Or the man: Pronek takes amusing, awkard, angry form in a series of stories with different narrators (Nowhere Man is subtitled “The Pronek Fantasies”) that move freely between his birth (“his crumpled face, dominated by a screaming mouth, like an Expressionist painting”) and adulthood. We observe the “fireworks of universal experiences” as well as “the ephemera, the nethermoments.” Poor and at sea in landlocked Chicago, Pronek works whatever jobs he can; the book’s anger and sadness stem from American indignities as well as Bosnian horrors. Earlier, while studying abroad in Kiev, Pronek happened to meet the first President Bush, who walked “in the long dumb strides of a man whose path had always been secure.” Like most of ours, Pronek’s steps are much less secure, and far more interesting.
Nominated by: Josh Levin, Slate sports editor
The most impressive thing about Roger Federer is how he makes his admirers nostalgic for an era that he obliterated. Federer’s artful, loping game reminds us of the slo-mo champions of yore, who couldn’t possibly hang in the topspin-and-smash epoch that the Swiss star made his own. Federer is an emissary from the past to the future—and from the future to the past. I believe this shot constitutes proof that time travel is possible. Also, this one. And don’t forget this one, which helped convince Andy Roddick to give up tennis for a career of supporting roles in the American Pie movies.
Athletic immortality doesn’t come for free along with a lot of Grand Slam wins—hell, Ivan Lendl won 8 slams and nobody cares about that guy. The true greats make their chosen sport something that it wasn’t, they build a new kind of game on the same court. Lendl won a bunch of titles because he played the same way as everybody else, only better. Federer didn’t play the same as anybody else. He was so much faster, so much more agile, and so successful, that he made the best players in the world look like they were holding their rackets upside down.
David Foster Wallace said this better than I have in his essay “Federer as Religious Experience,” and the fact that DFW said it at all is a good indication that the Federer name will persist long after we forget how to spell Novak Djokovic. Nadal and Djokovic are great. Federer is a paragon. Step aside René Lacoste—the finest shirts of 2100 will bear the RF logo.
Nominated by: Dana Stevens, Slate movie critic
Being asked to contribute a movie for a hypothetical “new canon” of post-2000 classics immediately plunged me down a rabbit hole of unanswerable questions. What does "canonical" mean in the century after the canon exploded? The whole notion of a fixed pantheon of culturally sanctioned works has been troubled—if not definitively discredited—for a good two decades now. And the ever-increasing number of channels that new media offers people to find, watch, discuss, and create movies for themselves makes that pantheon seem ever more like a dusty echo chamber. So I’ll choose a movie that takes its own dive down multiple narrative rabbit holes: David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive (or to use Lynch’s preferred spelling, Mulholland Dr.)
I wouldn’t say Mulholland Dr. is the best movie of the past 10 years—if forced by a gun-wielding list-compiler to name a candidate for that spot, I’d likely name Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood. (Here’s my list of the 10 best movies of the new millennium from late 2010, which includes both films.) But if canon-worthiness is about what works will last as a part of the cultural conversation, Lynch’s slippery, mind-altering tale of murder, betrayal, romantic obsession, and show business has to claim the spot. Almost 10 years to the week since its release in October 2001, Mulholland Dr. can still provoke dinner-length conversations that range from squirrelly debates about plot threads (what is that guy behind the Dumpster at the diner supposed to represent?) to flights of swooning hyperbole (that lip-synching scene at the Club Silencio!). To skip Mulholland Dr. is not only to miss out on two and a half hours of bravura filmmaking, but on dozens more hours of discussions as spiraling and open-ended as the movie itself.
Nominated by: Simon Doonan, Slate fashion critic
In the last 10 years the fashion landscape has exploded into a million conflicting and diverse notions and styles. Within the chaos there are certain consistent trendy items that have demonstrated exceptional staying power: examples include the skinny jean, the prominently logo'd handbag, the tattoo, and the cripplingly high sculptural platform shoe. Which item will prove to have the most endurance?