Best of 2016

Books

Human Acts, Han Kang. Elegantly translated by Deborah Smith, this is an achingly poignant account of South Korea’s Gwangju Massacre. Told from mixed historic viewpoints, the novel threads the hopeless search for one lost soul among many. 

Multiple Choice, Alejandro Zambra. Chilean fiction recast as a comprehension exam. Witty, revealing, curious, moving and utterly unique. 

Young Eliot, Robert Crawford. A masterful account of TS Eliot’s life and poetic development up to the publication of The Waste Land, impeccably detailed while immensely readable. Undoubtedly now the definitive Eliot biography, shedding myriad insights on the work. 

Albums

Blackstar, David Bowie. 2016 was both the best of years for bringing us Blackstar, and the worst of years for taking away its creator. A work of incalculable depths realised through unimaginable courage and control. In his final year Bowie built a bridge to the life beyond.

A Moon Shaped Pool, Radiohead. Pop music of intense delicacy. Radiohead made a timely reappearance with an apt soundtrack to a disturbing year. 

Night Thoughts, Suede. Retaining the swagger of Coming Up, Suede deliver deliciously fat guitar figures and chorus lines to restore your faith in humanity.

Theatre

The Children, Lucy Kirkwood. A densely packed marvel. I’m still musing over this important play about generational responsibilities and the legacies we pass on to our children and our future selves. For sheer dramatic heft I think it’s even better than Kirkwood’s multi-award-winning Chimerica

Unreachable, Anthony Neilson. The biggest belly laughs I’ve had in the theatre for a long time, born from a provoking plot about the quest for perfection in artistic creation. 

Lazarus, Enda Walsh and David Bowie. What does it all mean? What does it matter? The songs comprise the set list of the farewell tour Bowie knew he couldn’t make, while the scenes tease out and twist the perennial themes of his career.

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