In response to my post about the best books of 2010, I received a thoughtful message from George Kimball, co-editor of The Fighter Still Remains. Kimball pointed out to me that while there was a small amount of overlap between that volume and another anthology of boxing-related poems I mentioned, the collection he and John Schulian assembled had different aims (covering only American authors) and a smaller timeframe (covering only the Queensbury era). To compare such a work with one of another kind was, I concede, neither especially meaningful nor entirely fair.
I had been aware that proceeds from sales of The Fighter Still Remains went to a worthy cause (Haitian earthquake relief). I was heartened to learn that everyone involved – including Paul Simon, who wrote “The Boxer,” from which the book takes its name – eagerly signed off on the use of their material as part of that effort.
Kimball and Schulian also edited the forthcoming At the Fights: American Writers on Boxing. I wouldn’t be surprised if that turns out to be one of my top books of 2011.
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Posted in Uncategorized, tagged Alfred A. Knopf, Arthur Koestler, Best Books, Carson McCullers, Charles Goodrich, Christopher Hitchens, Darkness at Noon, Don DeLillo, Everything, Fiction, George Kimball, Going to Seed, Ian McEwan, Joe Louis, John Schulian, Kevin Canty, Martin Amis, Michael Waters, Milan Kundera, Miles Davis, Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, Nonfiction, Norman Mailer, Perfect in Their Art, Poetry, Point Omega, Randy Roberts, Richard Williams, Robert Hedin, Robert Louis Stevenson, Scribner, Silverfish Review Press, The American Interest, The Blue Moment, The Fighter Still Remains, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, The Naked and the Dead, The Oregonian, The Pregnant Widow, Treasure Island, Yale University Press on December 24, 2010 |
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In order to write about them for The Oregonian, The American Interest and other publications, I read a fair number of brand new books in 2010. Nevertheless, I can’t make an honest top-ten list. Here are six that truly stood as exceptional:
- Martin Amis’s The Pregnant Widow (Alfred A. Knopf)
- Kevin Canty’s Everything (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday)
- Don DeLillo’s Point Omega (Scribner)
- Charles Goodrich’s Going to Seed: Dispatches from the Garden (Silverfish Review Press)
- Randy Robert’s Joe Louis: Hard Times Man (Yale University Press)
- Richard Williams’s The Blue Moment: Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue and the Remaking of Modern Music (W.W. Norton & Company)
The short list reflects my tendency to read roughly proportional amounts of fiction and nonfiction. I probably read more poetry in 2010 than in most years, and Goodrich’s small volume was my favorite of several contenders.
The year 2010 saw new books by authors I once thought of as reliably remarkable – Christopher Hitchens, Ian McEwan, Milan Kundera – that I found disappointingly inferior to their earlier efforts. I could name several very good but not quite excellent books. Here’s one: George Kimball and John Schulian assembled a fine collection of boxing-related poems in The Fighter Still Remains. A few years earlier, however, Robert Hedin and Michael Waters edited Perfect in Their Art, an anthology containing much of the same material – and a great deal more.
This leads to the Achilles heel of year-end lists: the absence of the great older stuff. While I read many books published during 2010, I also read many from other years, which are automatically disqualified from “best of” contention but deserve mention all the same. I reread some classics, like Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon and Norman Mailer’s The Naked and the Dead. (I also read several books about Mailer, but these weren’t so good.) I also finally got around to some wonderful books I should have read much sooner, such as Carson McCullers’s The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter and Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. If I were to list the ten books I most enjoyed during 2010 regardless of publication date, the four named in this paragraph could be added to the six above.
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