Nick's 2012 Picks

1.      Underworld by Don Delillo
This is one of those huge historical, huge-in-scope, huge-in-ambition, postmodern  epics.  And it doesn’t falter anywhere.  Like a choreographed dance with variations on a theme, or a river bending and weaving picking up plot pieces like detritus, this book moves steadily forward while keeping intact several strong central themes. For fans of Pynchon’s Against the Day or Doctorow’s less convoluted historical novels.

2.       The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollock
Brad’s review last year piqued my interest.  This is like a pitch black comedy without the comedy:  it’s a modern day southern gothic that’s disturbing, heartbreaking, squeamish, and horrifying. But it’s incredibly readable and entertaining.  When I read this in public I sometimes felt like I needed a brown bag to cover it.. Yes many parts are quite depraved but Pollock renders every bit of it human in full.

3.       Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story:  A Life of David Foster Wallace by D.T. Max
Wallace’s life is probably the perfect life to read about for anyone interested in the art and struggle of novelists (or artists for that matter):  He was a tormented genius, deeply troubled and incredibly talented.  Max’s devotion to his subject and research yields a portrait of a man who wanted to always stay ahead of himself.  When Infinite Jest was published, ‘the bright star for his lesser works to orbit’, he quickly became severely fearful he would never replicate its critical success. Every Story…does well to superimpose Wallace’s professional writing career  with the backdrop of his debilitating depression and the lives he affected along the way.

4.       The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
Not sure if this was part of last year’s list but I finished reading this in January of 2012.  Harbach’s debut deserves every bit of accolade thrown his way.  It may not be flawless or altogether transcendent but the writing is crystal clear with nary a clumsy sentence.  Where he stumbled with some elements or storytelling, he rose above and beyond in creating a wholly unique universe for his characters.

5.       Clockers by Richard Price
Any fan of HBO’s The Wire would be advised to read this.  Price wrote for the series, some of the more memorable dialogue culled straight from Clockers.  For fans of gritty police drama where you don’t really want to root for anyone.

6.       We the Animals by Justin Torres
...Animals strength lies in its language. It rollicks. It careens from one side of the page to the next. You don't have time to breathe with all the conjunctions linking thoughts and actions and sentiments and worries and doubts and love and bile and spit. This book is hungry; it wants to devour the reader and the frenetic pace of the language begs it to be devoured as well.

7.       The Outlaw Album by Daniel Woodrell
This is a short story collection by the author of Winter’s Bone.  I honestly don’t remember a lot of it other than Woodrell’s Ozark gothic short stories were entertaining, though some of them could have been novels in their own right.

Music:
1. Cancer4Cure by EL-P
‘This is what it sounds like when a scream isn’t let out,’ read one review.  Pretty accurate, the beats are suffocating to compliment EL-P’s paranoid and unique existential fear laden lyrics.
2. The Seer by Swans
3. All That We Love We Leave Behind by Converge
4. Honor Found in Decay by Neurosis
5. Open Your Heart by The Men