Life: The Year’s Best

by anneMoore on December 13, 2011

With the year coming to a close it’s a good time to reflect on the offerings that enriched my days and nights.

I read newspapers, magazines, works of nonfiction, but my true love is fiction. In these three novels, the characters and situations were so alive to me I didn’t want their stories to end: Jonathan Franzen’s “Freedom,” Chad Harbaugh’s “The Art of Fielding,” and Jeffrey Eugenides’ “The Marriage Plot.”

Paul Auster’s “Sunset Park” was another favorite. Enchanted, I am reading slowly Michael Ondaatje’s “The Cat’s Table.”

A play, a retrospective and a biography brought me the lives of three artists and their creative process. Each left me astonished. There was Mark Rothko in John Logan’s “Red” at the Goodman Theatre, the Willem de Kooning retrospective at New York’s Museum of Modern Art (through January 9), Patricia Alber’s biography “Joan Mitchell: Lady Painter.”

Art and books combine in the work of two friends, both photographers.

Haunting me are the lush, eery photographs of American children, teens, couples and families in Lydia Panas’ first monograph, “The Mark of Abel.” Chester Alamo’s “The Globe” captures the beauty, color and passion of fans at a Chicago bar that offers live telecasts of European soccer.

I continue to be awed by my sons’ achievements in photography and sports journalism, by my niece’s comic art and humor.

Memorable movies this year include the smart, sexy remake of “Jane Eyre,” the plotless but mesmerizing “Tree of Life,” the hilariously foul “Bridesmaids. The one film I many never get out of my head: Pedro Almodovar’s “The Skin I Live In.” Beautiful, bizarre, shocking.

One stage play held me in its grip: “The God of Carnage,” 70 minutes of ensemble acting at its best, at the Goodman Theatre. I admired “An Iliad” at Court Theatre (through December 14) even though we had terrible seats.

I am always thinking about my next meal, so it’s worth remembering some of the places that nourished me.

In Montreal (L’Entrecote St. Jean) and New York (Le Relais de Venise) I savored prix-fixe steak-only dinners that transported me to Paris.

In Chicago this year I’ve been dazzled by the farm-to-table offerings at Nightwood, Perennial Virant, and Blackbird. The fish tacos at GT Fish & Oyster. Anything at The Purple Pig. The limited but daring menu at Morso; also, its fabulous Wolfsbane cocktail. The seasonal tartines at Floriole, the frisee salad at Gemini Bistro, the exquisite service at Pelago. The ultra-thin pizza at Three Aces and a cocktail so beautiful I had to photograph it.

Finally, a welcome addition to my Lincoln Park neighborhood: City Grounds coffee bar, a clean well lighted place.

Thanks for reading. Best wishes for the New Year.

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