Sunday, December 31, 2017

About 2017

Possibly because I wanted to blot out the increasing ghastliness of the real world, this was the year I rediscovered the joy of blogging, which in 2017 feels a bit like expressing a fondness for CB radio or meerschaum pipes. There’s a different vibe about it now; the happy little virtual posse that collected here a decade or so ago, some of whom have become real-life friends, is no more. Occasionally this feels like a private diary for my own amusement rather than The Conversation that Patroclus of blessed memory posited. Nevertheless, in the past two months I’ve posted more than I did in 2015 and 2016 combined, which must mean something or other.

Anyway, this is the last post of the year, so I guess that means the inevitable cultural best-of. My favourite book was Laurent Binet’s The 7th Function of Language, a postmodern caper about postmodernism and its adherents, many of whom are tormented with gleeful savagery in the course of a bizarre plot that begins with the death of Roland Barthes and then turns into something like The Da Vinci Code for people who’ve read far more books than is good for them. Binet endured a late challenge from Ryan O’Neill’s Their Brilliant Careers, a collection of deadpan potted biographies of Australian writers, all of whom are, the reader quickly deduces, are entirely invented; I was especially taken by the arch-plagiarist Frederick Stafford, author of Odysseus, Mrs Galloway and The Prodigious Gatsby. Fiction about people who exist; or non-fiction about people who don’t? Meh, I don’t have to choose because the O’Neill was either published last year (in Australia) or won’t be until next year (in the UK), so they can co-exist, defiantly elitist (if one believes that it’s elitist to appeal to readers with a pretty good grasp of the 20th-century literary canon) but with a delicious sense of silliness as well.

Elsewhere, the musical event of my year should have been Brian Wilson in concert in Hammersmith, although his evident discomfort and the decline in his vocal abilities made it feel more like a final gathering of the faithful to honour an elderly Pope than a gig per se. So let’s set that aside and give the gong to the Magnetic Fields for 50 Song Memoir; as the titles suggests, a year-by-year autobiography of the band’s leader, Stephin Merritt, spread across five discs. It doesn’t quite hit the astonishing heights of their 69 Love Songs, but, hey, what does? I did also enjoy the antics of Leo Pellegrino at the Mingus Prom, but I only saw it on telly so it probably doesn’t count.

In other categories, my favourite evening at the theatre was Patrick Marber’s revival of Tom Stoppard’s Travesties (more cerebral daftness for people who aren’t ashamed of knowing stuff) and in a gallery it was James Ensor at the Royal Academy. The TV adaptation of Decline and Fall was huge fun, especially the performance of Douglas Hodge as the reprehensible Grimes. (Moreover, it was on old-fashioned sit-up-and-beg on-at-a-certain-time telly, rather than Netflix or Amazon, so there.) And in the cinema? A dead heat between mother! and Paddington 2. There’s a double bill to be cherished.

But just as my finger hovers over the Publish button, I realise that everything I’ve selected was essentially the work of white men. Which isn’t a good look, is it? OK, here’s your job for today: if you can be bothered to find your way into Blogger’s arcane comment set-up, recommend something from 2017 that wasn’t made by someone who looks like me.

See you on the other side...


Ms Scarlet said...

Apple Tree Yard was written by a woman! Fantastic series at the beginning of 2017.
Anyhow, I was going to ask you if you'd seen the new Black Mirror series on Netfix, but then read your last paragraph... Douglas Hodge makes an appearance.
As for blogging..... you never visit, you never call....
Happy New Year, Tim!!!

Vicus Scurra said...

A work of great poignancy and universality.

Tim Footman said...

Yes, Scarlet, Apple Tree Yard was very good, esp Emily Watson's performance, but I maybe I was searching for something a little less bleak this year. Only got started on Black Mirror yesterday, sorry...

And I always had you down as a Tupac man, Vicus.