Monday, January 16, 2012
Sunday, December 18, 2011
• Best novel: The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break by Steven Sherrill. (Actually published in 2001, I believe, but what a wonderful story. The minotaur of Greek mythology is alive and lonely in the American South, living in a small trailer park (where he likes to work on cars in his spare time) and working at a restaurant (where the manager has the brilliant idea of taking M.—as everyone calls him—out of the kitchen to carve prime rib for customers in the dining area). There is plenty here to make a grotesque southern gothic novel—a half man half bull protagonist; a hirsute woman; a gay civil war re-enactor; a jealous weightlifting husband of an underdressed, attractive, and flirtatious neighbor; a dead dog; aimless young men looking for a fight—but what’s amazing about this book is its tone and tempo: a calm and somewhat bemused loneliness even as various threats loom ahead.)
• Biggest book read: A Moment in the Sun by John Sayles (968 pages).
• Best book of poetry: At Lake Scugog by Troy Jollimore. (How did this book not get more attention? I just assumed it would be up for the National Book Award and a Pulitzer and so on. This guy has as big a brain as anyone else writing poetry today. A professor of philosophy, he writes formal, funny, musical poems that engage rather than intimidate the reader.)
• Favorite new cookbook: Trout Caviar: Recipes From a Northern Forager by Brett Laidlaw. (Laidlaw wrote a couple of interesting novels back in the 80s and 90s. Though they were realistic stories set in the Midwest, their Berrymanesque circumlocutions flew in the face of the plain-spoken minimalism that was au courant at the time. When I met him and mentioned the novels, he seemed genuinely surprised that anyone read and remembered them. Now, without warning, and nearly 20 years after his last book of fiction, a cookbook full of hearty recipes and good, clear writing.)
• Best New Yorker Article: “Dr. Don” by Peter Hessler in the September 26 issue. This profile of a small-town pharmacist in Western Colorado is like McPhee at his best.
• Favorite new band: Avett Brothers.
• Favorite new solo artist: Sharon Van Etten.
• Single of the year: “Miss K” by Dear Tick.
• Best movie: Bill Cunningham NYC.
• Best television series on DVD: Slings & Arrows. (Three seasons of a Canadian series about the goings-on behind the scenes at a Stratford-on-Avon type theater. Wonderfully combines Shakespeare, humor, and poignant drama. I actually watched these at the end of 2010, but certainly haven’t seen anything better since then.)
• Best online video: Ultimate Dog Tease.
• Favorite new restaurant: Cajun Potluck in Shoreview, MN.
• Favorite spice: prosciutto.
• Favorite new breakfast food: smoothies.
• Most awesome national landmark visited this year: Crater Lake in Oregon.
• Biggest fish caught: A twelve-inch brown trout in Hay Creek.
• Prettiest fish caught: A couple small brookies in the Poplar River.
• States I attempted to catch trout in this summer: Minnesota, Iowa, Oregon, and California.
• States I was skunked in: 0.
Please note: "New" means new to me; "best" means favorite; "favorite" is self-explanatory.