Wednesday, November 28, 2007

I put this "ten best" list together for the "A Cappella Books Newsletter." Though 2007 is not quite done yet, and there are a few faves not included because we do not sell them at the store, I thought I would share this list with anyone (if there is anyone) who might be reading my blog. I will probably post a more complete list in January, but until then, here is this:

1. Percival Everett: The Water Cure (Graywolf Press) Everett is a revolutionary novelist. Like most of his many novels, this latest is mostly about language. The theme this time around is the language of love and loss turned to hate and murder. Perhaps finally The Water Cure is about the terrible state of this “nation of stupid fucks,” where one man’s anguish is barely audible.
2. Chris Hedges: American Fascists (Free Press) Hedges is the only writer capable of evoking a concept of faith that does not fade to ash against the background of the horrors faith has wrought in our apocalyptic era. His take on the American turn toward fascism is gripping, readable and, obviously, terrifying.
3. The Revolutionary Art of Emory Douglas (Rizzoli) Douglas’ artwork may be the greatest of many important contribution the Black Panther Party has left our culture. These unique, poignant drawings and paintings were originally designed for use as handbills, posters and in the pages of The Black Panther Intercommunal News Service. Yet, as pretentious as this may sound, they belong to the annals of great art, and this beautiful collection is long overdue.
4. Paul Auster: Travels In Scriptorium (Henry Holt) The mathematical genius of Paul Auster has been compared to Kafka and Borges, but in 2007 Auster reminds us of no author but Auster. The narrative sketch outlined on the jacket flap of Travels in the Scriptorium does indeed recall something that Borges might have similarly outlined, but would have never bothered completing. At the risk of oversimplification, Auster’s originality is the execution not the idea, and it is the execution that leaves us wanting more.
5. Kevin Young: For the Confederate Dead (Knopf) Kevin Young writes poetry that the ordinary reader not accustomed to reading poetry can easily enjoy, and still there is nothing easy or trite about his work. The poet laureate of rhythm ‘n’ rights lives in our midst in the city of Atlanta, but he belongs to everyone.
6. Mike Davis: Buda’s Wagon: A Brief History of the Car Bomb (Verso Hardcover) is a brisk, smart history of the asymmetrical weapon of choice. Davis ties resistance movements of the 20th century to the radical Islamic struggle of our terrifying present-day. War without end follows a road scattered with shrapnel, broken bodies and hope lost.
7. Michael Lesy: Murder City (Norton) The combination of “found” photographs from Chicago newspapers of the 1930’s with appropriately journalistic recounting of one “senseless” act after another results in a true crime masterpiece. This book demands more from its reader than fans of this genre are perhaps used to giving, but the extra effort is well worth the time.
8. Dave Zirin: Welcome to the Terrordome (Paperback original) Zirin is a cutting edge radical sports writer. His razor rhetoric is tuned perfectly for the sports hater and sports lover alike.
9. Todd Boyd: Super Fly ‘70s (Harlem Moon Paperback original) Boyd brings in focus the sexy, funny, turbulent, soul-fried vibe of a decade long due a revisionists turn. Disreputable forms of art such as Blaxploitation film, disco, and the comedy of the “chitlin circuit” are scrutinized with care. Not to steal from “the ghetto” the very art these stigmatized neighborhoods long protected. Instead Boyd remodels the African-American ghetto into a living gallery complete with laughter of thousands ironic souls, spicy smells of a million delicious meals cooking and the warm loving embraces of infinite homes built amidst oppression and hatred.
10. Jabari Asim: The N Word: who can say it, who shouldn’t, and why (Houghton Mifflin) Asim explores the language of white supremacy of our wretched history from the birth of the nation to the post-Katrina present day. Though he does not exactly answer the question (without question mark) of his subtitle, his distinctive and satisfying analysis makes this essential reading. The answer he does finally give is better than the question posed.


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