The Best of 2009
In musical terms, 2009 went out on a high: check out the continuing output of Yoko Ono in Between My Head and the Sky (Chimera, NI 427) and political indie pop’s resurgence in the form of Cornershop’s Judy Sucks a Lemon for Breakfast (Ample Play, NI 426). Then factor in the Cambodian surf pop re-imagined by Dengue Fever, whose Sleepwalking through the Mekong (Real World, NI 427) is delirious in the very best way. For non-album of the year, the prize goes to Checkpoint 303, the Palestinian-Tunisian duo whose brilliantly made tracks are uploaded on to their website http://checkpoint303.free.fr Their motto is ‘new tunes from the occupied territories’ and you better believe it. LG
With his luminous and haunting Rainy Season (Arcadia Books, NI 427), José Eduardo Agualusa takes the blood-soaked history of a country – Angola – and through love of its people, transfigures that history in the telling. This novel easily matches the standard set by the author’s prize-winning Book of Chameleons. Against all odds, 2009 also saw the publication of Long Time Coming: Short Writings from Zimbabwe edited by Jane Morris (’amaBooks, NI 422). Each piece here – and they are miniature marvels, with no story longer than eight pages – vividly illuminates an aspect of what it is actually like to live in a country that has been systematically looted and stripped of functioning organizations. From a Zimbabwean publishing house, this book’s very existence seems little short of a miracle. PW
Neither Fish Tank (Andrea Arnold, NI 426), about a ‘chavvy’ and mouthy British schoolgirl, nor Frozen River (Courtney Hunt), about a woman smuggling illegals into the US, made much impact in cinemas. A shame, because both films, written and directed by women, movingly show the humanity, sensitivity and drive of women, usually ignored or written off, at the bottom of the heap. Looking not at any one individual but at an ordered authoritarian society, Michael Haneke’s The White Ribbon (NI 428), is unconventional, unsettling, and unforgettable. ML
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