Was it a good year for letters? People are reading less, writers are more concerned with optioning screenplays, publishers bet everything on huge first novels but don’t seem to care about letting writers develop... sigh. For what it’s worth though, we still like books and stuff.
Best angry calling out of the “literary” community during a lifetime achievement acceptance speech: Norman Mailer. Sometimes dying literary lions give good roar: ‘’’The serious novel may be in serious decline,’ he said, asking rhetorically how many in the audience enjoy reading ‘an egregiously cruel review’ of a serious novel more than trying to appreciate the art involved in creating such a work. The purpose of the serious novel, he said, is ‘to enter one’s life, even alter it,’ but too often such works are in opposition to ‘’the needs of the marketplace.’’’ –New York Times, Nov. 17
Most potentially promising book contract given to a one-time meteoric media star turned ex-Laurel Touby minion: Elizabeth Spiers, who snagged some of that sweet, sweet Simon & Schuster schmundo for her forthcoming Wall Street satire And... They All Die in the End. Given her Gawker roots and financial industry past, it could make for good times.
Most surprisingly unifying political screed in that it was so obviously full of shit that both the left and right couldn’t help but clamber over each other to denounce it: Ed Klein’s The Truth About Hillary: What She Knew, When She Knew It, and How Far She’ll Go to Become President.
Most sorely needed and warmly awaited but in the end poorly executed smack down that left everyone more or less in a disappointed, pox-on-both-their houses sort of mood: Ben Marcus taking on Jonathan Franzen in the October Harper’s. “If not the best novelist of his generation, then certainly the most anxious — eager for fame, but hostile to the people who confer it — Jonathan Franzen has excelled most conspicuously at worrying about literature’s potential for mass entertainment. It’s a fair worry to have, if vain, but he’s been a strange and angry contender for the role, and the results have been spectacular, depressing, and confusing all at once.”
Most ridiculously good if vaguely misogynistic writer whose death we’d all seen coming for some time, but damn, it sure is a shame anyway: Saul Bellow
Most ridiculously good if vaguely misanthropic writer whose death we’d all seen coming for some time, but damn, it sure is a shame anyway: Susan Sontag
Least likely pair of recently deceased American literary greats to meet in Heaven for coffee to discuss possible collaboration on a ‘zine: See above.
Biggest waste of time that could’ve been spent surfing the Internet for pornography: Taking 45 minutes to read former Capitol Hill staffer Jessica Cutler’s The Washingtonienne, a tell-all which purports to be about both sex and politics, but contains neither.
Most precious, self-congratulatory, affectedly vulnerable, unbelievably insufferable, goddamned sequence of 4,317 words printed this year: Deborah Solomon’s February 27 interview with Jonathan Safran Foer in the New York Times in which he said the following: “‘Time heals all wounds. But what if time is the wound?’’’ Dude.
Most inexplicable decision made by a local alt weekly that wasn’t, you know, exactly bursting at the seams with first-rate political humorists: NY Press, for cutting Matt Taibbi loose. Actually, we’re still not entirely sure who broke up with who, but Jesus, fellas, c’mon. What’s a few pope jokes between friends?
Most humiliating bit of public self-abasement in the face of an angry Eggers: Neal Pollack in McSweeney’s weepily retracting a quote from an essay touching on Eggers in the June 19 New York Times. In his piece Pollack quoted The Dave as once declaring, “We’re about to enter a new age of literary celebrity.” Being, however, that The Dave is concerned solely with sweetness and light and can barely pronounce “celebrity” let alone lust after it, this could never actually have happened. Eggers pointed this out in that sort of mealy-mouthed, passive-aggressive way of his. Then Pollack promptly announced to the world that he was sorry and slunk off into a corner to think about what he had done.
Worst use of a children’s flipbook in a story about the most devastating terrorist attack ever to take place on his country’s soil: That Foer guy. But like he cares. The dude is fucking loaded.
Most surefire way to take your dinner party to the “next level” after the hash pipe’s gone around the room a few times: Insert audiobook recording of Maureen Dowd’s Are Men Necessary? (as read by the authoress) into your listening receptacle of choice. Skip to the chapter on orgasm.
Most alarming literary tragedy in the making: Ron Rosenbaum reveals Dmitri Nabokov holds his dad’s final novel stashed away in a Swiss safe-deposit box and “will probably destroy it before he dies. Will Dmitri turn Max Brod or light a pale fire with the manuscript? Somewhere in extinction, the old man chuckles.
Best book about lifelong breast obsession that allowed this publication to become far too pleased with itself for employing the headline pun “Speak Mammary”: Big Bosoms and Square Jaws: The Biography of Russ Meyer, by Jimmy McDonough.
Best New York literary society founded in honor of a depressively witty versifier of her own despair: Known o’er the five boroughs for a lack of sobriety. We can’t help but love the Dorothy Parker Society.