Saturday, December 26, 2009

Near Christmas

The snow has made life a little miserable for people this week, though I always quite like it when the weather manages to slow us all down. Manchester has been treacherous under foot, but I live close enough to the city that it hasn't affected getting into work, even up till Christmas eve. Because its not just the end of the year, but the end of the decade there's all these lists coming up about "best books" and "best films" and "best albums." The decade hasn't really left too much of a cultural footprint - perhaps the great politic issues of the time; from 9/11 and "the war on terror", to the growing worry about climate change (culminating in the near empty rhetoric of Copenhagen), to globalisation and the ensuing financial meltdown; have been too all consuming, yet too distant, to create the human narratives that great art requires. Yet from "24" through to "The Road", the filtering through does take place.

Despite "long tails" and social media; it's the mega-blockbuster, from "Da Vinci Code" to this month's "Avatar" that has "united" us, yet its a unity of a shared popcorn more than a shared culture. That our audiences prefer adolescent spectacle than a deeper conversation is perhaps a given.

Yet 2009 has had its moments. I've read some good books, from this year and previous years, and blogged about those as I've gone along. Nothing spectacular in fiction, but some good novels nonetheless. I'm finishing the year reading Hilary Mantel's Booker winner "Wolf Hall" and after a few pages already feel somewhat immersed in the febrile politics of Tudor England. I think its been something of a remarkable year for poetry, in contrast, or maybe I've been paying more attention. Tom Chivers' Crashaw Prize collection from Salt Publishing was a highlight, and other Salt collections from Luke Kennard and Chris McCabe have repaid the time. The best poetry books require time; and reading George Szirtses excellent "The Burning of the Books," there does seem a welcome move away from minimalism, to lets call it maximilism in the best writing of the moment.

No comments: