The Top Ten Years of the Decade

1. 2005 — This year demonstrated its commitment to the decade’s center. It was clear by March that it was no longer 2004. Audiences became aware that they were now living in a decade that was no longer the 1990s, and there was something special and poignant about that. Critics have been discussing this overlooked year for the past four, and with good reason. Few recent years seemed as driven by pure, organic intuition.

2. 2007 — Set amidst a backdrop somewhere between 2006 and 2008, this was a year that didn’t quite live up to 2005. Initially, 2007 was overlooked by the critics, until J. Hoberman’s 4,000 word essay on 2007 set the matter straight. Other tastemakers followed Hoberman’s lead and the year became strongly appreciated.

3. 2006 — Armond White’s infamous takedown caused many of the year’s boosters to reconsider it, largely because they were skeptical of White’s tendency to hate what people liked. Its reputation was momentarily diminished, until 2006 experienced renewed interest upon its DVD release.

4. 2009 — The decade’s last year was a gritty, low-budget offering that came saddled with a different director. But it was helped by a special pullout section that appeared in The New York Times. Voted Best Year to Lose Your Job by Time Out New York, 2009 proved to be nowhere nearly as bad as it should have been. It is presently being distributed in IMAX.

5. 2000 — Ten years later, nobody really remembers this neglected year, although there was something about dot coms. This was the year Before Everything Changed. Criterion is scheduled to issue a special DVD set.

6. 2008 — Produced by Bono, 2008 proved to be an underperforming point in the decade. Widely derided upon its release, 2008 has earned a quiet cult following and is still talked about by record store clerks. What is especially surprising is that there are pro-2008 record store clerks who still have jobs and that there are a few record stores that still exist.

7. 2003 — This poignant year touched the hearts of audiences while garnering the wrath of critics. It was, in many ways, a populist year, marked by a sense that there were still six years left to go. But this dreamy tapestry of misery, regret, and joy stands as a flawed reinvention of 2002 that isn’t without its moments.

8. 2002 — Despite being a palindrome, this year was largely overpraised by the population. There was a sense that this year could prove to be an underperformer like 1991. Pitchfork continues to shit on this year, but we think it’s worth a second look.

9. 2004 — The more often you revisit it, the better this year looks. 2004, the directorial debut of 2003, attempted to take years to a new artistic level. But it was sullied by the November story arc in the third act.

10. 2001 — There was no space odyssey and certainly no flying car. It was one of the decade’s most troublesome years, marred by planes colliding into buildings. But 2001 proved to be an unusual milestone, a year that helped you find some context within a difficult decade. Cautiously recommended.

Clearing the Air

Since everyone else seems to be doing it, I’ll go on record and state that I’ve only read seven of the alleged “100 Most Notable Books of 2005”. But many of these books (the Gaitskill, the Powers Mark Twain bio, et al.) are ones I’d like to read, while I have no burning interest to read others (Harry Potter, Eggers). If they’re going to start taking away litblog credentials, they’ll have to start with me. I can only cite lack of time and a tendency to read more small press and genre titles as my primary defenses.

And speaking of strange lists, what is John Grisham doing on the Post‘s top 5 fiction list?

Back to our regularly scheduled hiatus.

End of the Year Fiction Lists

It’s not even December yet, but the fiction lists keep rolling on. For the record, we won’t reveal our lists until the end of the year.

(Thanks, Richard Nash, for some of these.)


Recent Nobel Prize winner J.M. Coetzee says that television has replaced books as the imaginative impetus for kids. Apparently, he hasn’t heard of Harry Potter.

Is Rick Moody aware of periods?

The New Yorker has a profile on Lucia Joyce, James’ daughter, focusing on Lucia’s efforts to live in the shadow of a paternal genius and her father’s neglect. Lucia Joyce would later spend most of her years in an asylum. Carol Schloss’s book on the matter seems to suggest that Lucia was the price paid for Finnegan’s Wake and that she was instrumental in contributing to its imagery.

Jim Crace on research: “My wife and my editor think I do lots of research. And I encourage them in their delusion as it makes me seem hardworking. But actually I don’t research. I oppose research. What I do is a bit of background reading in order to work out how to tell my lies. I don’t look for information, I look for vocabulary and for the odd little emotional idea that will give some oxygen to my imagination. Vocabulary is the Trojan horse that smuggles the lie. Facts don’t help. If you’re not a persuasive talker at a party, no one’s going to believe you, even if everything you say is true. But if you’re a persuasive liar then everyone is fooled.”

The future of board games? The Boston Globe says Germany.

Hitler’s unpublished second book: “Hitler introduces significant new arguments, notably in relation to the United States, Europe, and, above all, the most crucial area of his foreign policy, relations with Britain, arguments which he had been developing in speeches and articles during 1926?8. ”

More end of the year lists:

The New York Times [The Bottom Line] (user: dr_mabuse, pw: mabuse)
The Washington Post [Fiction] [Nonfiction]
The Chicago Tribune [Best of 2002] (user: dr_mabuse, pw: mabuse)
The Seattle Times [Visual Arts (including The Pop-Up Kama Sutra!)] [Performing Arts] [Classical Arts] [Rock & Roll]
The Christian Science Monitor [Top 5 Fiction] [Top 5 Nonfiction] [Noteworthy Fiction] [Noteworthy Nonfiction]