Wednesday, 15 December 2010

The Book Masochism Challenge 2011

You may remember, a while ago I did a post about how I never read fiction.
Words oppressing me in a monolithic kind of way
Well, predictably, since then all I’ve done is read fiction, I’ve read loads. But. I still feel quite divided about it. For example, this was on the news a while ago, and had me muttering sarcastic things and grinding my teeth. Because I still kind of resent the idea that reading fiction is Good For You or Something You Should Do. However. Although I don’t think reading fiction is important for everybody and should not be forced on people, because everybody takes part in art & culture in different ways and fiction may be your thing or it may not, I have come to the conclusion that I do, on some level, think it is important to me. Yes. My name is Susie, and I appreciate literature. I don’t appreciate anything surrounding literature – I cannot care about bindings, endpapers, authors spouting on at Kirsty Wark on Newsnight Review, or anything to do with Hay on Wye: and I will never, ever, ever go to see the childhood home of the Brontes or read anything about what Jane Austen ate for dinner. In that respect I am a Philistine. But, you know, these fragments I have shored against my ruins, (line 430) and all that.
I have not got to Steppenwolf yet. On The Road was quite an experience
So. What would a person with a very mixed view of the world of literature (me) undertake to do in 2011? They would undertake the Book Masochism Challenge (I have just made that up, to reflect my mixed views on reading and the possible biting off more than can chew-ness of it all. Oh yes. Read on). And that is what I am going to do!

The Guardian published this list ages ago of the 100 best books. Lists of best books are difficult, aren’t they, and obviously probably the only person in the world who believes this is actually a list of the best 100 books is the person who made the list, but, this is the thing. I have read 27 of the books on that list (I have just counted), and apart from Jude The Obscure which is rubbish, they were all definitely worth reading. Definitely. So I feel there is a good chance the others might be good as well. And I am going to find out! And at the very least I think this list will introduce me to a couple of books I wouldn’t otherwise have read.

I am not going to read all the ones I haven’t read, because 73 is quite a lot. I am going to aim for 30, and see how I get on (some of the books on the list are quite long, {cough} Clarissa {cough}). I will make a page and list my progress on it and update you occasionally, perhaps once a month. Another bonus is that these are exactly the kind of books you would find in the library, or in the 50p bin at Oxfam, so I am not anticipating having to spend lots of money. Partner is excited because he thinks this means I will read Moby Dick, which is his favourite book Evah and we will be able to, I don’t know, form some kind of very small and exclusive Moby Dick admiration society. I have seen the length of Moby Dick and I don’t know how you could possibly talk about chasing a whale for that long. I may start with something shorter.

(I don’t expect anyone to join me in the Book Masochism Challenge, because that’s quite a lot of very long books and you all have busy lives. But if anyone does want to, you’re obviously more than welcome and I would add a Mr Linky to my monthly updates so we could encourage each other. You don’t have to go for 30, obviously, you could just set your own number. If I get to 30, though, I shall Buy Myself A Treat!).

Now. What shall I read first?

ETA, I've put in a Mr Linky below for people to link to their own book masochism challenges. Come on masochists, show me what you've got x

17 comments:

Denise said...

There are a few one that list that I have and is on my to read list. I love to read and there was a time the people I lived with wouldn't allow me to do so. So I've felt lacking and have been trying to catch up.

I love a well written book. Some of the books you find by register at the grocery, I just can't get through for the bad writing and cardboard characters.

Moomin Mamma said...

I will totally join you on this one!
I meant to read more this year (just as aside, I LOVE fiction, I fully admit I am a complete escapist!), but after a good start at the beginning of the year (I too had found a 'must read' list) it sort of fell to the side.
I'll do a blog post soon about the challenge I set myself. :D

Susie said...

Hey! More Book Masochists! I shall have to practice my Mr Linky skills.

The books we get in the supermarkets here are mostly celebrity autobiographies and misery memoirs and I just can't. Although I do keep hearing the Keith Richards autobiography is marvellous so perhaps that one could be made an exception for.

Dan said...

Hmm. I too have read 27 of them. Wonder if they're the same ones... I am reading the Keith Richards autobiography at the moment and yes, it is very good. Better than Jude The Obscure, although not as relentlessly cheerful obviously. 'Done because we are too menny...' I will lend you the Keith Richards book when you come up.

mooncalf said...

I've read 36 (but not all voluntarily - many were for my degree). It is a damn good list though.

I'd caution against To Kill A Mocking Bird. Short but crap.

mooncalf said...

I tried reading Moby Dick once.

From what I recall, it isn't the quest for the whale that grinds you down, it is that every alternate chapter is a technical treatise on whaling.

But it was a long time ago...

Marushka C. said...

My high school English teacher loved Moby Dick and had all of her classes read it. She was perpetually upset that everyone complained about it so she gave detailed tests on it that were designed to make us slave over the book. On one test, she asked what were the dimensions of the whale skeleton (in cubits) described in a particular chapter. And she wondered why no one loved the experience.

Susie said...

When I was in my final term at university I did a paper on modern American drama. The tutor said that the book which was fundamental to all American drama was... Moby Dick! And I should spend all my time on that and not so much on the drama (this was about a month from finals and tensions were running high). I said this was daft and refused, so she refused to teach me, and I had no tutor for that paper.

What is it with educational professionals and Moby Dick?

Vivianne said...

Oooh, Thomas Hardy is a load of old toot.

Susie said...

Vivianne, yes he is indeed and the hours I spent reading Jude The Obscure I will never get back.

However: O Melia my dear, this does everything crown/ Who would have supposed I should meet you in town/ And whence such fair garments, such prosperity/ O, didn't you know I'd been ruined? Said she.

http://oldpoetry.com/opoem/4219-Thomas-Hardy-The-Ruined-Maid

Laurie said...

I love the idea behind this challenge! I will definitely join you. I've read only about 17 on the Guardian list. I love the humor in these posts.

Susie said...

Laurie! Brilliant to have you on board and thanks for the nice comment ;-).

J.G. said...

I'll join, too. I am reading this list already (in theory anyway), which without a challenge deadline means I have been collecting the books and shelving them. Not conducive to progress, that.

Hannah said...

I'm in! Read 27 on the list as well... aiming to knock tenish off the list this year. I bought Moby Dick last week, am now thinking it maybe won't be top of the pile, but it can't be THAT bad, can it?

Susie said...

More people! Lovely to have you. I shall do a round up and introduction after the new year.

You will all be excited to learn (ha!) that I am about 250 pages into Moby Dick. It is actually quite witty and it is going alright, although the last chapter was a list of different types of whales and was completely mad.

Straight on to Ulysses after this and if that combination doesn't put me off reading then I think I deserve chocolate.

J.G. said...

I have a list now for this challenge (at long last!). Is there a Mr. Linky or should I post it here?

Susie said...

Ooo well done J.G.! I've added a Mr Linky above for you to link your list (and it was easier than I thought it would be. These are going to be on everything from now on). I'll do an update post next week as well + linky so people can link to posts about progress x