It's the last day of 2022. If you measure the year on the curve of the last few, it felt maybe a little better. If you measure it on the curve of history, the repeal of Roe v Wade made it a real shit-asser. But it was a really good year for cultural production.
For years now, I've written a thread on Twitter about the things I read, watched, heard, and experienced that made my year better. Well, it's time to get off Twitter, so I'm doing it here instead. I'm sure you're up to your ears in year-end lists by now, so I'm keeping this to just 5 things (spoiler alert: I totally cheat). Also, it's worth noting that while not everything on this list came out in 2022, most everything on this list was new to me this year.
A Little Devil in America By Hanif Abdurraqib
I grabbed this book from the library, read it, immediately read it again, then returned it and bought it and read it a third time. I've read it two more times since. It's a celebration of Black music, dance, and performance in America, and it's a triumph in that alone. But it's also a book about how art resonates beyond its eras, how music liberates us, and how place and time make us who we are. But even more than that it is just a tour-de-force of writing. Every sentence is worth reading two, three times before moving on to the next one. I've not stopped thinking about this book since I read it. In fact, I think I may have had this book on my list last year too, but what the hell it is just that good.
Everything Everywhere All at Once
I love a multiverse. The idea that that there other us's living other lives somewhere else has been endlessly fascinating to me. The multiverse has been a staple in sci-fi storytelling forever and is about to be ubiquitous for the next few years since Marvel is hooking their next billion dollars to the concept. But the film Everything Everywhere All at Once breaks the genre so completely as to own it forever by using the multiverse to explore the complexities of a mother's relationship with her daughter and to show what it is to be stuck between the life you lead and the ones you want.
South Side / Reservation Dogs / This Fool
All three of these TV shows are rooted so completely in place—Chicago's South Side, a reservation in rural Oklahoma, and South Central LA—that location plays an essential character. And that's saying something because all three are masterful character studies as well. Each show is able to be uproariously hilarious while also presenting characters with real human depth and are written with such storytelling mastery that they bend the 30 minute comedy genre to whatever story they want to tell.
Inscryption / Marvel Snap
I am a sucker for nerdy card games. And this year I discovered two digital ones on opposite ends of the spectrum. Inscryption is an independent, deeply creepy, gene-busting card game about card games. The less you know about it going in the better, but know that it will continue to subvert your expectations through the very last hand you play. Marvel Snap is a high-gloss, big-budget, IP-heavy, mobile game that should be shitty but is instead totally fun, addictive, and offers genuinely new ideas in a format that mostly just keeps reinventing Magic: The Gathering.
Cruel Country by Wilco
Look, I'm a 48-year-old white dude with a beard: of course I loved the new Wilco record.
I basically only wear coveralls now. Every now and then I go through a period of reinvention and with 2022 ending and 2023 feeling like it's filled with new possibilities, I'm dressing in a new uniform for new me, let's go.
Published December 31, 2022.
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