Wup -- meant to post some ruminations before the old year came to a close, but life kinda got in the way. So it goes. Here's the briefer "get it done" version:
Music: I'm a sucker for the concept album, and 2010 offered skids of them. On the far end of the spectrum was Plastic Beach by The Gorillaz, which enlisted every major artist with "street cred" and managed to win over every critic and their dog. I couldn't get into it, but I'm happy for the kids. Trombone Shorty's Backatown was much more my speed, and received considerable play. The stand-out concept album of the year, though, was Arcade Fire's The Suburbs, which nudged me into one of those lovely, always unexpected "a-ha moments" for which I'm grateful. The most-played album this year was Elizabeth Cook's Welder Honorable mention goes to the mid-90s album, Signify by Porcupine Tree.
Movies: I took my younger daughter to see the latest Iron Man installment, and even though I smiled through most of it I had to wonder if the powers that be in Hollywood really had to spend that much frickin' money to generate such fair-to-middlin' thrills. A week or two later my wife and I saw Inception, and the thought never crossed my mind. This movie-goer's modest request to movie-makers in these challenging times: please don't spend that kind of money if you're not going to change the game.
Books: Two months ago, as I prepared to quickly complete my reading of Mr. Darwin's Shooter by Roger McDonald, I wrote: Even if the final third of the novel were to fall flat, Mr. Darwin's Shooter would be a candidate for the most memorable novel read this year. Well ... the conclusion didn't exactly fall flat, but it did disappoint. Specifically, it resolved, which, given the subject matter, struck me as incongruous. My reaction is probably tainted by the bitter dregs of the so-called "culture wars" being waged chiefly (but by no means exclusively) to the south of us: a country that remains, for the moment, the wealthiest in the world, taking the lead in so many of the sciences, but where the predominant religious inclination is to re-fight the Scopes "Monkey Trial" in school classrooms. If the national character can ever, uh, "mature" to a nuanced, respectful, even humble acceptance of the limits of articulations both theological and scientific, perhaps the true worth of McDonald's book can be better appreciated.
To that end, I found Marilynne Robinson's Absence of Mind quite helpful. I think she's acquired the reputation of an American Chesterton (minus the sense of humor), giving those pesky "New Atheists" their proper comeuppance. Just for the record, I don't much care for the argument itself, which hasn't developed any new parameters since Epicurus (or Job). Robinson does at times come across as a bit of scold, which I find less than charming. And while I do take issue with some of her arguments I am sympathetic with her larger purpose: challenging the human (and particularly Western, and most particularly American) imagination toward its truest capacity.
Related: this essay, the most resonant I've read this year.
But my favorite book of 2010 was Nikolski, by Nicholas Dickner, which still strikes me as a delightful and uniquely Canadian confection.
As ever, feel free to comment if I've missed out on something. Hopefully it will be addressed and enjoyed in Eleven (one louder than Ten!).