Tuesday, 11 January 2011

The Book Masochism Challenge 2011: Getting Started!

OK, so, I wanted to let you know how I was getting on with the Book Masochism Challenge 2011.

I put the list of books on my blog! Here it is. The books I’d already read are crossed out, and the books I’ve read since I started the challenge are crossed out and also have a pink background (because we need to be technical and accurate ;-) ). So far I’ve read The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford and Moby-Dick by Herman Melville.

Now, this is what you need to know about me. I do not say this to boast, because after all, it’s not much of a skill in the scheme of things, but, I read very, very quickly. I read like a robot processing information. I get through a shortish book normally in an evening and actually it irritates people. ‘Have you read that already?’ they say, looking at me suspiciously, as if I've cheated. Well, yes I have read it! And even given this not-quite-a-skill, it took me a good fortnight to get through Moby-Dick. A good fortnight! Empires rose and fell. People: this is not an easy read, it is really not. I had to concentrate. I had to shush Partner (he chatters away, artlessly). I had to turn the telly off. Things became serious. However: I was not tempted to give up because, honestly, this is a great book. I mean great in the sense of really impressive. It is fabulous, or, it walks a narrow line between, complete unreadability and complete fabulousness. Which side does it fall, well you must decide that for yourself, but I will tell you that it is only £1.99 on Amazon in case you feel like having a go and I think it is so cheap because no-one wants it. I bet they can’t shift them. I bet the CEO of Amazon is sitting with his head on the desk saying, no, don’t buy any more Moby-Dicks! We’ll never sell the dratted things! Send one out free every time someone orders Twilight, we’ll hope they don’t notice!
Quiz: what famous knitted wrap is Moby-Dick posed on?
This is the thing with Moby-Dick; although everybody knows the basic narrative, man chases whale, situation ends badly, actually I’ve never read a book where the narrative is less the point. It’s not about the story. It actually seemed to me to be about the nature of scholarly authority (who has the right to talk about whales?) and the interplay between life, life as story, how one becomes the other, whether the other can go back to being the one (no). Anyway before I go off and write you a long boring essay we will move on,

Because, I also want to tell you about The Good Soldier. Now this was also an excellent book. It is safe to say I would never in my life have read this by choice as I thought the title and indeed the cover (a woman in a big hat – sorry I can’t show you, I have lent it to my mother) were most unprepossessing, but, when I started it I couldn’t put it down. I won’t tell you what happens because who knows, you might read it too, but, it is all about the nature of narrative (but not in a boring unreadable way!), how you can never really know people, and social convention. It is lots of fun (well, kind of fun), and I thought the ending was very effective.

Next, I am reading Ulysses by James Joyce. I have actually skim-read this years ago, and I am a fan of JJ (start with Dubliners if you haven’t read any), but now I am doing it properly, and I am reading the Odyssey first (Ulysses is based on the Odyssey). I can say with some confidence that, after Moby-Dick, reading the Odyssey is like reading Heat magazine, so it is a nice rest before I gird my loins again for deconstructed narratives and internal monologues, oh no.
Partner said, 'The Penguin is just about readable if you have to read it in translation', rather sniffily I thought. Look, classical academic, I can knit socks
I’m pleased with how this is going so far – I’ve certainly read books I would never have chosen, and it’s been an interesting experience up to now. I’m wondering if 30 books as a target might have been a bit ambitious, though, especially if they’re all going to be great big dense doorstop-type things like a certain book concerning whales.

Other Book Masochists: how are you getting on?


Marushka C. said...

The proble with some of the Great Books is that the author was sitting there thinking, "I am writing a Great Book, the more of it, the better." and the editor was thinking, "this is a Great Book by a Great Author, who am I to change a word of it?" Sadly, this is true for some of the popular authors today too...

The Gingerbread Lady said...

I was surprised to note how many books I have read on The List - and more surprised to note how disinclined I am to read any more. I have become such a lazy reader, it's disgraceful. Like you, I read abnormally fast and basically snorted books up to the age of 30 ... and then stopped. And I was a compulsive reader - compulsive. Now I can just about manage a book about an oversexed Scot and that's it. Very sad.

West/CJ said...

Congratulations on making it through Moby Dick. I read it when I was 13, and I hated it. It might be worth a re-read now that all this time has passed. Maybe I should put it on my summer list (I would never attempt it during a school semester).

I too love JJ, but I have never attempted Ulysses. And like you, I am a very fast reader as well. I know those looks of which you speak. One of these days, I'll think of an appropriately snarky response to the "did you really read that already" question.

Susie said...

Marushka, you are very right, and indeed I have two words for you. Those words are, Harry Potter.

Gingerbread Lady, this is just how I was, got to thirty, nothing. Is there something about that age? But the Odyssey is essentially the same as your oversexed Scot book only involving a Greek. Partner says I must look on Odysseus as being 'like Sean Connery. But younger. And wearing a wig'.

CJ, you are a better person than me because the only way I could have read MD at 13 would have been with a large cash bribe. I am hoping Ulysses will be more of a page turner. Stream of consciousness, no problem.

Denise said...

My partner reads like you. I think he said it took him two days to read The Stand.

Sadly, I've not read anything more than blogs this year.