this is late but I’m not apologising
Despite the growing sense that we might have an actual Left again, politically 2015 was one of the darkest years I can remember. Not because of any specific incident, although there have been plenty, but because of the feeling you had of the Tories steadily & blatantly rolling us back on a broad front to our 1850s future–the return of religion, nationalism, militarism, press baronage & deregulated business, first creeping and stealthy, now open & determined. Personally it’s been equally weird. I had a couple of blocked arteries cleared by angioplasty in March, at the London Chest Hospital. That was a trip. You’re awake the whole time & the team wear what appears to be urban-camouflaged radiation protection. Thanks, guys–I’m saying that from the heart. Thanks also to the nurses and physios of the Royal Shrewsbury Cardio Rehab unit, who got me into good enough shape to walk up Snowdon four months later on my 70th birthday (during which I threw a fit of such absurd bad temper I want to apologise deeply to everyone involved). It’s been an interesting experience, a noticeable wake-up call and I got a good little short story out of it. Optimism can lead you up some depressing paths though. Don’t, for instance, look for the short story collection any time soon. I refer you to the publishing industry on that one. As a result, for the next year at least, if you want to actually buy volume fiction, you might be better transferring your attentions to another author. I can heavily recommend Sarah Perry’s After Me Comes the Flood. Indeed, for the best novel I read in 2015, it was a toss-up between Perry’s intriguingly attenuated Gothic and Lucy Wood’s pastoral haunt, Weathering. Running them close, & the best novel I had for review in 2015: A Cure for Suicide, Jesse Ball. I also enjoyed Amy Hempel’s short fiction, scoured out to a whisper in Reasons to Live; Katharine Faw Morris’s equally eroded but blunter short novel, Young God; Bodies of Light by Sara Moss; Mortal Fire by Elizabeth Knox; Dave Hutchinson’s dryly pertinent sequel to Europe in Autumn, Europe at Midnight; the fine, quiet Clade by James Bradley; & Richard Beard’s beautifully engineered Goldsmith’s Prize contender The Acts of the Assassins. Best autobiography, Jonathan Meades’ Museum Without Walls, although if My Brilliant Friend were to be rebadged, Elena Ferrante would leave him in the dust–slow to start, gripping by the end. Best “travel book” (far & away the wrong term but it will have to do): Norman Lewis’s humane, wry Voices of the Old Sea. It was a full year for re-reads, & for catching up on books that everyone else read when they were eight, including the immensely powerful Marianne Dreams by Catherine Storr. I haven’t quite understood why the rediscovery of Lionel Davidson is focussed so specifically on Kolymsky Heights, which always struck me as a bit threadbare compared to his classic thriller The Rose of Tibet. Books I loathed, mainly because their humour seems founded on an unbreakable smugness: 10.04 by Ben Lerner; the whole of David Sedaris. I thought of using Miranda July’s The First Bad Man to bulk out that list of shame, but in the end decided to leave it off because I found its conclusion genuinely upsetting. Nonfiction: disappointed by The World Beyond Your Head, Matthew Crawford, and Susan Neiman’s Why Grow Up?–both of which promised insight into ideas that really interest me but proved superficial. I washed the taste of failure away with George F’s rebarbative and in the end heartbreaking memoir of London squatting, Total Shambles (published by one of the liveliest of the UK’s new small publishers, Influx Press, who also do the comprehensive and mind-blowing Imaginary Cities by Darran Anderson). Nonfiction book of the year, though, would be David Winters’ collection of reviews and essays, Infinite Fictions, the introduction to which alone contains more interesting ideas about writing & reading than most entire books.