Every moron with a blog feels the need to do a “best of the year” list, so here’s mine, for what it’s worth.
Book: C by Tom McCarthy is absolutely the novel of the year, and I believe the literary world will come to agree in time and give it more credit. I mean, yes, it got rave reviews all along (except for a strangely brutal, inept Kakutani review), but it ended up getting no major awards (yet). When C first came out, everyone predicted it would be all over the awards. It was nominated for the Booker, then made the shortlist, and was such a heavy favorite that Ladbrokes stopped taking bets on the title, becoming alarmed with how many people were putting their money on McCarthy.
And then it didn’t win. And it didn’t even make the NYTBR’s list of 2010’s 10 best books, and not even the top 100 either. A shock. My only guess as to what has turned some people off is that the book is very sciencey and technical. But that is its delight; not only does McCarthy deliver an enthralling story but you’re also learning as you read; learning perhaps more than you ever wanted or needed to know about wireless radio, signals, and Egypt, but whatever. I know this sounds like an overly enthusiastic, thumbs-up, wide-grinned plug that you might see on Reading Rainbow, but I really can’t praise the book enough. It’s not The Secret History, but it’s very, very good.
Honorable mentions: Madame Bovary (Lydia Davis translation), To the End of the Land by David Grossman
Movie: The best movie I saw this year has got to be Toy Story 3. I don’t care that it’s animated, it’s a conceptually perfect film—smart, moving, funny and important. At turns hilarious and adult, at (most) turns heartbreaking, the funniest and most surprising thing about it is that it’s basically a jailbreak movie. But, as with the other Toy Story movies, it has replay appeal, characters that will stay with you, and a heartfelt message that is as Freudian as any: our childhood meant something, our toys matter, and nostalgia is more than just a kitschy feeling, it’s our past, our memories, our love of play.
As you watch the little girl play with her new toys, and you see Andy play with them for the last time, it feels like you, too, have aged inexorably. In that way, Toy Story 3 is anything but a children’s movie.