Showing posts from December, 2007

2007, A Year in Reading: Worst Books of the Year

And now, finally, something that I really think more bloggers and newspapers should do: the year's least worthy reads. To be honest, this year's list is paltry, both in its length and in the awfulness of its members. With the exception of the year's biggest turkey, none of these books approach the awfulness of some of stinkers I've read in recent years. Perhaps I'm developing a better radar for awfulness.

Unlike the previous two lists, this list is presented in ascending order of suckitude:
The Towers of Trebizond by Rose Macauley

I'm not entirely convinced that this book is objectively bad so much as that I am the absolutely worst possible reader for it. Parts of it are not much more than a thinly disguised travel narrative, in which the narrator, his aunt, and an eccentric priest, tromp around Turkey in the fifties--but I don't like travel writing. Those parts of it that have more than a thin dusting of plot are concerned with one of three issues: the n…

2007, A Year in Reading: Best Books of the Year

I read 64 books in 2007, which is once again a drop from the previous year. Given, however, that in 2007 I started working full-time for the first time, I think the drop was to be expected, and that it is a great deal smaller than it might have been. More importantly, if 2006 was a disappointing reading year, with barely any remarkable reads to report, 2007 has been, on the whole, a great improvement. Most of the books I read this year were worthwhile--not always exceptional, but almost always worth the time and energy I had invested in them. In last year's best books post I sadly reported the many occasions on which I'd turned the last page in a book and put it aside without sparing it another thought. That was a less common occurrence this year, which pleases me immensely. I'd like to read more books in 2008, but I'll settle for reading just as many worthy ones.

And so, the year's best reads, in alphabetical order of the author's name:
The Astonishing Lif…

2007, A Year in Reading: Best Short Stories of the Year

Earlier this year I read Annie Proulx's third short story collection, Bad Dirt: Wyoming Stories 2. Most of the pieces in it were appealing but underbaked--too long or too short, too detailed or not detailed enough. None of them had the power of the story that still has me fascinated with Proulx as a writer, "Brokeback Mountain." Reading Bad Dirt made me realize that it is possible for a writer to peak with a work only a few pages long, and I think it's worth recognizing accomplishments on that level even when the collections or anthologies they were plucked from aren't worthy of the same notice.

Though many of these stories were originally published in magazines, I read them almost exclusively in collected form. Which means that almost none of them were published in 2007 (and that this list is therefore useless as far as Hugo or Nebula nominations go). My rules, however, are the same ones I use for my lists of best and worst novels of the year: I have to have…

World of Warcraft Courts the Geek Demographic

Which seems redundant.  But then, so is saying "I'm William Shatner, and I'm a shaman."

Well, They Are Back

Following up on previous reports to the contrary, Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh are back onboard for the Hobbit movie.

Two things in that press release that trouble me:A Hobbit sequel is in the works as well.Jackson and Walsh are acting as executive producers. There's no word on whether they're going to adapt the book as they did for The Lord of the Rings, or whether Jackson is going to direct the films. To be honest, I don't care that much about The Hobbit and whether it gets a decent film treatment, but I'd hate to see Jackson and Walsh wasting their time. One King Kong was bad enough.

(On a personal note, I realize it's been quiet around these parts. That may not change until the end of the month--though obviously the end-of-year roundups will appear on schedule--but I have lots of good stuff planned for January.)

In Which I Am Curmudgeonly

First a bit of background for non-Israelis: YES is an Israeli satellite TV carrier known for their elaborate, lavish commercials. Two years ago, I thought these had hit an ethical nadir with the following (the commercial is mostly in English, which is something else I tend to grumble about):

Impossible though it may seem to top a commercial set in a Vietnamese torture camp for crassness and insensitivity, I believe this one, for YES's upcoming HD transmissions, ably manages the task:

(This one might need a bit of explaining for non-Hebrew speakers: the ultra orthodox characters have condemned HDTV as an abomination, and are singing about how it's against the Torah--because all the Shiksah women look so great--and we'll all go to hell because of it.)

Now, at first glance it may seem that a commercial mocking Orthodox Jews' tendency to exclude and denounce anything new and unfamiliar is a great deal less offensive than a commercial in which POWs sing and dance with their …