It has been a WHILE folks. In the time since I last posted, I’ve been as busy as a new father with a full teaching load can be, which has left me precious little time to write outside of the novel revisions I’ve delved back into. But if you know me, you know I like lists, especially year-end best-of lists.
2015 was a year of renewal for me, and I see this reflected not only in the stylistic choices I’ve been making in my writing but also in what I’ve read, watched and listened to. So, without any further mutterings, here are Processed Product’s Top 4 Cultural Artifacts Consumed in 2015:
Ingmar Bergman’s Middle and Late Period Films
It may be cheating to include 10-15 (at least) films under one entry, but that best resembles how I watched them, a month-long self-imposed Bergman immersion program that had me practically speaking Swedish by early October. I watched or rewatched a span of his classics, ranging from 1957 to 1982, usually during the wee hours of the morning before anyone else was awake, and few films can match the intimacy and elegance–and occasional ferocity–of his best. His use of time and the human face reminded me that all else can be simple or sparse if image and character, the two essential filmic elements, are composed perfectly. My only regret now is that I will never be able to see any of them for the first time in a theater, where I imagine the experience of every one of of Liv Ullman or Max Von Sydow’s facial nooks and crannies would be even more pronounced.
Jamie xx In Colour
There were some great albums that were released this year (Kendrick!) and others that I revisited religiously (Coltrane at the Village Vanguard and the Stones’ Sticky Fingers), but the album that got the most play was Jamie xx’s nostalgic electronica album, In Colour. It has none of the usual trappings of contemporary EDM and was made, admittedly, as a kind of homage to UK rave. The album feels completely absent of pretension, which appeals to me even if the other artifacts that made my list aren’t exactly middle-of-the-road. In Colour feels like what it was like to be dancing at 3 a.m., ecstatic, with the whole future ahead of you, and the happy, hazy drive home with friends at dawn before you even thought about having to go to work later that afternoon. Hsu Hsu wrote a great piece in the New Yorker about the album, and focused a lot of attention on the influence of Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore, a short film about UK dance culture over the last 60 years. An electronic music site gave the album a bad review, saying it wasn’t “hard” enough, but I don’t think that was ever the point.
Roberto Bolano’s 2666
2666 was the best (and biggest) novel I read this year, and it is the only work that made my mid-year best-of list as well. The scope and violence overwhelmed me, but it was one of the best reading experiences I have had in quite some time in that I kept turning pages and did not want it to end. Bolano creates a bloated fictional universe full of dread, fake history, and metaphysical connections that extend across time and space. Good fun!
Ranier Maria Rilke Selected Poetry
I’ve had the book for quite a while now, and I’ve gone through periods of reading a poem here and there, but I recently starting reading the Duino Elegies in earnest and have fallen for their spiritual lyricism. In a time when so much of what claims to be mysticism seems canned because it lays out the ineffable too plainly, Rilke points towards it, using image and metaphor to expose and reveal but never assign. The result is a glimpse of “the real,” the kind of dasein or being that is at the heart of all philosophy and true art.