University of Illinois Press: Best of 2010

Willis Regier, Director

Best Book: John Kenneth Galbraith, The Affluent Society & Other Writings, 1952-1967, Library of America. 
I read Galbraith’s The New Industrial State when everybody was reading it and forgot most of it.  The Library of America’s new volume of Galbraith’s writings were just what I needed after the November 2010 election, addressing as they do the common economic assumptions of American business and American voters, why the different parties differ on some basic notions and share many more, and why politicians can successfully persist in reviving economic ideas that were discredited by the Great Depression.  Included in the volume are three books I had never read:  American Capitalism, The Great Crash, 1929, and The Affluent Society, as well as The New Industrial State.  All four were as good as new to my aching eyes, and all four kept those eyes open late into the night.

All four clearly explain economic theory and history, asserting at key points the necessity of matching ideas and experience.  Common themes run through the books, two of which gathered urgency as the years went by:  the absurdity of laissez faire economics (if left alone, the market solves all problems) and the dire consequences of increasing income disparity. For Galbraith, economics is all about power relations and conflicts.  In his view, economists should not presume to define immutable laws or inevitable cycles, and citizens should beware economists’ predictions.  He skewered the Ivy League experts who, at the advent of the Great Depression, assured the public that all was well.  Galbraith considered the Civil War and the Great Depression to be the two defining events in the history of the Republic.  He made the latter his special study in The Great Crash, 1929 (1955; revised 1972), a book that resonates profoundly in our current economic slump. 

All four books are beautifully written.  “Conventional wisdom,” a phrase he coined and defined in The Affluent Society, has become part of the daily discourse.   Galbraith had an uncanny ability to sustain a high tone without shrillness, possessed the gift of metaphor and a knack for aphorism, and handled irony with masterful restraint, a skill that reached its peak in The Affluent Society (1958, revised 1969).   It is my favorite of the four.

The longest and most demanding book of the quartet is The New Industrial State (1967; revised in 1971 and again in 1978; Galbraith learned from his critics).  He called The Affluent Society “a window” to the house that is The New Industrial State.  The latter is his single greatest attempt to survey the entire American economy at the time of its writing.  Its key argument is that the largest corporations no longer serve the market:  they determine what the market will be.  They don’t anticipate or respond to customers’ wants and needs, they create and control them.

A few samples of Galbraith: anyone looking for a monopoly in the modern oligopolistic economy is searching “for poison ivy in a field of poison oak” (52).  “Always when markets are in trouble, the phrases are the same: `The economic situation is fundamentally sound’ or simply ‘the fundamentals are good.’  All who hear those words should know that something is wrong” (183).   “To proclaim the need for new ideas has served, in some measure, as a substitute for them” (361).  “Whatever the faults of economics as a field of scholarship, it cannot be criticized for failing to foster scholarly self-confidence and ego” (615).

Also seriously considered for this year’s “Best Book” were Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Wind Up Girl (Night Shade Books) and Lynn Ward’s Six Novels in Woodcuts (Library of America).  Best book read in 2010 that was previously published was Alex Ross’s The Rest is Noise (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2007), recommended to me by Tim Newcomb.

Best CD: Joanna Newsom, Have One on Me, Drag City.
Michael Roux recommended Newsom’s three-CD set to me and a week later I was buying copies for friends.  Michael, I owe you big for this.  I’ll let him enumerate the CDs’ appeals.  Other 2010 CDs that got plenty of rotation were Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs, The National’s High Violet, and Neil Young’s Le Noise.

I began the year playing an array of Scriabin, but those CDs were recorded earlier and were already favorites.  Finding attractive new releases of classical music remains of a challenge, one best answered by the Naxos and CPO labels.  In 2010 CPO released symphonies by the 20th-century Dutch composer Henk Badings, previously unknown to me.  He was prolific, and I’ll try more.

Not released in 2010 but the best album I had not heard till then (thanks Michael, for this, too) was Crowded House’s Recurring Dream (1996), closely followed by Imogen Heap’s Ellipse (2009), Stars’ Set Yourself on Fire (2005), Grizzly Bear’s Veckatimest (2009) and Yellow House (2006), Bat For Lashes’ Two Suns (2009), and The National’s Boxer (2007).  Biggest disappointment of 2010 was Sheryl Crow’s 100 Miles from Memphis.

Best Movie: Inception, Warner Brothers. 
The University of Illinois Cinema Censorship Committee attended a dozen or more movies in 2010, but never in more force or with more discussion afterward than with Inception.  Dream sequences are movies’ catch-all solutions to any number of plot problems, but Inception defies the convention by making the most of it, adding only two peculiar conditions:  that dreams can be shared and their scenes can be designed.  The movie has given the word “architect” a new meaning.  The pace, acting, dialogue, framing, and of course, the scenery made Inception a feast for the eyes.
It had a bonus:  I approve any movie in which Leo DiCaprio gets killed (Blood Diamond, The Departed, even Titanic) and Inception satisfied that criterion, too.

Best TV Series:  Terriers, FX.
I liked the first season of Justified, was disappointed with the all too formulaic new episodes in Burn Notice, continue to think Dexter is the best thing Showtime has ever done (and hope that Julia Stiles returns), marvel at how the leads in Weeds find new ways to sink ever more deeply into trouble, and watched Spartacus because Lucy Lawless was in it, but give the nod to the best of 2010 to Terriers.  Like my other favorites, it attracts me because the dialogue is sharp, the characters are distinctive, the plots have intersecting arcs, and the production values are high.  What set Terriers above the rest may be mere novelty, but at this moment I think its signal virtues are in its long-range plotting and complex ethics.  Its heroes drive a ratty old truck through the storylines with the speed and twists of a grand prix.  Their grubby nobility makes them unique and endearing and made me look forward to Wednesday evenings.  But no more: Paul Arroyo informed me that FX has canceled the show.  Tad Ringo says it figures:  FX canceled Firefly, too.

Best Live Performance: Wagner, Das Rheingold, Metropolitan Opera. 
Not exactly live, but broadcast live to the Savoy Theatre.   Went with Wagner experts Katherine Syer and Bill Kinderman and enjoyed the company of two Rhine maidens, Anna and Marie, my god-daughters, who paid close attention to every scene and every note, even when Marie dropped one her tiny toy penguins.  Katherine was excited about the new production by Robert Lepage which was so impressive it restored the term “Wagnerian” to grandeur for several hours.

Barbara Evans, Assistant Production Manager 
Favorite Book: Dennis Lehane: Moonlight Mile (mostly ’cause it’s the one I’m reading now); anything by Ken Bruen
Favorite CD: Casals playing the Bach Cello Suites 
Favorite TV Show: Nova; House; haven’t seen Dexter but loved all the books
Favorite live performance: all concerts by the Pacifica Quartet; Paul Asaro playing stride piano at the Blind Pig and Iron Post; The Music of Django Reinhardt at the Iron Post; A Steady Rain at the Station Theatre

Clydette Wantland, Journals Manager
Favorite Book
Christmas in Illinois (really!)
Favorite CD(s):  Lady Antebellum & Sugarland
Favorite MovieIt’s Complicated
Favorite TV ShowModern Family
Favorite live performance:  Lisa Williams

Heather Munson, Journals Production Editor
: Amy Greene–Bloodroot, Brady Udall–The Lonely Polygamist
Non-fiction: Selina Hastings–The Secret Lives of Somerset Maugham: A Biography
Live music event: The Sandwich Life 2010 concert series (David Olney and Sergio Webb, Kristi Rose and Fats Kaplin, Peter Case, Jason Ringenberg)
CDs: Los Lobos–Tin Can Trust, Alejandro Escovedo–Street Songs of Love, Ray Wylie Hubbard–A. Enlightenment B. Endarkenment (Hint: There is No C), Patty Griffin–Downtown Church
Heirloom tomato: Red Velvet
Garden vegetable of the year: Red Russian Kale

Lisa Savage, Journals Production Editor
Favorite Fiction Book
: David Nicholls — One Day
Favorite Nonfiction Book: Rebecca Skloot – The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Favorite Worst Book Title: Decision Points
Favorite CD: Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
Favorite Movies: Inception, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (pt. 1)
Favorite TV Show: Mad Men
Favorite (new) TV Shows: Raising Hope, Top Chef All-Stars, Conan
Favorite live performance: Kathy Griffin, US Cellular Coliseum, Bloomington, IL
Favorite man: Jon Hamm
Favorite drink: Hot Screamer

Tamara Shidlauski, Production Coordinator
Favorite Book
: The City & the City by China Mieville
Favorite Single (who buys CDs anymore?): Love Will Tear Us Apart by Evelyn & Evelyn (if you think this song couldn’t be any more sad than the original by Joy Division, take a listen to this version); Best Napkin I Ever Had by Black Lips (these guys are totally wacky, I bet their concerts are great)
Favorite Movie: Inception; The Secret in Their Eyes (thanks Art Theatre!)
Favorite Diner in Spokane, WA: Frank’s Diner (Why I never went to this place when I lived out that way is astonishing! Thanks for making me walk so far and through construction to get there, Kathleen!)
Favorite TV Show: Fringe, The Vampire Diaries, The Good Guys (now cancelled, *sob*)
Favorite Drink: Hot Screamer
Favorite live performance: Parkland College’s Battle of the Bands, especially the winner Sun Stereo. And So Many Dynamos afterward.

Kathleen Kornell, Rights & Permissions/Awards Manager
Favorite Book
: Mary Roach — Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void
Favorite CDs: Cap’n Jazz — Analphabetapolothology (new to me in 2010); Ted Leo & The Pharmacists — Brutalist Bricks; The National — High Violet
Favorite MoviesScott Pilgrim Vs. The World and Inception
Favorite TV Shows: Raising Hope and The Walking Dead
Favorite TV Episode: Psych‘s homage to Twin Peaks
Favorite Live Performances: The National at The Pageant in St. Louis, Deke Weaver’s Elephant at the Stock Pavilion in Urbana
Favorite Drink of 2010: The Hot Screamer
Favorite City: Wallace, Idaho (it’s the center of the universe!)

Joseph Peeples, Catalog and Copywriting Coordinator
Favorite Book
: Herman Melville – Moby-Dick — I learned a lot about whales.
Favorite CD: The National – High Violet
Favorite Movie: Inception; Scott Pilgrim vs. the World; You, The Living at Ebertfest
Favorite TV show: Mad Men, as usual; 30 Rock’s return to greatness
Favorite live performance: The National at the Pageant in St. Louis; Pink Martini at Grant Park in Chicago; Paramore at the Hard Rock in Las Vegas

Will Ridenour, Programmer, Electronic Publishing
Favorite Book
: I liked C by Tom McCarthy and How to Read the Air by Dinaw Mengestu (both 2010), but I liked Per Petterson’s Out Stealing Horses (2007) a lot more.
Favorite MovieWinter’s Bone and The Last Station in a near dead heat for entirely different reasons
Favorite CD: Various artists, Slack Key Guitar Volume 1 & 2; Aly Bain and Ale Moller, Beyond the Stacks; and Sharon Isbin, Journey to the New World, are sharing top spots on the IPOD
Favorite TV Show: Merle Haggard: Learning to Live With Myself (PBS, American Masters), Slings and Arrows (Canadian TV series)
Favorite live performance: Celebration Company at the Station Theatre, Picasso at the Lapin Agile

Vijay Shah, Assistant Acquisitions Editor
Favorite Book
: 2666-Roberto Bolaño
Favorite CD: The Black Keys—Brothers
Favorite Movie: The Search
Favorite TV Show: Bored to Death
Favorite live performanceDedicated To Emmett Till at the Armory Free Theater, Santah’s in-store performance downtown

Lisa Bayer, Marketing Director
Favorite Book
: James Scudamore — Heliopolis (2009) and, of course, the Stieg Larsson Millennium trilogy
Favorite CD: Jónsi — Go
Favorite Movie: Winter’s Bone; The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Favorite TV Shows: The Good Wife, Mad Men, Sherlock, Storage Wars, Wallander
Favorite live performance: John Mellencamp, No Better Than This tour, November 6, Fabulous Fox Theater, St. Louis. JM is a sentimental favorite. I saw him twice at arena shows as a youngster in the 80s. His new T. Bone-Burnett-produced Americana album allowed me and my closest friend of +40 years to take our 7-year-old daughters to their first show (and get their first concert t-shirts) in a gorgeous venue.

Matthew Smith, Design Manager
Favorite Book(s):

1. The Return of Religion and Other Myths (Basis Voor Actuele Kunst) 2. Karel Martens, Printed Matter (third edition, Hyphen Press) —”There are so many ways to exploit a limitation.”
Favorite CD, LP, Cassette, or MP3 Album(s): 1. Oneohtrix Point Never, Returnal (Mego Editions) —youtube channel: sunsetcorp 2. Emeralds, Does It Look Like I’m Here? (Mego Editions) —youtube channel: lifephaser 3. Le Révélateur, Motion Flares (Root Strata) —video collaboration with Sabrina Ratté on UbuWeb
Favorite Live Performance: Emeralds at the Viaduct Theater in Chicago, August 21
Favorite Movie(s):
1. Double Take, directed by Johan Grimonprez (Europe 2009; USA 2010) —”If you meet your double, you should kill him” (Borges).
2. The Eclipse, directed by Conor McPherson (festivals 2009; theaters 2010) —”Cinema + psychoanalysis = the science of ghosts” (Derrida).
Favorite Exhibition(s):
1. Everything I Tell You Now Is True: The Short Films of Emily Wardill, at the Siskel Film Center in Chicago 2. Dexter Sinister: The Plastic Arts, at Gallery 400 (the University of Illinois at Chicago) 3. Liam Gillick: Three Perspectives and a Short Scenario, at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago

Rohn Koester, Journals Production Editor
Favorite Book
: Terry Eagleton — Reason, Faith, and Revolution
Favorite Movie: Laurent Cantet — The Class
Favorite Music: Sufjan Stevens — All Delighted People and The Age of Adz
Favorite Local Performances: The Velvet Rut (Station Theatre) and Elephant (UIUC Stock Pavilion)
Favorite Podcasts: Radiolab, Democracy Now, Black Agenda Report
Favorite TED Talks: Hanna Rosin, The LXD, Rachel Sussman, Aditi Shankardass

Michael Roux, Publicity Manager
Favorite Book
: Jonathan Tropper — This is Where I Leave You (2009)
Favorite CD: 1. Joanna Newsom — Have One on Me, 2. Midlake – The Courage of Others
I confess, Joanna Newsom taps straight into a Lionheart-era Kate Bush nerve that has slowly withered as Kate now takes up to ten years between recordings. AK-momo helped me through the early part of the decade.  Joanna, how about a 4-cd set next time?

Favorite Movie: Never Let Me Go
Favorite TV Show
: Rubicon, NFL Red Zone, 30 Rock, Modern Family, The Good Wife

About michael

Marketing & Sales Manager since 2012