He has, as Yahweh did His people, left us crying out in the wilderness for (what seems like) forty years. But I tracked down Alex Balk in that empty lot on 13th St. and prevailed upon him* to share his favorite books of 2004. Here’s what he said:
Between the final episodes of Friends and the new season of The O.C., I had very little time this year for reading anything that didn’t defecate blow-in cards onto my lap when opened. I was able to squeeze in Tom Perotta’s Little Children which I much enjoyed, even if I didn’t feel it was the great leap forward for the author that others seemed to suggest. Jonathan Coe’s Like a Fiery Elephant, a biography of the experimental British novelist B.S. Johnson, was fascinating as both a life story and a subversion of the conventions of biography, which is pretty appropriate given its subject.
I was especially pleased by the reissues of Julian Maclaren-Ross’ memoirs and short fiction. Best known as the inspiration for X. Trapnel in A Dance to the Music of Time, Maclaren-Ross was a wildly talented stylist and raconteur, and one hopes that the new availability of his work will find him the wider audience he so desperately deserved. (I’d also like to throw in a brief bit of thanks to The Overlook Press for their continuing republication of the works of Wodehouse, a stylist of a very different order.)
The most interesting book I read this year was the new edition of Ralph Caplan’s By Design, recommended to me by a designer friend who correctly diagnosed it as a book that even laymen to that specialty could appreciate. (You can read more about it here.) Caplan shows how design permeates every aspect of modern life, and does so in a clear, informative, and often humorous fashion, and the book changed the way I think about a lot of things. Except The O.C. which is pretty much perfect as is.
* The check’s in the mail, Alex. Cheers.