Friday, December 31, 2010

a year in reading, 2010, part one-ish.

In no particular order, here are some of my favourite disquisitions of the year. The political biases in this highly biased list should be unsurprising. So also some of the writers, many of whom have been beloved and admired for some time, and many of whom wrote more than one great piece this year. In the case of Tony Judt, for example, I picked a singularly brilliant interview he gave, instead of one of the many spectacular essays he composed for the NYRB and elsewhere, or the NY Magazine piece that profiled him beautifully.

Things missing from this list include, Kasparov excepted, reviews of single books or films (and if you're thinking of that Zadie Smith essay on The Social Network, let me assure you it is on my list of least favourite essays this year). Profiles of people: otherwise it would be all Obama and Berlusconi and Shashi Tharoor.

Also interviews other than Tony Judt's; listicles other than Common Roman Polanski Defenses Refuted (which drifted back to the top of my consciousness in the wake of the corrupted debate over Julian Assange's rape accusation); writing from publications with which I am or have been formally associated (The Run of Play did not, for example, contract my labour in signatures of blood before accepting my blog posts, nor, as an all-round and upfront gratis Portal of Fun, are they dragging their feet on payments - you know who you are, you weasels). A couple of exceptions to this rule are mentioned at the end of this post.

Also great shorter writing, including several Tumblelogs; great rants; great fanfiction involving one or more characters from the DC Comics Universe; great photography, great YouTube videos, and so on.

Also missing is any writing about Mumbai, which deserves its own post.

If this list overrepresents some publications, it is because I enjoyed and was moved by their contents disproportionately. This in spite of not being able to afford a subscription to LRB yet, which is quite an achievement on their part, in every sense.

Recap: Reads of the Year, 2010

Susie Linfield, Living With The Enemy
On the living limits of reconciliation as a political ideal.

Rahul Bhattacharya, Cricket, Tennis, the Loss of Immersion
As the nature of broadcasts change, so does the narrative of a game.

Amanda Hess, Common Roman Polanski Defenses, Refuted
Washington City Paper
How to talk to people who defend Roman Polanski's crime.

Ross McKibbin, Time to Repent
London Review of Books
Britain's new political settlement, and where the fuck Labour went.

Garry Kasparov, The Chess Master and the Computer
New York Review of Books
Can the computer change the way a very human game is played? Not unless it can change the way a very human game is thought.

Daisy Rockwell as Lapata, The Reluctant Feudalist
Chapati Mystery
Can what is said of Sadat Hasan Manto also be said of Daniyal Mueenuddin? A literary investigation.

Dibussi Tande, Undermining African Intellectual and Artistic Rights; Shakira, Zangalewa and the World Cup Anthem
Scribbles from the Den
A brief history of the double standard of artistic property for African artists.

Alma Guillermoprieto, The Murderers of Mexico
New York Review of Books
War as theatre.

Corey Robin, Garbage and Gravitas
The Nation
The life and legacy of Ayn Rand.

Basharat Peer, Tear Gas Over Batamaloo
The National Interest
What is at play, and what at stake, in Kashmir this year.

Brian Phillips, Pelé as a Comedian
The Run of Play
Perhaps David Foster Wallace's notion of the delight we take in sport as religious experience undermines itself.

Aaron Bady, Julian Assange and the Computer Conspiracy
Why does Assange do what he does?

Amitava Kumar, Birth of a Salesman
In the War on Terror, an FBI informant's doppelganger is the terrorist suspect.

Mohammed Hanif, Pakistan flood victims 'have no concept of terrorism'
BBC Online

They belong to that forgotten part of humanity that has quietly tilled the land for centuries, the small farmers, the peasants, the farmhands, generations of people who are born and work and die on the same small piece of land.

And this time there are 20 million of them.

Kristina Božič in conversation with Tony Judt, The Way Things Are and How They Might Be
London Review of Books
Tony Judt, magnificent on social democracy, Europe, America and much else.

Charlie LeDuff, What Killed Aiyana Stanley-Jones?
Mother Jones

People my mother's age like to tell me about Detroit's good old days of soda fountains and shopping markets and lazy Saturday night drives. But the fact is Detroit and its suburbs were dying 40 years ago. The whole country knew it, and the whole country laughed. A bunch of lazy, uneducated blue-collar incompetents. The Rust Belt. Forget about it.

Mukul Kesavan, Is Murali the greatest spinner ever?
What Muttiah Muralitharan has meant to cricket, to Sri Lanka, and to sport.

Rafia Zakaria, Muslim Grrrls
A lawyer investigates how Sharia and feminism go hand-in-hand.

Jacqueline Rose, 'J'accuse;' Dreyfus in our times
London Review of Books
Possibly my favourite this year. Justice is an infinite affair.

Some more stuff I liked:

Kamila Shamsie's Pop Idols on a generation of Pakistani pop music in Granta's Pakistan issue;
Umair Muhajir's Reflections on masala cinema and Dabanng at his blog, Qalandar;
Mihir Sharma's Calcutta is the city of second chances after the Park Street fire earlier this year, in The Indian Express;
P Sainath's The Colour of Water on two continuous years of drought in Vidarbha, in India Together;
Nathaniel Popper's A Conscious Pariah on Raul Hillberg and Hannah Arendt, in The Nation;
Nilanjana Roy's Getting Around Your City; A User's Guide for Women, at her blog Akhond of Swat and elsewhere;

and several others.

Finally, to some writers and journalists whom I drop everything to read, every time they write: Samar Halarnkar; Kuzhali Manickavel; Andrew Guest; Alan Jacobs;
Shoma Chaudhury; Chandrahas Choudhury;
Manan Ahmed; Lilia M Schwarcz; Ingrid D Rowland; cheers and thank you all. May your wordcounts ever increase.

Happy new year.

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