Eugene Lim’s Best of 2009


My favorite book [besides Norman Lock’s SHADOWPLAY and Joanna Ruocco’s THE MOTHERING COVEN] was probably Jennifer Moxley’s CLAMPDOWN. a surprise to me, Moxley is less a wild innovator than a poet who seems perfectly in tune with our current moment. Not that she’s merely fashionable but just that these poems seemed to capture, seemingly effortlessly, our era of stagnation, broke-affluence and armchair-radicalism. Her gorgeous lyric poems risk meaning while defying the received emotions of staler narratives.

From “The Fountain”:
The public policing
of money and morals
destroys beauty
such as this–
for most of us
to “grow up”
means learning
to loathe what’s cheap
and what’s free,
when to value
the latter is
surely to be it.
The pleasure of
tonguing a pink-
lipped stranger
does not accrue,
it can be repeated
endlessly and yet
feel quite new.

35 SHOTS OF RUM was my favorite movie from this year. A terrible title I agree but a tightrope-walking, deeply humanist movie which, like moxley’s work, risks emotion but avoids sentimentality. While decidedly not a message movie — and in fact dwelling and luxuriating in ambiguity — its coming-of-age family tale profoundly tackles aging, race, class, and father-daughter relationships.
Claire Denis is a various filmmaker and this is more aligned with the romantic realism of her FRIDAY NIGHT  than the narrative fragmentation of her deliriously beautiful BEAU TRAVAIL, but it’s quite awesome, in a word, how well she achieves her diverse ambitions.
Thirdly, this year’s exhibit and book about Tehching Hsieh introduced me to this groundbreaking Taiwanese-American conceptual artist. His artwork includes: living a year by himself in a small room, punching in to a worker’s timeclock on the hour every hour for a year, living on the streets of NYC for a year, living tied to someone else for a year without ever touching, for a year giving up all art. He started out in Taiwan where he made “jump piece” where he took a leap high enough that he managed to break both his ankles.

Profound and foolish, meditative and absurd, Hsieh liked to do things in year-long increments. Why? “Because one year is the largest single unit of how we count time. It takes the earth a year to move around the sun. Three years, four years is something else. It is about being human, how we explain time, how we measure our existence.”

Like you, I spent the year looking for beautiful things and (other than everything) found these three.

Eugene Lim is the author of FOG & CAR, the managing editor of Ellipsis Press, and the fiction editor for Harp and Altar.

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