Thursday, December 27, 2007

Show Me What You're Made Of.

Here's a confession that should come as no suprise to anyone. I hate all this confectionary end-of-year content that's slathered across every magazine, every television program, every possible entertainment delivery venue this time of year. Endless warmed-over remembrances of the marginally criminal offenses of teen pop princesses, eye-blink remembrances of the dead and half-hearted lists of books or movies that most people never delved into in the first place, punctuated by brain-reducing weight-loss advertisements don't interest me in the slightest. It's over. Moving on.

Every once in a while you'll get a decent attempt at revisitation without nostalgic rose-colored rubbish. Those of you wanting a second crack at 2007 might take a minute to peruse the Kirkus "Best Books of '07" special, currently available as a PDF file here. I always admire that the publication takes the time to go back and give a nod to books that maybe didn't get fully recognized the first time around. I had the interesting opportunity to talk with three distinctly divergent authors. Greg Behrman gave me the lowdown on his gripping historical reconsideration of The Marshall Plan, The Most Noble Adventure. Debut novelist Wayne Caldwell took me back to the rural savagery of North Carolina's mountain folk in Cataloochee. And French novelist Christian Oster delivered some rather esoteric observations about drink, death and the perils of life in The Unforeseen.

Plenty of other trippy selections lie within, and not a whiff of brownnosing Denis Johnson to be found. (Not to knock the novelist, who's terrific, but I'm sick of the dogpiling of acclaim from publications who seem to have perfect hindsight now that Tree of Smoke is a big, fat success).

I'm also digging David J. Montgomery's year-end project over at his eminently readable Crime Fiction Dossier. David has splayed open his rolodex, apparently, and asked a plethora of crime novelists, agents, publishers and other malcontents to name their three favorite books from 2007. A very cool, open-ended question as the books don't have to fall within our beloved genre or even have been published this year.

There's plenty of good crime fiction fodder including a lot of love heaped on James Lee Burke, Lee Child and Charlie Huston, among others. But it's the left-field choices that are fascinating me so far. Check out David Morrell revealing his newfound love of flight; Bourne inheritor Eric Von Lustbader getting all teary-eyed over Eat, Pray, Love, Robert Crais echoing my own newfound fondness for King progeny Joe Hill's immensely creepy book of short stories Heart-Shaped Box; and Charles Ardai putting the spurs to Elise Blackwell's acid remake, Grub. I was pleased to see one of my own choices, Dead Boys, was given high praise by no less than George Pelacanos, who calls it, "the best short story collection I've read in years."

I wasn't asked, but I'm willing to play. I don't keep too many of my affections for books to myself, so naturally most of these titles have made it into my Bookslut columns.

  • Dead Boys by Richard Lange. The real deal. The most startling debut fiction I've read in a decade.
  • The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall. Other critics seem to love or hate this book with equal passion but I thought it was an immensely gripping setup and a preturnaturally unusual debut novel.
  • Blonde Faith by Walter Mosley. If Walter never writes another word about Easy Rawlins and his bloody soulmate, I would be perfectly satisfied with the ten books in his series and its awful, elegant denouement.

It's deathly quiet right now, as Jessa notes: "All that's really left on the Internets are lists of authors that died, bad Best of the Year lists, and YouTube videos of pandas." But here's a couple of other items of interest to pass the time until Amateur Night on Monday.

It looks like Mosley is branching out even further with a three-book deal at Riverhead and a new series starring New York private eye Leonid McGill from last year's short story, "Karma."

January Magazine is doing the best-of thing in a more thoughtful fashion with its own rundown of the year's best crime fiction.

I'm ambivelent about running down the death queue but I'm always fascinated by Larry Kirwan's star-studded remembrances of the lions of the New York arts and music scenes. Here, he remembers getting cozy with Norman Mailer by fixing the man's Porsche.

Enough of you. I'm going back to performing linguistic surgery on a sticky interview with a fĂȘted but brutally brusque novelist and then it's a stiff drink and about ninety-seven hours of film class by watching the newly released five-disc version of Blade Runner.

Too bad she won't live...

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