My top 5 books read last year…
1. Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage (2001) – Alice Munro
I’ve read a couple other Munro story collections, but this is the one that really drove home her brilliance. The way a moment between two people contains complexity and a dozen other stories; death and illness as a part of life, not the story itself.
2. One Hundred Demons (2002) – Lynda Barry
I read this in one setting. Memoir/autobiographical comics generated via an old Japanese method of drawing demons with pen and ink. Goofy, heartbreaking, authentic tales about dogs, the 2000 election, adolescence, betraying friends, doing acid, mean mothers…
3. Memories: From Moscow to the Black Sea (1931, trans. 2016, NYRB edition) – Teffi (trans. Ann Marie Jackson)
The art of understatement. A Russian elite displaced during the Russian revolution. Witness to hunger, murder, animal fear, but told through a lens of distance and biting humor, with an eye for the feminine perspective, feminine survival methods.
4. Drawn Together (2012) – R. Crumb and Aline Kaminsky-Crumb
An anthology of all of the comics R. Crumb and his wife, Aline Kaminsky-Crumb have created together over their decades of partnership, from psychedelic-explicit nonsensical narratives in the 70s, to accounts of their semi-retired life in the south of France. The latter are my favorite – their frank/crude wisdom about aging, their lives, America vs. Europe, having money, sticking together, commercialism, etc.
5. The Odyssey – Homer (trans. E.V. Rieu, 1945)
Weird and presumptuous to put one of the foundations of Western literature as #5 on a list of books, but that’s how I felt about it. This was a gap in my reading, though I already knew a lot about the journey, the monsters, and the various characters. The opening is cinematic, fantastic, though I was disappointed that the various monsters only took up a fraction of the book (the Cyclops episode was my favorite) and so much was devoted to Odysseus’ bloody revenge on Penelope’s suitors and his servants who helped them. Telemachus was also such a jerk to his mother. She was always weeping and retiring to her chamber and he telling her to be quiet.