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Tobias Carroll’s Best of 2009

A very incomplete list of books, comics, and music that moved me this year.

David Bazan: Curse Your Branches (Barsuk)
The Dutchess and The Duke: Sunset/Sunrise (Hardly Art)

In which inner demons are confronted by beard-wearing fellas from the Northwest. Album number two from The Dutchess and The Duke expands their sound into something greater than the garage-folk of their debut, while David Bazan’s first full-length using his own name feels like both a summation of his work to date and a rebirth. And the notes on which they closed — “In Stitches” for the former, “The River” for the latter — left me feeling wrenched and exhausted in the best way possible.

Blake Butler, Scorch Atlas (featherproof)
Nick Antosca, Midnight Picnic (Word Riot)

Two very different takes on hallucinatory landscapes that nonetheless felt rooted in contemporary America.

Bryan Lee O’Malley, Scott Pilgrim Vs. the Universe (Oni Press)
In which Bryan Lee O’Malley reminds readers of his earlier Lost at Sea that he can still do melancholy with the best of them. His Scott Pilgrim series has, so far, been relentlessly enjoyable, abounding smart pop-culture references, deadpan banter, and surreal humor. The fifth volume brought with it the emotional payoff to hundreds of pages of setup. Plus, the expected smart pop-culture references, deadpan banter, and surreal humor hasn’t exactly gone away.

Amelia Gray: AM/PM (featherproof)
Changed the way I look at flash fiction.

Michal Ajvaz, The Other City (Dalkey Archive Press)
China Mieville, The City & The City (Del Rey)

In which two vastly different writers confront the idea of cities hidden within cities. Ajvaz’s approach is playful and metafictional; Mieville’s is richly concrete, rooted in the notion of the police procedural and a fictional yet deeply plausible history of two European city-states occupying the same geography.

Thee Oh Sees: Help (In the Red)
Blissed-out garage rock: enough of a stomp for the punk aficionados, enough blurring for those who prefer their rock eccentric. And they’re even better live.

Tobias Carroll lives in Brooklyn, New York. He has covered music and books for a number of publications, and his fiction has appeared in THE2NDHAND, 3:AM, Word Riot, and as part of Featherproof Books’ “Light Reading” series. He is presently working on multiple projects of varying lengths. Find his online HERE.

John Madera's fiction may be found in Conjunctions, Opium Magazine, The &Now Awards 2: The Best Innovative Writing, and many other journals. His criticism may be found in American Book Review, Bookforum, The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Rain Taxi: Review of Books, The Believer, The Brooklyn Rail, and many other venues. Recipient of an M.F.A. in Literary Arts from Brown University, John Madera lives in New York City, where he runs Rhizomatic and manages and edits Big Other.

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