Editor Kris Doyle on his cultural highlights of 2012

24 December 2012

It's our final advent calendar entry! And an in-house one at that, from Picador editor Kris Doyle. 

Happy Christmas and a merry New Year from the Picador team!

 

What is your favourite book of the year?

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach: warm wit and almost endless charm made this character driven campus novel exceptionally seductive. 

What is the book that was most neglected (fairly or unfairly)?

Ali Smith’s There But For The is absolutely magnificent and I can’t understand how she didn’t make the shortlist for this year’s Orange Prize.  Smith is always playful, joyous and perspicacious, and this book did everything I want a novel to do. 

What is the book that was most over-rated (fairly or unfairly)?

I ‘didn’t get’ The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes and found it inexplicable that it won the Man Booker.  I know the book was published in 2011, but I found myself explaining why I consider it over-rated again and again – even more this year than last. The entertaining and incisive Geoff Dyer explains everything much better than I can in his New York Times review ‘Julian Barnes and the Diminishing of the English Novel’, so I’ll just tell you to go and read that.

What was your favourite cultural event of the year?

I was absolutely knocked out by Lis Rhodes’ piece ‘Light Music’ in the Tate Tanks; it’s basically a pair of projectors spooling black-and-white celluloid across the room at each other to a buzzing, humming soundtrack. I thought it spooky, weirdly endearing, disorienting and rather wonderful.

What is your most powerful memory of the year?

England’s record-breaking victory over the All Blacks at Twickenham.

What is your greatest disappointment of the year?

The Dark Knight Rises. Not only was it not as good as The Dark Knight, but I found the ending so extraordinarily contrived – worse still: it was contrived to continue the franchise! – that it definitely left the bitterest taste of anything this year.

What are you looking forward to reading most next year?

Next year we are publishing All That Is, James Salter’s first novel since 1979, which is fabulous. I’m also very excited about Stuart Nadler’s first novel, Wise Men. I loved his debut story collection, The Book of Life, which we published earlier this year, and I think he’s delivered a sweeping novel of forbidden love and family secrets in the great American tradition.

What is your resolution for 2013?

Two that always linger: read more classics, see more of the world. 

What is your favourite blog or who is your favourite tweeter?

The always mind-expanding @brainpickings

What was the best movie?

The films I’m expecting to like most are all still on the to-do list, though: ArgoThe Master and Amour.

What was the best song/album?

I’ve been really impressed by a whole bunch of records this year, from sources new and old.  Albums by Alt-J, Django Django, Two Door Cinema Club, Beach House, The xx, The Black Keys, Richard Hawley, Leonard Cohen and The Shins are all still on my iPod as we enter December.

Give us one Prediction for 2013?

I still won’t have read Infinite Jest.

What was your favourite book as a child?

Anything by Roald Dahl

What is the book you recommend most?

Philip Larkin’s Collected Poems

What is your favourite poem?

I struggle to choose a favourite Larkin, though it’s usually between ‘Aubade’ and ‘As Bad as a Mile’ when I’m really pushed.

Do you read on paper or ebook?

Mainly on paper, both published books and author’s manuscripts, though I’m having increasingly fond feelings towards my Kindle. I can’t believe I just talked about my Kindle like that…

One book that changed your life?

Waiting for Godot was the book that made me realise that you could be funny and tragic and true all at once.

One book you have read more than once?

A copy of Philip Larkin’s Collected Poems is on my bedside table and a copy of his Complete Poems is on my desk; I probably read some Larkin almost every day. I’m actually slightly obsessed. 

Your worst ever job?

I spent a summer doing odd jobs on a building site.  The single worst day – which is definitely in the competition for the worst day of my life – was spent cleaning a brick wall with a wire-brush.  I could tell no difference between not-clean and clean.

What gives you nightmares?

The discrepancy between what I achieve and what I so dearly hoped to achieve.