Final Editor’s Note of the year. Although without any cash prize, trophy or recognition so to speak of, Lincoln winners can take comfort in knowing that I probably talk about them far too much.
Best Album: Titus Andronicus—The Monitor. Any regular reader of Recess probably would’ve expected me to put Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy in this spot, and I wouldn’t blame them. But The Monitor, though an entirely different sort of album, gets the edge for its combination of earnestness, propulsion and the literate fury of frontman Patrick Stickles. Despite a runtime of 65 minutes, the album never sags, and there’s enough shifting of tempo and cadence to dodge the exhaustion that large doses of punk rock can sometimes provoke. Functioning as a primer to the cultural history of New Jersey, Stickles’ lyrics toes the line between pathos and poetry enough to draw on the best virtues of both.
(Runners-up: Kanye West—My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy; Mr. Dream—Trash Hit.)
Best Film: True Grit. My consumption of last year’s films is woefully incomplete, but I managed to see a number of the top dogs: Black Swan was overrated, The Fighter surprisingly sincere and True Grit the best of the bunch. The Coen Brothers have long-since established themselves as among my most-admired filmmakers, and though True Grit isn’t the masterpiece of a Miller’s Crossing or Barton Fink—one of the greatest movies ever made—I’d give it the edge over the lofty No Country for Old Men. I’d be curious to know if having seen the recently-released Source Code could’ve changed my vote here any; its director, Duncan Jones, made what stands as my favorite film of the last few years, the Sam Rockwell tour de force Moon.
(Runners-up: The Fighter, Winter’s Bone.)
Best Book: John D’Agata, About a Mountain. I’m cheating a bit here, because About a Mountain actually came out in Feb. 2010, but having read it this year I’m giving myself some leeway. The story of Yucca Moutain told through a prismatic flurry of fact and anecdote—including musings, both personal and reported, on the city of Las Vegas, suicide hotlines and the complexities of communication—D’Agata demonstrates why he’s been so integral to the recent resurgence of the essay. D’Agata brings the economy and rhythm of a poet to journalistic nonfiction, and he also takes the contentious tactic of conflating and playing with the story’s chronology—a move that upsets some but, because he cops to it, didn’t bother me. Even more to his credit, About a Mountain has provoked debate as to how much liberty a writer can take with the truth in pursuit of art; in the crowded din of today’s literary conversation, any time a writer can get multiple people to concentrate on the same concept at once, he’s doing something right.
(Runners-up: Joshua Cohen, Witz—which might have won, if I’d had time to finish it.)
TV Show: Justified. Crime noir meets Southern Gothic, fronted by the shockingly uber-charismatic Timothy Olyphant. Oh, and Mad Men.
It’s been fun, kids.
Get The Chronicle straight to your inbox
Signup for our weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.