You’re reading a “Best of 2012” list to get some recommendations for 2013, to begin to parse the prodigious number of books published/albums released/movies premiered in 2012, to reassure yourself that you’re staying on top of things somehow, to nod along with everyone else at the expected results (that book/movie/song, again?), to shake your head at the list-maker’s blockheaded ignorance (what, x isn’t on this list?), to compile a master list of lists or a master list of master lists, to have your sense that genius is never recognized in its time ratified, to waste a little time (time, you tell yourself, that could be spent taking in something on that list, but―hey―it’s okay, I mean, how could you know it would be on the list if you hadn’t looked?), to search for your name if you had a part in some artistic endeavor this year, to search for a loved one’s name if a loved one had a part in some artistic endeavor this year, to have something to discuss at the next reading/show/premiere you attend, to steal a few picks for your own such list, to―well, you’re busy. You’ve got a lot to do this time of year. And I like you, so I’ll let you get on with all of that by being as succinct as possible.
My “Best of 2012” list:
1. J R, by William Gaddis (Dalkey Archive, 2012)
The facts: Gaddis’s second novel was published in 1975, yes, but also in 2012, in a new edition from Dalkey Archive (with an introduction by Rick Moody, even), so I’m not cheating exactly. I hadn’t read it prior to 2012, and it is the work that took up more of my 2012 than anything I didn’t myself have a part in creating. Probably part of my high opinion comes from the extended conversation Greg Gerke and I had about the book while we read it in tandem. I fought it, even while reading it, and anything I would say here about what the book is like I’ve already said in those two links, so I’ll just say that I am incredibly grateful to Greg, both for making me read it and making me finish it. If I could somehow do the same for you, maybe with this “list,” maybe this year, you’d thank me, too, I’m sure of it.
Gabriel Blackwell is the author of Shadow Man: A Biography of Lewis Miles Archer (Civil Coping Mechanisms, 2012) and Critique of Pure Reason (Noemi Press, 2013). He lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife, Jessica.