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Saturday, August 14, 2004


It goes without saying that any list that aspires to record the best of anything — whether of books or film or music — leaves many well-deserving items off. There is no objective method for determining what is best; there is no list inclusive enough to encompass all that deserves attention. Of what use then to readers would be a list of books that Flak staff just happened to have read in the past 10 years and consider "best"? Rather than compile a traditional best-of-books feature (one of those Top 10 lists that dot publications around the new year), we decided to praise those books published in the last decade that did one thing exceptionally well, from cover design to punctuation use, and everything — from sentences to end notes — in between.

Flak Magazine did this great list of the best books of the 90's, with very interesting categories like best description, best ending, best cover, etc. There are well written explanations on the website why they choose every book for that particular category, so definitely check it out.

My favorite category must be the The Decade's Best Sentence. The winner was this very long opening line from the book The Hundred Brothers by Donald Antrim. and it's an amazing sentence I must admit:
My brothers Rob, Bob, Tom, Paul, Ralph, Phil, Noah, William, Nick, Dennis, Christopher, Frank, Simon, Saul, Jim, Henry, Seamus, Richard, Jeremy, Walter, Jonathan, James, Arthur, Rex, Bertram, Vaughan, Daniel, Russel, and Angus; and the triplets Herbert, Patrick, and Jeffrey; identical twins Michael and Abraham, Lawrence and Peter, Winston and Charles, Scott and Samuel; and Eric, Donovan, Roger, Lester, Larry, Clinton, Drake, Gregory, Leon, Kevin, and Jack — all born on the same day, the twenty-third of May, though at different hours in separate years — and the caustic graphomaniac, Sergio, whose scathing opinions appear with regularity in the front-of-book pages of the more conservative monthlies, not to mention on the liquid crystal scenes that glow at night atop the radiant work stations of countless bleary-eyed computer bulletin-board subscribers (among whom our brother is known, affectionately, electronically, as Surge); and Albert, who is blind; and Siegfried, the sculptor in burning steel; and clinically depressed Anton; schizophrenic Irv, recovering addict Clayton; and Maxwell, the tropical botanist, who, since returning from the rain forest, has seemed a little screwed up somehow; and Jason, Joshua, and Jeremiah, each vaguely gloomy in his own "lost boy" way; and Eli, who spends his solitary wakeful evenings in the tower, filling notebooks with drawings — the artist's multiple renderings for a larger work? — portraying the faces of his brothers, including Chuck, the prosecutor; Porter, the diarist; Andrew, the civil rights activist; Pierce the designer of radically unbuildable buildings; Barry, the good doctor of medicine; Fielding, the documentary-film maker; Spencer, the spook with known ties to the State Department; Foster, the "new millennium" psychotherapist; and George, the urban planner who, if you read the papers, you'll recall, distinguished himself, not so long ago, with that innovative program for revitalizing the decaying downtown area (as "an animate interactive diorama illustrating contemporary cultural and economic folkways"), only to shock and amaze everyone, absolutely everyone, by vanishing with a girl named Jane and an overnight bag packed with municipal funds in unmarked hundreds; and all the young fathers: Seth, Rod, Vidal, Bennet, Dutch, Brice, Allan, Clay, Vincent, Gustavus, and Joe; and Hiram, the eldest; Zachary, the Giant; Jacob, the polymath; Virgil, the compulsive whisperer; Milton, the channeler of spirits who speak across time; and the really bad womanizers: Stephen, Denzil, Forrest, Topper, Temple, Lewis, Mongo, Spooner, and Fish; and, of course, our celebrated "perfect" brother, Benedict, recipient of a medal of honor from the Academy of Sciences for work over twenty years in chemical transmission of "sexual language" in eleven types of social insects — all of us (except George, about whom there have been many rumors, rumors upon rumors: he's fled the vicinity, he's right here under our noses, he's using an alias or maybe several, he has a new face, that sort of thing) all my ninety-eight, not counting George, brothers and I recently came together in the red library and resolved that the time had arrived, finally, to stop being blue, put the past behind us, share a light supper, and locate, if we could bear to, the missing urn full of the old fucker's ashes.

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