Andrea Levy's The Long Song is one of those novels that manages to be both entertaining and clever, rooting the story it tells on so many facts that at times it feels like a documentary. Whether as part of your (expanding) bookshelf, or as a gift for your literature-loving friends, this is a must-read.
Virgilio Piñera's Complete Plays took me down memory lane to a place where I came across my adolescent self face to face once again. What made me fall at that young age for this (supposedly) snobbish, no-nonsense, Cuban intellectual who did not suffer fools gladly, and yet always had a kind word for up-and-coming authors? I don't know but, his love for language, his fearlessness when writing, his endless creativity and the fact that he exuded Cubanness whenever he put pen to paper, are elements that must have contributed to that.
Ulysses. It's the novel that everyone talks about but whose plot people rarely discuss. That's because there's no plot per se. The book centres on one day in the life of both Stephen Dedalus and Leopold Bloom. Above all, for me Ulysses is a very sensorial novel. We not only watch the main characters eating, brawling and (in Bloom's case) engaging in sexual acts, but we feel them, too. In a previous post I questioned Joyce's pole-high position as the pinnacle of modernism. At the time I had not read Ulysses, but now that I have I can tell you all that the hype is justified.
The Shock Doctrine is the type of book I wish it'd been fiction. But no, it's a very real piece of non-fiction. Which makes it the scariest piece I've read for a long time. Naomi carries out a thorough analysis of the economic ideas sponsored by the Chicago School under Milton Friedman's tutelage and traces their links with oppressive regimes across the globe.
Too Much Happiness was the second book of short stories I bought by the Canadian writer and it like Open Secrets, it didn't disappoint me. She has a way of making the quotidian lives of citizens in and around Ontario extraordinary. But be careful, her fiction is brutal and takes no prisoners.
Breathing Under Water and Traveller have been playing on a loop at home, in the car and on my mp3. Breathing Under Water, where the star sitar-player teams up with percussionist Karsh Kale, is highly lyrical and rooted in Indian classical heritage.
The Legendary: the Album. Such a grandstanding title might attract accusations of hubris, yet each and every single note on the record is pitch perfect. If you like jazz, you must buy this album.
La Niña de Fuego" that got me. Concha possesses the type of vocal range that can soar or soothe, depending on its owner's will. Fabulous.
last.fm, and who ended up providing me with two of my favourite tunes of the year from their album Al Calor de la Noche.
Missing many years ago and watched it again recently with my wife, courtesy of Lovefilm. Against the backdrop of what's happened in Iraq and Afghanistan in the last ten years with British citizens being arrested and tortured abroad, the movie has a prescient feel. Jack Lemmon is mesmerising as the American, law-abiding, conservative father whose son is "disappeared" in an unnamed country in South America (but we all know it's Chile) and who is forced to acknowledge (with a little help from his daughter-in-law Sissy Spacek) the ugly truth about the US involvement in the dictatorships that sprung up in the 60s, 70s and 80s in the region.
Biutiful, by the acclaimed Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu. What there is, though, is a hell of a powerful script and a terrific performance by Javier Bardem as the heartless criminal who at the same time is concerned about the wellbeing of the illegal Chinese immigrants he himself exploits. Impartial and raw.
The King's Speech because of the buzz surrounding it. Plus, 2011 was the year when the monarchy got its mojo back. I, for one, neither Republican nor pro-Crown, didn't want to be a part of it. But The King's Speech is cinema at its best. No gimmicks, or CGI, just a plain, simple story, beautifully acted by Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush (Helena Bonham Carter gets a look-in, but hers is a minor role) and capable of awakening feelings of mirth and commiseration.
The Secret in Their Eyes was the type of movie that reminded me of how good Argentinian cinema was. Ricardo Darín plays Benjamín Esposito, a retired legal counsellor, who wants to write a novel in an attempt to close a chapter of his life that remains unsolved. Throw in a psychopath, a dictatorship, a corrupt government official and an unfinished love affair and you have one of the better Latin American movies in recent times.
London River tells the story of Elisabeth (played by Brenda Blethyn) and Ousmane (played by Sotigui Kouyaté) whose offspring are killed in the terrorist attack on 7th July, 2005 in London. What starts as hatred, ignorance and racism is eventually transformed into understanding and sympathy. A movie I would watch again.
If with Into the Hoods, Katie Prince and ZooNation conquered the West End of London, with Some Like It Hip Hop she has elevated the urban dance form to new levels. Based loosely on Some Like Hot and Shakespeare's Twelth Night, Some Like It Hip Hop deals with mistaken identity, lost daughters and rulers in crisis. The acting is good, the story believable but the dancing, oh, my, oh, my! The dancing is out of this world. Enough to become my dance highlight of 2011.
What will 2012 have in store for me artistically speaking? I don't know but what I can assure is that the quality will be the same or higher. See you next year!
Next Post: “From Here, There and Everywhere…”, to be published on 8th January at 10am (GMT)