2014

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Some books, music, and movies that I loved in 2014. In no particular order, with notes on a few.

Books (Released This Year)

PDF – Tati Luboviski-Acosta
Man v. Nature – Diane Cook

A stunning, well crafted debut collection. The stories are brightly polished and find new territory between George Saunders’ character studies and Aimee Bender’s fables. You can read a great (really great, not just linking for shits and giggles) interview with the author here.

Arafat Mountain – Mike Kleine
A Different Bed Every Time – Jac Jemc
Southern Reach Trilogy (Annihilation, Authority, Acceptance) – Jeff VanderMeer

VanderMeer’s literary Sci-Fi series is a sprawling examination of an impossible place. While his style is genre-y, his structure and how he communicates exposition are unique, and the whole terror/terroir distinction was fascinating. Probably the most plot-based fun I’ve had this year.

Nevers – Megan Martin
Niceties – Elizabeth Mikesch
300,000,000 – Blake Butler
Sprezzatura – Mike Young

Books (Released Previously)

Tripticks – Ann Quin

Bought this randomly at a used bookstore in Hotchkiss, CO. Can’t remember the last time my mind has been so blown by someone’s writing, and I’ve spent most of the year trying to understand it. Tripticks is Quin’s fourth and last book, and it’s about California, ex-wives, a cult leader named Nightripper, and an insane variety of other things. It’s her masterpiece. I can’t recommend it enough.

Berg – Ann Quin
Passages – Ann Quin
Three – Ann Quin
The Isle of Youth – Laura van den Berg

Makes a good pair with Cook’s Man v. Nature. High level of craft, fascinating characters, and an abundance of precisely constructed sentences. Very excited for her first novel, Find Me, out in February next year.

Hour of the Star – Clarice Lispector
Frisk – Dennis Cooper
Speedboat – Renata Adler
Kind One – Laird Hunt

Music

Burning Daylight – Christine Fellows

Fellows’ album of “minimalist Klondike showtunes” caught me completely off guard. While I enjoyed her last album, I wasn’t crazy about it, and Burning Daylight had a pretty quiet release. However, I think it’s her most successful album to date. A song-cycle about a the Yukon Gold Rush, Fellows’ music fuses showtune grandeur with solemn folk songs about freezing to death. Each song is intricately constructed, and the book of Fellows’ poems that accompanies it serves as a welcome partner to the album. The false ending during “Arcadia” is easily my favorite musical moment of this year. You can stream the album here.

They Want My Soul – Spoon
Shallow – Porya Hatami
A U R O R A – Ben Frost
To Be Kind – Swans
Where Shine New Lights – Tara Jane O’Neil
Beauty and Ruin – Bob Mould
Sea Island – Loscil

Movies

Blue Ruin

A well executed, beautifully shot revenge story. The script is very focused on process and repercussions of violence, and the whole thing has a great arc to it.

Under the Skin

Definitely my favorite score of the year. The music is tightly ingrained with the action, both accompanying and informing the main character’s journey.

Coherence
The Grand Budapest Hotel
A Field in England

Reviews

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Read In the Devil’s Territory by Kyle Minor, The Chronology of Water by Lydia Yuknavitch, and Niceties: Aural Ardor, Pardon Me by Elizabeth Mikesch. Listened to I Was All You Are from Birds of Paradise. Watched Killing Them Softly and Under the Skin. Notes on some of these after the jump.

Continue reading Reviews

Reviews

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Finished Malone Dies by Samuel Beckett and read The Sister’s Brothers by Patrick DeWitt. Reread The Wavering Knife and Fugue State by Brian Evenson and parts of Divorcer by Gary Lutz. Watched 12 Years a Slave and rewatched Skyfall. Listened to Carey’s Cold Spring by Frog Eyes and Julia With Blue Jeans On by Moonface.

Small reviews of some of these after the jump.

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Reviews

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Read Steve Almond’s The Notorious B.B. Chow, David Markson’s The Last Novel, and started Beckett’s Malone Dies. Watched Room 237, The Bay, and rewatched The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Listened to Neko Case’s The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You, Bill Callahan’s Dream River, and Lubomyr Melnyk’s The Voice of Trees.

Short reviews of most of those after the jump.

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Reviews

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I thought I’d expand my Reading posts to include reviews of other things (movies, music, etc).

-Saw I’m So Excited. While the movie felt like a retreading of earlier Almodóvar films, it was still immensely fun to watch. It has the melodramatic sensibilities of Live Flesh and the near slapstick of Woman on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, but never achieves the emotional depth of Talk to Her or Volver. This is a case where a filmmaker’s prior efforts can work against them — had Almodóvar made this film earlier in his career,  it probably would have been better received. But still, very enjoyable and fun.

More about Pacific Rim, J.M. Ledgard’s Submergence, Laird Hunt’s Ray of the Star, and Max Richter’s Memoryhouse after the jump.

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They Could Be Starlings – On Upstream Color

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The best movie I’ve seen so far this year is Upstream Color. It’s the second film by Shane Carruth, the director/writer/everything else of Primer. Upstream Color is strangely affecting, beautiful, and terrifying. Some notes after the jump. Spoilers, etc. Continue reading They Could Be Starlings – On Upstream Color