Best of 2012: a year of things I consumed

MUSIC

1. Japandroids – Celebration Rock

You used to have adventures. You remember a time when you weren’t in front of a computer for 10 hours a day. You used to make out in public. You used to go on road trips without seatbelts. You didn’t care about the housing market. You did drugs. You lived in squalor. People didn’t know what you were doing, where you were going 24 hours a day. Your life was more secret. You lived your own quiet jubilations. It felt like you had nothing to lose.


2. Kendrick Lamar – Good Kid, m.A.A.d City

Love the sense of place in this album, like a contemporary/anxious/paranoid take on The Chronic (a comparison I can’t separate because of Dr. Dre’s involvement). Lamar has created a masterpiece, rendering the fear and heartbreak of being young in Compton, which makes the solace he finds in his family especially moving.

3. Metz – S/T

Haven’t felt this dirty listening to rock since the Murder City Devils.

4. Beach House – Bloom

Lovely. A refinement of their Teen Dream sound, but with more tension. The video for “Wild”, I think, captures the intensity of the entire album.



5. Lana Del Rey – Born to Die

#hatersgonhate


 

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Chromatics – Kill for Love

Tropical Popsicle – Ghost Beacons

Frank Ocean – Channel Orange

Future of the Left – The Plot Against Common Sense

Bat for Lashes – The Haunted Man

Soft Riot — No Longer Stranger

 

 

BOOKS

1. Jonah Man – Christopher Narozny

“What elevates Jonah Man beyond pulp-fare, is the bulldozing sense of history that motivates the characters. Every character is laced with sadness, and even when they resort to abuse, murder and cutting off their own arms, it suggests a fight against modernity and a struggle to keep their acts relevant” Read the review.

The best time I had with a book this year.

 2. Cataclysm Baby – Matt Bell

“The children in Matt Bell’s Cataclysm Baby are disgusting. They are disfigured, hairy, segmented. They break apart when they exit the womb. They are the harbingers of the apocalypse. The 26 stories in here culminate in a bleak, frightening vision of what happens when the parental structure falls apart.” Read the review.

3. Fast Machine – Elizabeth Ellen

“It’s been a long time since I’ve read a story so honest to adolescence–the alienation, the self-consciousness, the hurt and the fun–as Ellen’s story of a boarding school. It gave me context for everything else to follow. What I thought was meandering prose became intense confessionals–the kind that connects readers with the mistakes they made in their own youth. It’s such an unflinching account of family history and tragedy that you can’t help but feel a kinship.” Read the review.

4. My Friend Dahmer – Derf Backderf

“Read this whole thing, front to back, in one sitting.” Read the review.

 5. The Obese – Nick Antosca

“Just finished this book and feel slightly weird for enjoying it. It’s an ugly, ugly book–the cover’s (amazingly) grotesque and every character in The Obese is a piece of shit.” Read the review.

MOVIES

I had the most fun at: Looper.

The movie I’ve thought about the most since watching it: The Innkeepers

Biggest disappointment: Dark Knight Rises

Movie I wish I’d seen when I was 10 and could obsess over (AKA “The Jurassic Park” award): The Avengers

Metabest: Cabin in the Woods (for being inclusive)

Metaworst: Holy Motors (for being snobby, “clever” and too in love with itself)

Monsters born from monsters – Matt Bell’s Cataclysm Baby

The children in Matt Bell’s Cataclysm Baby are disgusting. They are disfigured, hairy, segmented. They break apart when they exit the womb. They are the harbingers of the apocalypse. The 26 stories in here culminate in a bleak, frightening vision of what happens when the  parental structure falls apart.

But for as how post-apocalyptic Bell’s vision is, Cataclysm Baby is about the past. The 26 fathers are to blame, this bleak world they inhabit is the one they’ve built–they are cowards, they abandon. They murder: in “Xarles, Xavier, Xenos,” the father gives his son a 50-yard start before “I will shoot just once”. There is not a sympathetic character in this lot.

Ever since Ray Bradbury’s The Small Assassin scared the hell out of me, I’ve been a sucker for evil children in movies and literature, which is why I was originally attracted to Cataclysm Baby. I think parental and pregnancy-anxiety horror (and Bell does quite a bit of the latter here) is so effective because combines all these repulsion (body horror, slasher) /attraction (parenting instincts) elements. These contradictions are deeply unsettling, hard to comprehend and, I think, keep the genre taboo while we become desensitized to other horror.

But what I think sets Cataclysm Baby apart from most others I’ve seen/read, is that it indicts masculinity. Most evil children in movies and literature are products of Satan (The Omen), science (It’s Alive), ghosts/sexualization (Turn of the Screw), or general neglect (Ian McEwan’s early stuff) to give some examples. Cronenberg (The Brood) is the first example that comes to mind when talking about an active maternal influence on evil children, but for the most part, transient forces are to blame.

Bell’s work seems to be a reaction to this notion, and in fact, all notions of the father-role in evil children art: Because of a father’s transience/inaction, the child is awful and deformed. The fathers in Cataclysm Baby can’t blame Satan or science for the end of the world; their past (in)actions have given rise to 26 little apocalypses.

Anyway, great book. Read it.