Sunday, December 17, 2006

year-end review

This blog has provided a service I wouldn’t have the patience for. A compilation of the infamous and highly proliferated (as you’ll be able to see when you follow the link) lists of best of (best ofs? bests of?) in the realm of music.
In short, if you want to keep up to date, buy everything. But, by the time you’ve listened to a quarter of it, it’s already out of date and at that point you’ll be listening to has-beens or classics, depending on your take.

If offer a different “best of” list. More manageable. It’s the best of the books I actually finished this year. I start a lot of books and read about even more of them, but it’s rare I actually finish a book. But here are three I stuck around for and which actually paid off.

Idylls of the King, by Alfred Lord Tennyson. Not nearly as hoity-toity as it sounds. I came to this in a circuitous way. I was reading Anne of Green Gables (before the crying) and figured I’d read the original of what she reenacted on the river. So I started the Idylls of the King at the “Lancelot and Elaine” chapter (as I call it – I don’t know the proper term - sub-epic? poem?). I recommend beginning there, mostly because all tellings of the Arthurian saga begin with the ascendancy of Arthur, and that is not where Tennyson is at his most inventive. (Though, to be fair, the opening chapter is very good in that it gives several different versions of Arthur’s arrival.) Still, Lancelot has always been the most fascinating of the Round Table Knights. (I could have done without the epilogue, but still, who am I to judge?)

Imaginary Obligations, by Frank Moore Colby. I found this author in A Subtreasury of American Humor. Colby’s essays aren’t laugh-out-loud funny, but what written humor really is, anyway? He’s got great insights, though, and his main point is that you can’t judge people by what they say, since they feel obligated to put up a public front. What I remember offhand is that he points out, in an essay about evening entertainments, that much entertainment succeeds in emptying the audiences mind from the troubles and worries of the day, but a good production inserts new thoughts in this void. Of course he says it much better than I did. (Downside: you’ll have to get a used copy since it’s out of print. But you’ll get to surf around or

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and But Gentlemen Marry Brunettes, by Anita Loos. Don’t watch the movie, if you can avoid it. The movie is completely miscast, if you ask me. Marilyn Monroe just can’t pull off the conniving innocence necessary for the character of Lorelei Lee. Without looking, I remember one of the lines that made me want to pick up the book in the first place (I had read an excerpt in A Subtreasury of American Humor – a book I’d recommend if I’d finished it – look for a recommendation next year). She’s talking about her gentleman friend who doesn’t bore her and always makes good conversation. For example, the other day, he gave her the cutest diamond bracelet.

There you go. Look them up if you have the time. I don’t think you’ll be complaining about wasted time.

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