Favourite stuff of 2011

by M.J. Hearle

The first month of 2012 has nearly passed, but before it did I thought I’d sneak in my list of favourite stuff from 2011. I know, I know – these lists are usually compiled before the new year but I’m a writer so my procrastination shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Favourite 2011 Book – Freedom, Jonathan Franzen

I very nearly put The Passage in this spot and considering my chosen genre it probably would have made more sense, but honestly this is the book that left the biggest impression. I find myself thinking about the characters from time to time which is odd, considering I rarely identified with them and often downright despised them. Nevertheless, their journey was fascinating and the insights Franzen makes are always thought- provoking and occasionally deeply moving.

Favourite 2011 Movie – Tree of Life, Terrence Malick

Not many people like this film. Of my friends, maybe one or two enjoyed it as much as I did. Most thought it was pretentious and overlong. You know what? It is pretentious and overlong but that doesn’t make it any less amazing. I honestly can’t understand how someone could sit in the theatre and not be affected, on a purely sensory level, by the hauntingly beautiful images Malick has captured. If there wasn’t a dramatic through line linking these images I still think it would stand as one of the best film experiences of the year, but the story is there. It’s just not presented conventionally. The movie takes a little work (not much – we’re not talking rocket science here) but for those willing to give themselves over to Malick’s vision the rewards are worth it.

Favourite 2011 Album – The Suburbs, The Arcade Fire

Okay, this is where I reveal my complete lack of cutting edge coolness. The Suburbs is a 2010 release but when I went back through my iPod I discovered to my horror that it was the most recent album I’d listened to. To make sure I hadn’t missed anything, I checked out the Rolling Stone website of best 2011 releases and was doubly horrified to learn I hadn’t listened to any of the albums. At thirty-two I am officially out of touch. Great album, though.

Favourite 2011 TV Show – Game of Thrones, HBO

Not being a massive fantasy guy, I was relatively ignorant of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. That changed the moment I caught the first five minutes of HBO’s masterful adaptation. High production values, copious bloodshed, nudity and superlative acting all combined to make Game of Thrones a genuinely unmissable television event. Hours were given to this show – hours which I should have spent writing Winter’s Light, but I value every minute and can’t wait for season two!

Favourite 2011 Comic Book – Hellboy: The Wild Hunt, Mike Mignola

Don’t let the pulpy title throw you off, Hellboy contains some of the most lyrical writing and evocative art of the year. Mignola is something of a mad alchemist, mixing anglo saxon myth and fairy lore in with grand guignol horror and superheroics. What makes Hellboy resonate though is its big beating heart. At turns touching and horrifying, Hellboy’s journey is one I hope continues well into the future.

So that’s my list done. Feel free to comment on my choices below or supply links to your own lists.


M. J.