2011 in other cultural consumption

Posted on December 30, 2011

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As this blog documented in great detail my operatic pets and peeves of the last year, I thought I’d sift through other kind of arts & culture stuff for the end-of-year review post.

Back in February, I decided to start keeping record of my readings. I never have any clear idea how much I manage to get read—and I don’t mean internet reading, journal articles and reference book sampling, and the multiple types of skimming which we are all becoming experts in. No: I mean the sit-down-and-get-lost, cover-to-cover consumption of the analogue product called Book.

I started writing down the titles read per month so I can stop  the anorexic-bulimic cycle of reading which I had begun developing. If I didn’t finish a book within two days at the expense of any other type of art consumption, the said book would move from the table to the chair seat to the couch until the passage of time would kill any connection between me and it. So I thought, let’s just start writing down what I had, not so I could police myself, but just fmi, to see whether I can keep on track of the barest minimum of four books per month.

Thanks to this record-keeping, I now at the end of the year have a clear idea of the authors who had a profound impact, and those who I will never pick up again.

The category MIND BLOWN, NOTHING WILL BE THE SAME AGAIN:
Jean-Philippe Toussaint. I read Fuir, Camera and Faire l’amour.
Harold Pinter. Read Complete Works Vol 1, 1954-1960, which includes The Birthday Party, The Room, The Dumb Waiter, A Slight Ache, A Night Out.
Margaret Drabble’s Jerusalem the Golden and the short story collection A Day in the Life of a Smiling Woman. Not everything by Drabble gets me (I gave up on the Millstone some years ago), but these two are fantastic. I will keep exploring Drabble.
CarsonMcCullers’s The Member of the Wedding. I don’t know her other stuff; I may not care for her other stuff. But this novel is unbelievable.

WHY, NICE MEETING YOU, LET’S DO IT AGAIN:
Deborah Eisenberg (The Twilight of the Superheroes)
Alan Bennett (Talking Heads, plus The Lady in the Van)
Mavis Gallant (Going Ashore collection)
Italo Calvino (Invisible Cities)
Annabel Lyon (The Golden Mean)
Dany Lafferière (I am a Japanese Writer)

YES, YOU’RE REALLY FAMOUS, BUT ONE BOOK BY YOU IS MORE THAN ENOUGH FOR MY LIFETIME:
Philip Roth, Portnoy’s Complaint
Mary Gaitskill, Veronica
Paul Auster, Brooklyn Follies
Thomas Bernhard, Old Masters
Haruki Murakami, After Dark

I KNOW I SHOULD BE LIKING YOU MORE, BUT I DON’T. C’EST LA VIE:
Ali Smith (with heavy heart. I read First Person collection last year, and Here but for the this year, and I just can’t. There’s no chemistry.)
Jennifer Egan, A Visit from the Goon Squad
Gary Shteyngart, Super Sad True Love Story
Joan Didion. I read The Year of Magical Thinking, and saw her being interviewed in Toronto recently, a conversation which Didion made much more difficult than it should have been. The Year is an exercise in North-American upper-middle-class mindset (Cars! Planes! More cars! Real estate! Wedding! Cocktails! Best connections anybody can have! Upper West Side and Beverly Hills! More car drives! Expensive medical care! Cars!). I love the idea of Where I Was From, but I have yet to read it. I won’t be rushing to it.

I AM STRANGELY ATTRACTED TO THE IDEA, BUT WTF WAS THAT?
Paola Capriolo’s The Watching Woman (La spettatrice). Lovely to read a non-realist novel, as always, but there’s something disjunct and not working at the core of this book. Which doesn’t make it any less exciting.

HE DIDN’T DISAPPOINT. OH NO.
Alan Hollinghurst, The Stranger’s Child

GOING HOME
The Iris Murdoch novels I read this year are The Bell and A Word Child. Both glorious and now in the top five of my IM favourites.

NEW STUMBLE-UPON IN FEMINIST THEORY:
Virgine Despentes, The King Kong Theory. Powerful, riotous, messy, and the best use of Camille Paglia found anywhere.

Et cetera. Not enough theory or social sciences or musicology read this year. (about 1-2 of each) Too much light gossipiness (David Gilmour’s essais à clef). Too many memoirs! I need to lay off the memoirs. I will, after I’ve seen Cinderella and Company out.

2011 in Theatre

For this I haven’t kept records, so must go by the printed programmes which have survived the recycling purges. Writing this in a cloud of dust.

- The Life and Times of Mackenzie King (Michael Hollingsworth, Video Cabaret) stands out immediately. I am a convert and can’t miss any of their future ‘episodes’.
- Arnold Wesker’s The Kitchen (via National Theatre Live). Brilliant. Brilliant brilliant.
- Compagnia Pippo Delbono visited early this year with Questo Buio Feroce. It was nice to have them in town, even though this is probably not one of their best productions.
- The Misanthrope by Molière, translation and adaptation by Martin Crimp at Tarragon Theatre.
- Bernard Shaw on DVD: The Millionairess, The Heartbreak House, Devil’s Disciple, again Mrs Warren’s Profession. To a lesser degree, Pygmalion and Arms and the Man.
(I missed the Summerworks entirely. It was a particularly broke summer. I did see recently Ride the Cyclone, the indie musical that people can’t stop talking about. I say, Get a life, people.)

Visual arts

- Rabih Mroué, The Inhabitants of Images at Prefix Institute. The man can do no wrong.
- The post-Communist countries exhibit at the Power Plant, Rearview Mirror curated by Christopher Eamon. A hodge-podge of hits and misses, but the hits make the exhibit good: Katarina Zdjelar, David Maljkovic and more.
- Contact Photography Festival for the Suzy Lake retrospective (she did Cindy Sherman performative femininity stuff before Cindy Sherman did) and Abbas Kiarostami’s series of photographs The Wall.
- Emmanuelle Léonard photo exhibit Une sale affaire at Gallery 44.
- Renzo Martens‘s film Enjoy Poverty at Cinecycle/Gallery TPW. Infuriating. Yet what it says needs to be heard.
- Otto Dix in Montreal (that was end of year 2010, but still)
- Angela Grauerholz at UoT Arts Centre, for its ambition, philosophical scope, love of text.

Most exciting symphonic performance:

John Adams conducting Toronto Symphony Orchestra in his own City Noir and Mason Bates’s Liquid Interface; tied with another TSO performance two days earlier, Peter Oundjian conducting Evelyn Glennie in Vincent Ho’s Shaman and Adams’s Harmonielehre. Both at New Creations Festival 2011.

Dance

Criminally neglected, but there was some Toronto Dance Theatre to soothe the soul.

Happy New Year, lovelies!

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