December 29, 2008

Nicholas Blincoe - Books of the Year

Les Murray, The Biplane Houses
This came out in 2007, though I only read it in 2008. My timing might be off but at least I got there, which I often don't with poetry. This collection is intelligent, raucously enjoyable, cranky yet stately. Imagine Philip Larkin hooked on surrealism, and if that doesn't excite you, then read it anyway and work out your own comparison.

Geoff Dyer, Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi
This will come out in 2009, so again my timing is off. Geoff Dyer has not written a novel since Paris Trance, over a decade ago. Some might argue that he still has not written a novel, and that JiV/DiV is really two autobiographical novellas that set out from where Yoga For People Who Can't Be Bothered To Do It left off. Either way, it is great, conjuring up a weirdly uplifting kind of everlasting depression.

Hussain Agha, Ahmad Khalidi, A Framework for A Palestinian National Security Doctrine
This came out in 2006 so, again, time is out of joint. Palestinians are so scattered and so vulnerable, this short book only sets out the parameters of the problem: How can the Palestinian leadership offer security to Palestinians in the occupied territories? In camps in neighbouring states? inside Israel? or in the wider diaspora? What is the best army/security apparatus that the current quasi-state of Palestine could hope to get up-and-running, while still under occupation? Questions like this.

Simon Lewis, Bad Traffic
Simon was the quietest of the writers who took part in the New Puritan project, ten years ago. He did nothing at all, then came out with this, a great thriller and perhaps the best novel of 2008 - a tough Chinese cop searches for his daughter across an alien landscape he cannot hope to understand - mostly Essex.

Nicholas Blincoe is a novelist and critic.

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