Year in Review: 2011


New this year: fatherhood, which is three syllables for a remarkable experience that still requires adjustments, both minor and more significant. At the same time, I wouldn’t trade my daughter’s smile for anything. I’ve written about the experience in an essay I hope to see published someday. It’s a strange thing to feel at once more confident about my place in the world and more vulnerable with worry about her. At the same time, I’m occasionally overwhelmed and yet more appreciative of smaller things than ever.

Favourite non-fiction book of the year: Finding the Words (anthology) features some very articulate Canadians speaking in a loosely themed way around the craft of fiction. I’ve started enjoying Best Canadian Essays 2011, where new series editor Christopher Doda and guest editor Ibi Kaslick have done great work.

Short stories: the Penguin Selected Stories of Maupassant, which collects some remarkable, simple stories that nevertheless manage to capture deeply perceived ideas about people.

Favourite novel: again, a classic will eclipse some very fine recent books, but I finally caught up with the white whale Moby Dick and thoroughly enjoyed it, particularly once I adjusted to the idea that the plot wouldn’t move quickly and began to luxuriate in the language and ideas. It builds to a completely gripping final few chapters that are actually over far too quickly without — surprisingly enough — necessarily touching on all the characters.

Favourite reruns: I revisited The Day of the Triffids. Also, I continue to rediscover the Sherlock Holmes stories by Arthur Conan Doyle, even as the character enjoys a surge in popularity, both in film and in the excellent new BBC series Sherlock.

Favourite graphic novel: Two Generals, a Canadian Second World War story that mixes major historical events with real family history to provide a fascinatingly detailed story.

Films: True Grit (2010) is from last year, but I finally caught this slightly warped, engaging, beautifully crafted film, and went out to buy the score too. Night Train to Munich (1940) is perfect, black-and-white Saturday afternoon viewing. The biggest disappointment of the year was Green Lantern (2011) which felt overwritten, and bland.

Favourite new musical discovery: Duke Ellington, and in particular Reminiscing in Tempo, among the first longer jazz pieces, and dedicated to his mother after she passed away. Ellington was devastated for months, and then wrote this quietly beautiful 12-minute piece. For more recent artists, Julia Kent is a new discovery of mine. If you haven’t heard of the show (for the “musically curious”) there’s a lot to be discovered on CBC’s The Signal.

Special mention — I spent three weeks squirrelled away in an office with the baby while my partner took on a job, and managed to read excellent collections of stories by a trio of Canadians: Rebecca Rosenblum, Carolyn Black and Jessica Westhead.


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