Statistical Review of the Year – 2014

Favourite Things

Only one book was awarded 9 stars, which was Samuel Beckett’s Murphy. 11 were given 8 stars, of which the pick are Frederick Rolfe’s The Desire and Pursuit of the Whole (together with Symons’ The Quest for Corvo), Miguel Angel Asturias’ The President, and Cao Xueqin’s The Story of the Stone (vol 1).

Most overrated book is a close race between Melville’s Moby Dick and Joyce’s Ulysses; they both have their merits, I guess, but those merits certainly come packaged with a good few demerits. Obviously the honours should be given to Ulysses, considering the regard it is shown. (Last year, of course, Kafka’s The Trial edged out Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, so I take 2014’s conclusions as nothing unusual).

Favourite film was definitely Masaki Kobayashi’s Harakiri, a remarkable indictment of the Samurai ethic (with a wonderful final battle scene) which I feel I should have gone on about a little more at the time. It doesn’t even merit a place in 1001 Films You Must See Before You Die, though appears a well known classic to students of Japanese cinema.

Other Blog Stats

And what of you, dear reader?

Well, there are less of you this year, for a start – which no doubt is my fault for putting up less posts (especially these last few months).

As every year, you were overwhelmingly (6x) more interested in my Writers Nabokov (Dis)likes page than anything else. – I suppose it’s useful. – I’m again pleased that my second most visited page is my review of Rudyard Kipling’s short story Lispeth; and also that my investigation into the similarities between Sarah Hall’s short story Mrs Fox and Garnett’s Lady into Fox came fourth (I predicted at the end of last year this would disappear without trace) – with my much-googled page on the made-up characters in Bartleby & Co. in between.

As for most visited novel reviews, you can tell from the list below how much I’m benefiting from my general obscurantism in search engine queries:

  1. The Vortex, by José Eustasio Rivera
  2. Yawar Fiesta, by José María Arguedas
  3. The President, by Miguel Angel Asturias
  4. Chapter the Last, by Knut Hamsun
  5. The Tosa Diary, by Ki no Tsurayuki

The first novel by a living English-language writer comes only seventh, which challenges my belief that people are only interested in contemporary fiction; obviously they prefer hard-to-come-by Latin American classics. It’s clear the best strategy for next year will be to review more short stories and obscure classics.

Oh, and there isn’t any Obooki Prize being awarded this year: nothing I read (and I’m not sure I did read much that would qualify anyway) seemed up to the necessary standard.

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5 thoughts on “Statistical Review of the Year – 2014

  1. I finally broke down and bought Asturias’ El Señor Presidente as part of an end of the year book buying rampage (it was the final book I needed to “qualify” for a 40% discount at the local foreign language bookstore), so let’s see how many years it will now take for me to be able to compare notes with you on it. Thanks for the push to purchase it in any event. It’s so funny to see your top three novel reviews; I feel pretty strongly that older Lat Am lit is one of the kisses of death in the English language blog world, but it’s good to know that the few people who are into it are REALLY into it. Anyway, Happy New Year to you, Obooki, and muchas gracias for another year of your wonderful blog. P.S. I keep meaning to ask and then forget: is that a cat or a dog in your Twitter image? My vision’s getting so bad I can’t even tell.

  2. Happy new year!

    Of course, the success of my reviews of Latin Am only indicates how high up they appear in a google search for them, which in turn only indicates a complete lack of interest. People only end up on my blog because there’s nothing better available on the internet. Interested to know how The President is in Spanish; is it stuffed with word-play / native Guatemalan words?

    It’s a cat!!! – I am very much a radical cat person; very anti dog. – I like that picture since he looks like he’s laughing, but in fact is only yawning.

    I must pay homage to your site too which, aside from its many wonderful and interesting reviews (especially of things not in English), is also my third highest source of referrals (after Google and Twitter).

  3. What you say about Joyce and Melville is fair, of course – but I wonder, are their works over-rated as books, or as something else? Certainly any discussions / recommendations of Melville I’ve ever seen come heavily caveated with warnings about “all the boring whaling bits” – I think there’s a misplaced “national epic” aura about the book which tends to make it appear more monolithic than anything else. Whereas poor old Jimmy Joyce has, like so much else, been ruthlessly co-opted by The Paddywhackery Industry such that he is (in Ireland) now an untouchable cultural icon of a quasi-religious type. To criticise him is a mortal sin and it is only my ignorance of IP addressing protocols that prevents a terrible virtual vengeance being visited on the Obloquy.

  4. You think then there are other things I should be judging books on, aside from their success as a books. The artist is, in my opinion, responsible for the entire reading experience: Melville thought it would be good clearly from an artistic point of view to put in all the info about whaling; Joyce made similar decisions; – I think they have to be held to those decisions.

  5. No, just speculating that the scale of disappointment is in some way related to the life the books have apart from being just books – hype would be an inelegant way of putting it, and these books are beyond hype I think – but it’s equally possible that my speculation is idle.

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