Again with the 2013!
Strange Horizons has just published a collection of short notices from reviewers about what they read and viewed in 2013.
I thought there were too many good things in 2013 for me to be able to even simply list them all in the 250 words I was allowed, so I decided instead to focus on the writer who had, to my knowledge, the best 2013: Richard Bowes.
The other entries are also fascinating, so it makes for a great reading list.
Thinking back on 2013 after I wrote my previous post looking back on the year, I realized I left two important books out that would have been there if I'd remembered they were 2013 books — for some reason, in my mind, they were 2012 books.
The first is Kit Reed's extraordinary retrospective collection The Story Until Now. In a great year for story collections, this was among the absolute best.
The other is the second published and translated volume of Reiner Stach's eventually 3-volume biography of Franz Kafka, Kafka: The Years of Insight, translated by Shelley Frisch. John Banville said:
On the evidence of the two volumes that we already have, this is one of the great literary biographies, to be set up there with, or perhaps placed on an even higher shelf than, Richard Ellmann’s James Joyce, George Painter’s Marcel Proust, and Leon Edel’s Henry James. Indeed, in this work Stach has achieved something truly original. By a combination of tireless scholarship, uncanny empathy, and writing that might best be described as passionately fluent, he does truly give a sense of “what it was like to be Franz Kafka.” He has set himself the Proustian task of summoning up, and summing up, an entire world, and has performed that task with remarkable success. The result is an eerily immediate portrait of one of literature’s most enduring and enigmatic masters.Reading the book for me was even more thrilling than reading Kafka: The Decisive Years in 2005, because there's something about the last part of Kafka's life, which is what The Years of Insight covers, that is especially strange, haunting, and powerful. (The final volume will be about Kafka's early years; Stach reportedly held off on it in the hope that a Max Brod archive would become available, but he has apparently decided that is unlikely, and the book should be released in the next few years.) Shelley Frisch's translation deserves much praise, as the book reads beautifully.