Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Best of ...

"Best" lists coming from me aren't fair to anyone. I have such a poor memory that
whenever you ask me what my favorites are—books, movies, games—my answer will be skewed toward what I've just read, seen, or played.

That said, I think the novel I finished this weekend would have made my list even if I'd read it last January: Joseph Kanon's STARDUST. Set in post WWII Hollywood, the story deals with the effect of the anticommunist crusades against the producers, directors, casts, and crews of movies. There's something to be learned about the craft of writing on every page. Though the mystery (there is one) is solved, it's not the essence of the book. What we see in stark detail are people desperate to survive, willing to sacrifice even honor and loyalty, for the sake of survival. The meaning of freedom is very much the theme of the book; the characters are as familiar as the next person you may or may not trust.

I also enjoyed Richard Russo's THAT OLD CAPE MAGIC very much, and Joyce Carol Oates' LITTLE BIRD OF HEAVEN.* In both cases, family dynamics are at the forefront, with nuances that startled me as a reader and impressed me as a writer.
(*I should say that I'm not mentioning books by friends or sister bloggers since it's a given that I love those!)

For nonfiction, though it's not brand new: BLUE MONDAY: Stories of Absurd Realities and Natural Philosophies by Robert Sumrel. Unusual and thought-provoking connections among architecture, urban living, and fiction. It comes in through the back door of metaphysics, in a mind-bending way.

Movies. I wish I could say, "Dexter: The Movie" but that would be a hint to Jeff Lindsay, author of the Dexter books, to write it. Of those too few that I saw in 2009, I also wish I could say, "Amelia," since that would have been a great movie, if it had been made well. As it was, I agree with the reviewer who said, "Amelia Earhart is still missing."

I saw most movies in 2009 on DVD, most recently Johnny Depp as Dillinger, a definite thumbs up. A charming gangster, what's not to like?

Games. Happy as I am with my new DROID, I still prefer hard copy board games to video games. Enough screens in my life already! At Christmas we played Guessters, a card game that involved matching wits with a dealer. The dealer (who had only adjectives) might play SCARY; the players (who had only nouns) would have to play a card that evoked SCARY. The trick was to figure what the dealer would pick as SCARY from all the entries. I might play "countryside" as SCARY, but not if I thought the dealer would consider "traffic" as more scary!

A great 2009 moment: seeing Angela Lansbury on Broadway in Blythe Spirit.
Too many great moments at home to count!

Like Joanna, I know 2010 will be a great year. In fact, I started it off with a research trip for my next book on January 2. See if you can figure out where I was. A prize to the first who gets it. Answer next week!

Please tell us at KillerHobbies what we can present to you to make your 2010 more enjoyable! Do you have themes, ideas, questions we can address? We have some of our own, but love it when you give us a suggestion.


Joanna Campbell Slan said...

How about the Best of Times as our blog theme? Here's to 2010?

Terri Thayer said...

Johnny Depp made a good John Dillinger. I loved that Russo book, too, and also Pat Conroy's South of Market.

I was introduced to Bananagrams by my niece this year (thank goodness, they still like board games even though they're teens). It was good fun.

Happy New Year!

Camille Minichino said...

I'll have to look up Bananagrams ...I'm often in charge of games at gatherings and I'm always looking for new ones.

Monica Ferris said...

That photograph looks like it was taken in the cockpit of a fighter plane.

I agree with you that when suddenly asked for a "favorite" novel or movie my mind goes blank, or recalls only the most recent book or movie I enjoyed. Why is that?

Betty Hechtman said...

All your choices were new to me. I'll have to check them out.

Too bad about Amelia. I kind of figured it wasn't very good since it came out and then quietly disappeared. The real Amelia went to the same high school I did - a few years earlier :-).

Camille Minichino said...

I'm star struck, Betty! Even though a few decades earlier, it must have something to go to the same school. Is it named after her?

Camille Minichino said...

You're close, Monica -- not a FIGHTER plane.

Maybe because we read so much, it's hard to mentally review all the books we read (at least partially!) in a even a month.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Get this, ladies, my sister Jane who works in a sleep lab in Florida had a patient who used to fill Amelia's gas tank on her plane when he was 10! He came from an aviation family and none of the men would get near Amelia!

Linda O. Johnston said...

I often wave to Amelia when I go to the library. Her statue is outside the North Hollywood branch of the L.A. Library, since she once lived in NoHo (although it wasn't nicknamed that at the time). I enjoyed Public Enemy, too, Terri--especially since my son and d-i-l got married in its location, Crown Point, only a few months before the movie was released.

Camille Minichino said...

I love all these Amelia stories!

Lynn said...

Great list, Camille. So many new books to explore. Too bad I can't clone myself. It's a mystery why there is so much good writing in the world and I have only one mind and one set of eyes to absorb it.

Author of You Want Me to Do WHAT? Journaling for Caregivers

Betty Hechtman said...

Camille, the high school isn't name after her. Mel Torme and Steve Allen also went there. It was simply called Hyde Park High School.

Linda, my parents got married in Crown Point. It's obviously been a wedding spot for a long time, though I've never been there and don't know why it is.

I saw several movies over the holidays. I liked Up in the Air, really liked It's Complicated, but was disappointed in Sherlock Holmes.

Jazzy said...

You were in a medivac helicopter.
I'm obviously spending too much time on Facebook :-)

Ann Parker said...

... I just checked STARDUST out of the library. Glad to see you give it a big "thumbs up!"

Camille Minichino said...

Jasmine gets the prize -- even if she did read it on my FB page! It just means she's a great researcher as well as the owner of JAZZY CRAFTS, my favorite crafts store of all time.

My blog sisters would love Jazzy Crafts!

Camille Minichino said...

Ann, I think you'll love STARDUST.

LYNN thanks for checking in from CWC. Hope You Want Me To Do What is doing well!