Best bits of 2013
Not entirely sure where the past year has got to but it’s that time again when I thought I’d record my favourite bits of 2013. So here goes:
Best read: this year has been heavy on the research and the writing guide front so I have yet to read the likes of The Luminaries (Eleanor Catton), The Goldfinch (Donna Tartt), The Ocean at the End of the Lane (Neil Gaiman), all of which are getting a serious amount of praise. I did read Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam, which follows on from Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood. I think Oryx and Crake is the best of the three but it’s a worthy ending to the trilogy. For non-fiction I’d choose Lara Feigel's The Love Charm of Bombs. Although research, it’s a fascinating read about a number of well-known London-based authors, including Graham Greene, and the impact that the Blitz had on their lives and their writing.
Best film: Gravity. In 3D and everything. And I hate 3D. Loathe it. I’m sick of cliff jumps and things popping out at you just because they can without them having any real bearing on the story. Instead, Alfonso Cuarón has used the 3D element to heighten the sense of isolation that the astronauts experience. And Sandra Bullock is wonderful. I’ve always loved her –yes even in her dodgy films – but I think those unsure of her acting breadth will be pleasantly surprised.
Favourite literary event: for the second year running I have to say my membership to the Royal Society of Literature is the best £50 I’ve ever spent. I’ve heard James Lasdun talking about his experiences of being stalked, Neil Gaiman discuss The Ocean at the End of the Lane and watched the wonderful but slightly mental Jung Chang run rings round Colin Thubron as he asked her about her latest biography on the Empress Cixi. But I think my most favourite event was listening to Alice Oswald and Robin Robertson read their poetry. Oswald read hers from memory and it was a haunting experience. If you fancy a listen, check out the RS Lit website.
Favourite show: joint winners here for The Book of Mormon and the Royal Ballet’s interpretation of Alice in Wonderland. TBOM is the funniest thing I’ve seen in years and I went in with very low expectations. Alice was just a joy to watch. I would also like to make special mention to the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Radio Show which sadly had to close the day after I saw it, due to poor ticket sales. Am so pleased I just got in there, though, the cast were excellent and the whole experience brilliant fun.
Photographic evidence of my favourite personal moment of 2013
Paper in 2013: everyone keeps telling me that print is dead, but I just don’t believe you. I think what has become clear to me this year is that print can adapt and offer something different. The electronic devices are handy but they obviously don't provide the same sort of tactile experience for those of us who treat their books like works of art (I am the source of many jokes from my sister and brother-in-law). I see an increasing number of unusual and beautiful book covers – I have no idea what Salt Publishing has used to coat the cover of David Rose’s Posthumous Stories but I can’t stop stroking it – and I noticed that the Waterstones in Piccadilly has started to sell one or two books with exclusive additional content. I still love my Kindle but it hasn’t stopped me buying the real thing. In fact, I think my habit has simply got worse.
Favourite new magazine: speaking of print and offering something different, if you’re sick and tired of the standard ‘ooh look aren’t they fat/thin/beautiful/ugly?' women’s magazines out there, then I urge you to check out Libertine. Launched in 2013 as a multi-platform lifestyle brand for ‘widely interested women’, the magazine is not only a thing of beauty (see above) but it’s full of interesting articles about technology and culture and philosophy, among other things. They even have a fiction section (see below). Its website is stuffed with more articles and videos and to launch Issue 3 they held an event in London at which living architect Rachel Armstrong, writer and urban historian Leo Hollis and Odette Toilette discussed the role of the modern city as an architectural, social and cultural space. I knew I loved this magazine when I opened up the first issue and discovered its ‘fashion’ section featured nothing but ridiculously beautiful fountain pens.
Favourite random writing idea: #30days30stories.
Favourite writing moment: having my short story published on Libertine’s (see above) website.
Favourite personal moment: finishing my MA.
Favourite foodie moment: eating under the stars in Tanzania.
Favourite literary pressie: a signed first Canadian print, first edition hard back copy of Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin, closely followed by the excellent book of cat poetry I Could Pee on This.
Wishing you all a happy, healthy and successful 2014.