Wrapping Up 2011

For the first time in a while, I haven’t been asked to submit a formal list or do a write-up of my favorite books of the year. Rather than feeling shut out of a conversation, I only feel relieved. Even setting aside my aversion to lists in general, there are still a lot of 2011 books I’d like to get to, which would make any top-ten list feel even more tentative and arbitrary than it already is; the tail end of the year is when I try to catch up on what I’ve missed, which means I discover a lot of favorites past early December, when lists usually need to be filed. Last year it was Paul Murray‘s Skippy Dies and Terry Castle‘s The Professor and Other Writings. This year, to pick just two examples, it’d be Ben Lerner‘s Leaving the Atocha Station and David BellosIs That a Fish in Your Ear?, both of which I came late to—past deadline, if there were a deadline to miss.

So, no authoritative final judgments from this camp. Still, I did put together a list of six of my favorite pieces of short fiction for Washington City Paper‘s Arts Desk blog. “Short fiction” instead of “short stories” because one of my selections is a chapter from David Foster Wallace‘s The Pale King—the only part of the book that still sticks with me, and at 100 pages it may test the definition of “short.” But what’s a list without arbitrary categorizations and judgment calls? Click the link; you’ll see.

And that’ll wrap things up here for 2011. Thanks as always for reading; we’ll pick things up again in the new year.