2012 Reading Oscars

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2012 Reading Oscars

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dec 18, 2012, 11:17pm

That time of year again for the reading Oscars. Suggested categories for this year's awards are:

Best Non Fiction
Best Fiction
Best Poetry anthology
Best Drama
Best Work by a writer new to you this year
Best Reread
Best Work in translation
Best Book of the year

This year we also include Worst Book of the year.

you are welcome to add subtract categories, and let us know what the nominations for each category were, and why they didn't make the final cut.

Let the games begin!

Redigeret: dec 19, 2012, 12:37am

It was an awful reading and reviewing year. I completely lost my discipline. Half of the books I started are left unfinished. Reviewing in 2012 was at an all time low. I do read more theory on writing though, I think more about book, why this … why that…I study criticism on criticism…I review reviews…

Best Non Fiction : Herzog “ conquest of the useless”
Best biography : Robert Byron by James Knox
Best Fiction: “As I lay dying” by Faulkner
Best Poetry anthology : none
Best Drama : none
Best Work by a writer new to you this year : Blaise Cendrars “ To the end of the world”
Best Reread : Magic Mountain by Mann
Best Work in translation ; Shipwrecks by Yoshimura
Best Book of the year : “As I lay dying” by Faulkner

dec 19, 2012, 12:52am

strong vote for Faulkner there, mac, and nice to see an Oscar for Herzog's writing, if not for his movies lol.

dec 19, 2012, 2:51am

Point of clarification, if you please: do these nominations reflect our evaluations of our own respective readings in 2012, regardless of when the books came out?

And are we looking for any convergence on winners, or just individual lists?

dec 19, 2012, 3:58am

individual lists, your own respective readings. A chance to reflect on your own readings. any kind of convergence will not be tolerated.

dec 19, 2012, 4:09am

Well my list should be quick to make, since I only read two books worthy of talking about this year: Infinite Jest, and the Bible, the latter still unfinished, and besides probably hors concours anyway. Is there an English equivalent to hors concours?

Redigeret: dec 19, 2012, 9:50am

Admittedly, Predictably:

Best Non Fiction : Moby Dick, Cetology and related chapters
Best biography : Moby Dick, chapters on great whaling writers of the past
Best Fiction: Moby Dick, Cetology and all other chapters
Best Poetry anthology : Moby Dick, especially "Midnight Aloft - Thunder and Lightning"
Best Drama : Moby Dick, Midnight, Forecastle
Best Work by a writer new to you this year : Robert Alter's Pen of Iron: American Prose and the King James Bible, especially chapters on Melville and Faulkner
Best Reread : Moby Dick
Best Work in translation ; Jonah and the Whale, as told in Moby Dick
Best Book of the year : Moby Dick

Well, that's what happens in a year I read Moby. I'll think through my runners up and post them separately, though.

I have many contenders for worst book. I'll have to think about that one.

dec 19, 2012, 10:34am

I second Sam, except on Alter, who I didn't. I am the son of Sam, so to speak. (take that thought to be tonight, A_)

A healthy vote goes to that modern guy for The Recognitions.

Most disappointing, non-fiction, goes to Plutonium, A History of the World's Most Dangerous Element by Jeremy Bernstein

In fiction Finnegan's Wake and Garg&Pants tie for best frequently dipped into.

Best non-fiction would go to whoever could remind me of all of the non-fiction books I read, but one good one is over there on the floor by my bed...Under the Cloud, the Decades of Nuclear Testing by Richard Miller. If it doesn't get worse suddenly it deserves mention.

Best book lent out and having a pulsing absence is The Adventures of Maqroll.

dec 19, 2012, 11:51am

I know my best worst book -- Ottoman Lyric Poetry. It is best in that it is well conceived, includes interesting commentary, and tackles a great subject. But it is then filled with poetry translations reflecting a really mediocre ear for English poetry with a number of questionable choices for the general approach, and much of the commentary is incomplete and just scratches the surface, and some of it is pretty questionable in analysis.

BUT, the whole thing was meant to provoke debate in an underrepresnted area, and even the mediocrity of some of its elements can serve that purpose. I find I really love the horrid little thing.

dec 19, 2012, 12:06pm

Is there an English equivalent to hors concours?

Out of the running.

dec 19, 2012, 12:29pm

whores conquer?

dec 19, 2012, 12:32pm

Strumpets' canker.

Oh noes!

Better stop before we kill yet another innocent thread.

dec 19, 2012, 1:22pm

Right. Best cover: Lanark, by Alistair Gray.

dec 19, 2012, 3:02pm

Best Non Fiction.................................................Grant by Jean Edward Smith
Best Fiction..................................................​Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
Best Work by a writer new to you this year.......Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Best Book of the year.........................................Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

Best cover

dec 19, 2012, 3:17pm

Seriously now:

Best book of poetry: Toucans in the Arctic by Scott Coffel

Best book of short stories: Then We Saw the Flames by Daniel Hoyt

dec 20, 2012, 1:35pm

3 Yes Faulkner... strange indeed... but then again I was always a Modernism buff...

dec 22, 2012, 7:31pm

Best Non Fiction Machiavelli and his friends: Their Personal Correspondence I had previously read a selection of Machiavelli's letters but this volume includes many letters written to him and so gives a much fuller picture of life and times in Florence during the renaissance.

Best Fiction The Twyborn Affair by Patrick White. I read eight novels by White in this his centenary year and could have chosen Voss, The VIvisector or The Tree of Man

Best Poetry anthology The Poetry of Petrarch, translated by David Young David Youngs introduction to this collection is worth the price of admission alone. This Volume just edged out Villon; selected Poems

Best Drama Clizia by Niccolo Machiavelli. He knew how to make people laugh as well as he could scare the pants off them.

Best Work by a writer new to you this year North and South Elizabeth Gaskell

Best Reread Moby-Dick, which just edged out Lady Chatterley's lover by D H Lawrence. It wouldn't have edged out Women in Love, The Rainbow or The Plumed Serpent but I didn't re-read those this year.

Best Work in translation Norwegian Wood Haruki Murakami

Best book of the year by a contributor to the Salon threads Arjun and the Good Snake by Rick Harsch

Two great discoveries Novellino of Masuccio by Salernitano Massucio which were short stories very much in the mould of Boccaccio's Decameron, but perhaps even more risque and an absolute delight
Baiae by Giovani Giovano Pontano - a collection of 15th century poems celebrating the hedonistic life style of the public baths at Baiae; a renaissance pleasure palace on the coast near Naples

Worst book of the Year Black Cherry Blues by James Lee Burke - save me from this machismo shit.

dec 22, 2012, 10:36pm

# 7 that is hilarious. And lots of Renaissance stuff from you Baz, although im sad to see Villon being edged out there.

Awesome cover, Cyderry!

dec 22, 2012, 11:09pm

Best Non Fiction = it would have to be The Essay Concerning Human Understanding except for the fact that I didn't finish it, only reading part 3 and 4, so this year's prize goes to Bikkhu Nanamoli's Life of the Buddha an essential book for anyone interested in Buddhism.

Best Fiction = difficult choice, but the Oscar goes to Mardi for the strangest and weirdest book I read all year.

Best Poetry anthology = Collected Poems in English by Brodsky

Best Drama - Othello (in fact, the only drama I read all year)

Best Work by a writer new to you this year = The winner in this category is Generations of Winter by Aksyonov, a writer of whom I knew nothing until this year. A great great book, which continues to haunt me.

Best Reread = Our Mutual Friend

Best Work in Translation = This would have to be The Case of Comrade Tulayev, also my first book by Victor Serge

Worst Book of the Year = either To the Finland Station which was a huge disappointment, both as a book and as my first Wilson. Or Edgar Allen Poe's Murders on the rue Morgue, which was just inept.

Best Book by a writer known to me = Rick Harsch's brilliant Arjun and the Good Snake

Best Book of the year = of course, Moby Dick

dec 23, 2012, 11:03am

Murr, have you read Aksyonov's In search of melancholy baby? It's a collection of essay-ish writing about his culture clash with the US. As a transplant to a foreign land yourself, and as you like him so much, I think it might interest you. Of course, it's not a postcard of America, it's a double vision of Russia and the US/West.

Redigeret: dec 24, 2012, 12:33am

Best Non Fiction Just Kids
Best Fiction Moby Dick
Best Poetry anthology Poetry Magazine's 75th anniversary issue: October-November 1987
Best Drama --
Best Work by a writer new to you this year they were almost all new to me. Discoveries include Keith Lee Morris, Jesse Lee Kercheval, Judith Katzir.
Best Reread --
Best Work in translation Master and Margarita
Best Book of the year Moby Dick

Redigeret: dec 26, 2012, 1:49pm

Best Non Fiction
Literary Criticism/ Literary History Division: Robert Alter, Pen of Iron; close runners up to Yip, who wins below in best poetry division, and to The Cambridge History of Chinese Literature, which was a touchstone all year
History Division: Arts of Intimacy: Christians, Jews and Muslims in the Making of Castilian Culture by Dodds, Menocal, and Balbale - a reread in the context of a visit to its main subject Toledo, Spain

Best Fiction: Moby Dick, runner up is Three Kingdoms, now its its third read-through with my son

Best Poetry:
In translation: Yip, Chinese Poetry
Runner up is Gongora's Soledades
Honorable mentions have to go to Pound, Rexroth, and Snyder for their work on Chinese Poetry
In English: Much competition, but the tie goes to two books by important American poets struggling to understand Chinese poetry, Pound's Cathay and Snyder's Cold Mountain Poems; ostensibly translations, these also/instead really have to be classed as enormously interesting and influential English language poetry in their own right

Best Drama: Shakespeare, 12th Night; though much competition here

Best Work by a writer new to you this year: Padataditaka (the Kick), by Syamilaka, a little Sanskrit "causerie", or play played by a single actor; runner up, The Peony Pavilian by Tang Xianzu (tough call on this one - Padataditaka is a wonderful dramatic work, Peony Pavilian more literary and probably a better read).

Best Reread: Yes, Moby Dick; runners up, The Back Country and Three Kingdoms, all old sentimental favorites

Best Work in translation: Cambridge Anthology of Classical Chinese Literature, a book that was on my bed-table for months this year, and is chock-full of often stellar often merely ok works. Many are so heavily abridged they gave but a taste, but it became a heavily addictive "gateway drug"

Best Book of the year: Moby Dick

Worst Book of the Year: Ottoman Lyric Poetry, explained above

Most fun not involving sex: Arjun and the Good Snake

Obviously, besides Moby, I've been immersed in Chinese literature much of the year, with a few odds and ends thrown in. I am also astonished at the influence of the Salon on my reading: Alter was found here, Moby was read for here, Yip came in on Murr's recommendation... and, of course, there's Rick... Everyone ends up at Rick's book, right? But more than half of these books I likely would not have read this year without the Salon's influence. Thank you all!

Redigeret: dec 26, 2012, 1:06pm

Murr, Life of the Buddha is on my shelf for this year. Looking forward to it.

Redigeret: dec 26, 2012, 1:44pm

Reading through these lists, there is much I want.... I think the Petrarch and Brodsky are must-buys, and I'm looking at that stuff Rick mentions that I don't know.... and the Aksyanovs mentioned by Murr and Lola.... Thank the Dieties both Real and Imagined that we are in the season of materialistic excesses....

dec 26, 2012, 3:46pm

Yes, I have the Aksyanov itch, too, and need to get it. I read his Burn (I think) about 18 years ago and I think I was too young to understand it. (No sex?)

dec 26, 2012, 4:44pm

There's so much sex! I've never read a Russian novel with so much formatively influential sex.

dec 26, 2012, 4:45pm

"O drosophilia, mother of mutations!" That's from a sex part.

dec 26, 2012, 4:50pm

I guess I got the right novel...I wonder what was wrong with me.

dec 26, 2012, 4:58pm

I meant physical act not metaphysical expression of the act.

The fictional sex is fine, but I meant most fun not involving literal entwinement of body parts and mixing of fluids.

dec 26, 2012, 8:13pm

I'm moist.

dec 28, 2012, 2:36am

Best nonfiction: Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson
Best fiction: Crossing to Safety, by Wallace Stegner
Best poetry anthology: none
Best drama: none
Best work by a writer new to you this year: Crossing to Safety, by Wallace Stegner
Best (only) reread: The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien
Best work in translation: The Blind Owl, by Sadegh Hedayat
Best book of the year: Crossing to Safety, by Wallace Stegner

These are all my 5-star fiction reads for 2012, and all the authors except McDonald were new to me in 2012--even Stegner, I blush to admit:

River of Gods, by Ian McDonald
The Line, by Olga Grushin
Possession, by A.S. Byatt
The Dream Life of Sukhanov, by Olga Grushin
The Gold Bug Variations, by Richard Powers
The Orphan Master's Son, by Adam Johnson
Crossing to Safety, by Wallace Stegner

I can't name a worst book because I abandoned all such contenders long before finishing them.

dec 28, 2012, 5:17am

30: We know

dec 28, 2012, 8:40am

31 Meredy, I have yet to read Stegner as well. Seems like a pretty strong recommendation from you. I'll move him up the tbr pile.

Olga Grushin looks interesting as well!

22> sam, I forgot to say I was rotflmho at your moby posts. Like you say, moby covers everyting! Glad too that the Yip was such a big hit with you, and looking forward to your reaction to the life of Buddha.

dec 28, 2012, 8:53am

That post is why people around me are sick of Moby Dick references. I thought your Mardi reference was interesting; I didn't finish Mardi this year, and have to get back to it. For sheer strangeness, though, Murr, you still have Pierre and The Confidence Man ahead of you. I predict you will be completely blown away by The Confidence Man.

Redigeret: dec 28, 2012, 7:07pm

Best Non Fiction: Sister Queens: The Noble and Tragic Lives of Katherine of Aragon and Juana, Queen of Castile by Julia Fox -- it was the only NF I finished.
Best Fiction: My two five star novels are Morality Play by Barry Unsworth and Falling Man by Don DeLillo
Best Poetry anthology: Narrative Poems by William Shakespeare -- I don't know why I had never read "Venus and Adonis" and "The Rape of Lucrece" before -- fascinating.
Best Drama: Medea by Euripides in the NAWL translation by Diane Arnson Svarlien, runner-up Lysistrata by Aristophanes, trans. by Sarah Ruden.
Best Work by a writer new to you this year: both Unsworth and DeLillo were new to me, but for the sake of variety -- Valerie Martin, whose Property is sophisticated and powerful.
Best Reread: Medea
Best Work in translation: The Polish Boxer by Eduardo Halfon, trans. by David Hahn, et.al.,
Most Fun: Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Best Book of the year: ummm... Morality Play

This year we also include Worst Book of the year -- I give up on those early. Nothing below 3 stars on my list, and there are lots of those.

dec 28, 2012, 4:50pm

33: Thank you. I felt that the award categories constrained me a little bit. The best book is not necessarily the one I enjoyed the most. The Stegner novel is a late-in-career work by a mature, confident writer in full possession of his considerable powers. There's no juvenile flailing, no showing off, no weird experimental techniquey stuff, no fumbling. I knew I was in the hands of a pro and could trust him.

But it didn't have the "wow!" effect that several of the other 5-stars had (including Grushin). It wasn't a display of conspicuous virtuosity. It didn't make me race out for another work by the same author. I will come back to Stegner, without a doubt, but not with the same appetite with which I pursued, say, McDonald after The Dervish House.

I think the book that I flat-out enjoyed the most in 2012 wasn't a 5-star at all but Stephen King's 11/22/63, which took me on a trip without making me work too hard.

dec 28, 2012, 7:09pm

Meredy -- I agree with you -- so often the best book is not the most enjoyable. I loved Grushin's The Line last year -- have yet to read The Dream Life of Sukhanov though it's sitting on somewhere on a shelf.

Redigeret: dec 30, 2012, 11:52am

1) Best Non Fiction
The Emperor of all Maladies. The Greatest Show on Earth and, How Doctors Think are very close runners-up. Oooh! and in honor of this year's Salon mega-read, The Bible A Biography, by that prolific ex-nun Karen Armstrong.
2) Best Fiction
3) Best Work by a writer new to you this year
4) Best Family Christmas Story
The Corrections
5) Best Humor Since Mad Magazine
Apathy and Other Small Victories
6) Best Memoir
A Man Without a Country
7) Best Recommendation for Poetry and Stoic writings, by Ignatius J. Reilly
The Consolation of Philosophy
8) Best Novella by someone with problems with his or her anterior singulate cortex
Notes from Underground
9) Best psychotic character since U Po Kyin in Burmese Days
Mr. Toad in Wind in the Willows
10) Worst Fiction
Ethan Frome
Sledding? Really?

dec 29, 2012, 4:45am

Poor Ethan.

jan 1, 2013, 11:26pm

Best Fiction: Là où les tigres sont chez eux by Jean-Marie Blas de Roblès
Best Non-Fiction:David Mitchell: Critical Essays by Sarah Dillon
Best SF: The Lifecycle of Software Objects by Ted Chiang
Best History Book: Balkan Journal by Laird Archer
Author whose whole bibliography I read inside 2012: David Mitchell
Best book by author new to me: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Special Weirdo Award: Cataclysm Baby by Matt Bell
Best Online Resource: https://www.pynchon.net/owap

Book of the year: Là où les tigres sont chez eux by Jean-Marie Blas de Roblès

jan 2, 2013, 3:26am

It became 2013! I'll never read a book in 2012 again.

Best Non-Fiction: The Five Books of Moses. ALTER COUNTS.
Best Fiction: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. One of those books you cast lead actors for in your head.
Best Poetry: Here is my review of Song of Lawino by Okot p'Bitek, from my summer in Uganda. I never tried the white ant paste.
Best Drama: The Caucasian Chalk Circle by Bertolt Brecht, who can do no wrong.
Best Work by a writer new to you this year: Would you believe Orlando by Virginia Woolf?
Best Reread: Hmmm oh it's The Hobbit, which is gonna tide me through by waht all accounts is a true travesty of a film for tolkien sycophants like me.
Best Work in translation: Aren't most works in translation? Anna wins again.
Best Book of the year: Anna K.! That should cheer her up a bit, perhaps averting disaster and changing history so Hitler is never born? Runner-up: The Book of Kings, by a cast of thousands. Second runner-up: Orlando.
Worst Book: Holy Bible Easy-to-Read, by the World Bible Translation Center. This made reading scripture a sour, degrading experience. IF YOU CAN IMAGINE THAT.
Best scholarly article: Genealogy of “ZANG TUMB TUMB”: Experimental phonetics, vers libre, and modernist sound art by Robert Michael Brain. This was so interesting, you guys! Humanists make lateral connections, like plumbers.