Omni Decade Crush: It's Over, People
Ok, right up front: I don't like lists. They're arbitrary, destined to exclude worthy items, rigid, and too easily informed by itinerant moods. (And don't get me started on lists by committee.) So this, the last installment of Omni Decade Crush, eschews the ranked list form for notes about just few of my favorite books from the decade. Sure, I liked The Corrections and Kavalier & Clay as much as the next yahoo, but here's a different collection presented in my preferred method of communication: the disorganized, impudent ramble. (This is why I get Friday duty, I think)
In the Weekend Warrior category (a specialty of mine): Miracle in the Andes (2006), Nando Parrado's first-person account of the 1972 plane crash that stranded a Uruguayan rugby team on a glacier, miles from anywhere. If you're familiar with Alive (either the book or the movie), then you know the grisly and heartbreaking details. Miracle is more than a rehash of that story--it's a page-turner unto itself, strengthened with the perspective of hindsight and experience. Also worth reading: The Last Season, Eric Blehm's investigation into the mystery of a ranger's disappearance in the Sierra Nevada; American Buffalo, Steven Rinella's natural history/Alaskan adventure combo-pack; and Steve House's Beyond the Mountain, winner of the Best Book (Mountain Literature category) at the 2009 Banff Mountain Book Festival. (Look it up!)
In the I Can't Believe I'm the First to Mention It category: Charlie Huston. Among those in this office who appreciate a quick, blunt jab upside the head or an unexpected rib-shot (ask my coworkers sometime), his Hank Thompson trilogy achieves epic status. Caught Stealing, Six Bad Things, and A Dangerous Man track the progress (regress?) of an unassuming everyman caught in a jam to his destiny of savage brutality and existential (and physical) ruin. It's impossible, of course, but if They make these into movies (and They really should), Mickey Rourke of different eras would be perfect for the roles: Diner Rourke for Caught Stealing; Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man Rourke for Six Bad Things; and The Wrestler Rourke for A Dangerous Man.
In the Where Did This Guy Come From category: I think only someone named Donald Ray Pollock could have written a book like Knockemstiff, a collection of interwoven stories about a town haunted by living revenants: huffers, murderers, sex fiends, and their hapless (though not innocent) victims, all tethered to the woebegone "holler" by their own self-inflicted shortcomings and depravities. Pollock pulls no punches--his prose is blunt and visceral, as well as stylish and skilled--and reading these mini grand guignols can be like crunching on a mouthful of your own broken teeth. Astonishing, but not for the weak.
In the I Bet They Love Their Jobs, Because It Shows category: AMMO Books (American Modern) describe themselves as publishers of "provocative, one-of-a-kind titles, that bring you the best books of our time ... with amazing design, thoughtful writing, and exquisite printing." (I quote them because I wholeheartedly agree, and I've not much to add.) Founded in 2006, they launched themselves with easily one of my favorite books of the decade: Gonzo, a (super) deluxe, boxed hardcover with words and previously unpublished photographs by the Good Doctor himself. 2007 brought Lucha Loco, a collection of over 120 bizarre and bizarrely moving portraits of the luminaries of masked Mexican wrestling, and they closed the decade with The Contact Sheet, a collection of iconic photographs that placed back into the context of their original sessions, right next to the next to the near-misses and the never-minds (take heart, aspiring photographers!). Published in November, Contact moved briskly, and is currently only available at a premium.