December 19, 2011
Readers of The Nervous Breakdown did a tremendous job these last two weeks distilling the impressive harvest of what was a vintage year of TNB to five stand-out drafts; the final quintet, I submit, is, as they phrase it at the better MFA programs, pretty fucking good.
At the risk of making the many worthy writers of the many superlative pieces not included herein feel bad, I’d like to, in my capacity as senior editor, submit my own list of my eleven favorite posts of 2011.
A few caveats:
— These are presented in alphabetical order by title, and I’m not including interviews, book reviews, or excerpts
— Although I tried, I didn’t read every single post, and there’s probably great stuff that escaped my attention
— I wrote this two weeks ago, so anything posted in that time period wasn’t eligible (I’m talking to you, Gary Socquet)
That the weekly rants of TNB’s enigmatic “literary advice columnist” (whatever that means)—not to mention his comment-replies, as filtered through that headset-wearing object of Jonathan Evison’s fascination that is Fabian—were a consistent highlight of 2011 is, I think (and to borrow a word from The Dust’s John Holmesian lexis) axiomatic. I’m singling out this installment because I think the phrase “up to the hilt in Rachel Uchitel” is the single funniest line to ever appear on these hallowed pages.
Spare, economical piece that proves Sean had a lot more fun in Fugazi-era Washington than I ever did. Memo to Mr. Bode-When: write a fucking memoir already. Or a novel along these lines. Please. Just do it.
Powerful, powerful stuff. Wasn’t it nicer when Zara wrote about broken hearts rather than broken cities? Wasn’t it just.
Arguably the best post of the year, a master class in how to reveal devastating information—in this case, the cause of Sparshott’s disability—in an avalanche of humor. A wonderful piece of writing.
Written way back in January, the ending of this gem of a memoir piece about a creepy crank caller still gives me chills.
Gina has written four pieces about her father. These are four of the best pieces in the annals of TNB. John Frangello makes that Shit My Dad Says guy look like a cliché wrapped in a leaf of nebbish. A cent’anni!
Evenhanded and much more dispassionate than I could ever be when discussing the author of The Corrections, Eslami takes on Jonathan Franzen, who has traded in Facebook for A Birdwatcher’s Guide to North America.
I love when Zoe writes about parenting. I love when she writes about gender issues. I love when she writes about sex vis a vis our culture. I love when she’s funny. This one has all four.
My first two thoughts when I started reading this: 1) Save it, Brad! Don’t blow this great stuff on a series of web posts! This is a book, dude!, and, 2) Wow, David Shields’s head just exploded. Of course, 1) If it’s a book, Brad will publish it himself, so no harm no foul, and 2) Like Kourtney Kardashian’s second pregnancy, said cranial explosion was bound to happen eventually; it was only a matter of time. It’s easy to forget that Helmsman Listi is a really good writer; this extended post serves as a reminder that, like that Hair Club For Men guy, Brad’s not just the founding editor, he’s also a contributor.
A worthy winner, and the only post that ever compelled me to write a 1,000-word comment.
I’m a big Justin Benton fan. Not sure how he does it, but he always manages to find some new angle, some new topic to write about (the decline of rollerblading, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, porn star Amazon wish lists) that never would have occurred to me. Now that Brad has let the cat out of the proverbial bag that he and Justin are working on a book, I can publicly state that I’m really, really, really looking forward to it.