sky, disappearing out of sight and there was only the odd glimpse of sky poking through the canopy. It felt like we were indoors; it reminded me of the church on the day of mum’s funeral: ancient and powerful.”
The second book is Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned by Wells Tower Oh my goodness, if you’re a short story fan and haven’t yet read this collection then I envy you, for you must, you shall, and it will be fabulous. 
Wells Tower describes things in a gorgeously fresh way. His stories are drenched in images and unique perfect phrases. I am deeply envious of his talent. (The worst story, oddly, is the title story. It’s absolute tosh and a real let down that is the last thing one reads. How strange.) 
“He scrambled along the spit of rock. The wind cut the stagnant dampness of the day and dried the sweat on his face and chest. He took the salt into his lungs and savored the pure itch in his chest. He touched the long grasses waving in the water like women’s hair. He crouched to observe the barnacles, their tiny feathery hands combing blindly for invisible prey.”
So, there ya go – two good books (coincidentally both with brownish covers.)