Best of Books & Media

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08/03/2011 4:00 AM |

Best First Book

And Yet They Were Happy, Helen Phillips

Brooklyn College professor Phillips’s debut collects two-page stories grouped loosely by theme (floods, fights, helens), each of which reads like an entry from a cut-up combination of diary and dream journal. Packing each page with poignant symbols and devastating insights, she casually blends realism with surrealism, the workaday with the mythic, reminding us of Zachary Mason’s Odysseus book, or Philip Pullman’s Jesus one, except the mythology she’s recasting is her own.

Best Reading Series
–Poetry: The monthly Blue Letter series offers “lyrics where you live,” provided you live in the backroom of Cobble Hill restaurant Watty & Meg. Come for the verse by primarily local, young poets; stay for the $3 beers. Or is it the other way around?

–Prose: The Franklin Park reading series brings ever-more prominent authors of fiction and nonfiction to the lovely outdoor capital of upscale Prospect Heights every month.

Best Small-Press Branding

Melville House

How to trick attractive young people into buying reissues and literature in translation? Collect-‘em-all series of jacket-pocket sized titles with clean covers. Their Art of the Novella and Contemporary Art of the Novella now being imitated by New Directions’ Pearls series, the Dumbo publisher has moved into an International Crime line (shades of Europa Editions and, well, large-house trends) and started the Neversink Library for out-of-print classics (including slim, terse Simenons) not already rediscovered by NYRB Classics.

Best Education Reporter

Liza Featherstone

Featherstone’s “Report Card”column for the Brooklyn Rail takes an in-depth, skeptical look at the economics of public and charter schools in Bloomberg’s New York—and at the well-intentioned pieties of brownstoners, which this Clinton Hill mom knows all too well.

Best Local Blog

Atlantic Yards Report

Many might have given up on fighting the Atlantic Yards development, seeing it as a lost cause, an inevitability. But Norman Oder’s watchdog blog, now in its sixth year, is still attacking the project—its false promises and environmental costs, as well as its credulous media coverage—several times a day.

Best Turnaround of a Moribund Local Paper

The Home Reporter

Until the longtime owners of this Bay Ridge weekly sold the paper (to the publishers of the Queens Courier) early this year, it barely even had a website. Now, it’s even on Twitter and Facebook! And publishing, both in print and online, a wealth of solid local reporting—just about the only non-News Corp.-owned newspaper still doing so in Brooklyn.

Best Locally Focused Single Issue if a Magazine

City Limits‘ Brooklyn issue

This civic-affairs bimonthly gave over its entire March-April issue to contributing editor Jake Mooney’s investigation of Brooklyn—the decline of its industrial sector, homeownership in East New York, and the evolution of the Williamsburgh Savings Bank tower—painting a richly detailed portrait of the borough’s often neglected and underreported margins.

Worst Puppetry Critic in the World

Thurston Dooley III

The Brooklyn Paper‘s puppetry critic, obviously not a real person, periodically uses the phony byline to trash, in roughly 600 absurdly harsh words, local puppet shows put on by local puppet theaters for local children. It’s time for the paper to retire this very mean-spirited, very unfunny joke.


Best Cover

Kate Christensen, The Astral

That the novel is a two-dimensional gallery of Greenpoint stereotypes is even more disappointing when you look at the tilt-shift photography on the cover—Brooklyn in lyrical miniature.

Best New Yorker Staff Writer Under 40

Ariel Levy

Putting the “fun” back in “feminism,” the Female Chauvinist Pigs author has taken wrly rigorous looks at everything from handbag designers to Cindy McCain to bra-burning to bunga-bunga.

Best Beautiful and Majestic Lion of Organized Labor

J. Hoberman

The Village Voice workforce—the only unionized alt-weekly staff in the country!—went down to the wire with their New Times bosses when their contract was up last month. After some very public strike-preparation, a work stoppage was prevented—and the Voice’s generous, hard-won employee health plan was preserved—thanks to their lead negotiator, the paper’s last remaining middle-aged left-winger. Awestruck coworkers took to Twitter to call the film critic a “hero” and “a God.”

Best Emotionally Confusing GQ 
Celebrity “Profile” 
By a Former 
L Magazine Editor

Edith Zimmerman on (on!) Chris Evans

Possibly honest about the confusion many feel when being gladhandled by the famous and chiseled (who may themselves be seeking friendship outside the bubble of celebrity—or are they?), and definitely hilarious in its account of a coveted freelance assignment nearly wrecked amid a fog of alcohol and pheromones, our old friend EZ’s diary entry about that time she maybe kinda almost drunkenly flirted with Captain America left us with many conflicted feelings. Like: by some weird transitive property we’re not quite sure we understand, Facebook now lists our relationship status as “It’s Complicated” with Hayley Atwell.

Best Weiner Dick-Joke Headlines

Plenty of media outlets made obvious hot dog and Twitter jokes, but the funniest ones were about penises.

Weiner: I’ll Stick It Out, NY Post, June 10//Weiner: “I’m Sorry I was a Little Stiff Yesterday,”, June 1 // Weiner Finally Yanks Himself, NY Post, June 17 // Boehner Pokes Fun At Weiner, CNN video, June 7 //He Couldn’t Keep It Up, Metro, June 17-19 // Weiner’s Junk Defense, The Daily Beast, June 1 // Battle of the Bulge, NY Post, June 2 // Fall On Your Sword, Weiner, NY Post, June 8 // Weiner Is Shrinking, NY Post, June 6 // Obama Beats Weiner, NY Post, June 14 // Weiner Pulls Out, NY Post video, June 16 // Take It Out of Tony’s Hands, NY Post, June 3 // Weiner’s Pickle, NY Daily News June 2 // Mounting Pressure On Weiner, CNN video, June 8 // Steny Hoyer Joins Push to Force Weiner Out, UPI, June 12