Sunday, May 25, 2008

Reading List and Others

I’m out on the porch this morning after spending a few hours listening to Handel’s Water Music and reading Philip Roth’s American Pastoral. Not exactly a cheery tale…one where the seemingly perfect American family is shattered by identity-issues and domestic terrorism. Roth’s prose never sinks me into despair like other writers who expose dark truths about human nature. I think because he graciously provides protagonists who I can sympathize with and even like. Sure there are gray areas, and often hopelessness, but there is also an underlying wit which implies ample affection and forgiveness for the messy lives of people.

Things have been chugging along on the home front. I’m missing somebody, but this hasn’t caused me to curl up in a fetal position and stay in bed for three days. The bounding around is helping, staying busy is helping, and looking forward to the future is helping. I’m TAing a World Cinema class this summer…for real money—wow! We watched Miyazaki’s fantastical masterpiece Spirited Away last week. The Japanese fantasy/realism (is that the correct term) film After Life is next. I previewed Stephen Chow’s Kung Fu Hustle the other night—it’s an amazing film which incorporates elements of Singing in the Rain with Who Framed Roger Rabbit. How’s that for a combination of influences?

Okay I’m definitely rambling this morning. I bought a new coffee maker and coffee-binged a little; the caffeine hasn’t quite worn off yet.

So I’m a couple of weeks late to the party here, but I lifted this from Emily, a meme/list of classic works of literature I’ve read (or haven’t read.) This exercise should do one of two things, prove that I am more well read than I thought or inform me that I haven’t even scratched the surface of all I plan to read in my lifetime. Even though I’ve been blogging for a few years now, I still don’t know how to cross things out, so I guess I’ll put a :( next to the titles I hated.

bold = what you’ve read,
italics = books you started but couldn’t finish
:( = books you hated
* = you’ve read more than once

1. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell- This is not a good sign, right off the bat it’s one I’ve never heard of.

2. Anna Karenina – Phew, okay I’ve read this one. I got all caught up in Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky in my twenties.

3. Crime and Punishment – When I finally finished this book I felt I had accomplished a major life achievement. I’ve tried to reread it, but I always get bogged down.

4. Catch-22 – Just couldn’t make it past the infamous first 80 pages. I love the movie.

5. One Hundred Years of Solitude – After a few tries, this novel finally captured my imagination when I was living in the rainforest of Costa Rica. It was the perfect setting (except for the wretched insects) for reading this, one of my top five.

6. Wuthering Heights – Are you kidding?

7. The Silmarillion – I’m finally getting over the Tolkien mania from the past five or six years, and would like to try a Peter Jackson-free reading of Tolkien sometime.

8. Life of Pi – Another top five, was reading this when I received a little black puppy I named Booker. I just listened to it on audio-books.

9.The Name of the Rose – I love Brother William. I’ve read this 1½ times.

10. Don Quixote – I did a tongue-in-cheek review of this on Youtube where I claimed Don Quixote was Italian and butchered the pronunciations, all in the accent of Piedmont North Carolina (think Andy Griffith). People took it seriously and I started getting comments correcting the information—they didn’t get it, I guess I was a little too convincing. I posted comments stating that it was a joke, and then I got this really nasty comment from someone who was convinced I was that dumb saying my disclaimers were just excuses. I ended up pulling the video off. I learned something about humorlessness through this.

12. Ulysses – If I had time, money and resources I might try climbing Everest. It’s kind of the same thing with this work.

13. Madam Bovary – I’d give it a try, but don’t know that much about it.

14. The Odyssey – Sad to admit it, but I’ve not read this.

15. Pride and Prejudice – In high school, at age 17, not really my favorite work.

16. Jane Eyre – Nope.

17. A Tale of Two Cities – I read this a couple of years ago and enjoyed it a great deal. It’s the only Dickens I’ve finished.

18. The Brothers Karamazov – During my Russian novel phase, I remember reading this at the beginning of an ill-fated relationship.

19. Guns, Germs, and Steel: Who would have thought the germination of wheat could be so darn fascinating. My mind wandered a bit, I’ll have to admit.

20. War and Peace – The granddaddy of all literature, and I read the whole thing cover to cover—in about three months. I have the new translation and want to take a vacation where there are no re-runs of The Office and Hell’s Kitchen so I can one day say I’ve read it twice.

21. Vanity Fair – There seems to be a whole genre of fiction that I either avoid or ignore, probably to my peril. Vanity Fair is one of those works that I know very little about.

22. The Time Traveler’s Wife – hmmm, sounds interesting.

23. The Iliad – Shame on me, no Greek epics...not one.

24. Emma – The only Jane Austen I’ve read is Pride and Prejudice.

Note: I’ve just read ahead in the list and there are several titles that I’ve not read, these are: The Blind Assassin, The Kite Runner, Mrs. Dalloway, Great Expectations, American Gods, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius.

31. Atlas Shrugged – The main character was about as dynamic as a steel girder.

32. Reading Lolita in Tehran – I haven’t even read Lolita.

33. Memoirs of a Geisha – Never had much interest in this one.

34. Middlesex – I should know about this one, but, well, next please.

35. Quicksilver – Okay, I’m definitely seeing that I’m woefully under-read.

36. Wicked – Emily said this one disappointed her so I’m glad I haven’t read it.

37. *The Canterbury Tales – finally. Three classes which looked at this work extensively. Good, I feel a little more adequate now.

38. The Historian – Is this the one about vampires? Can’t it just be about awesome history-geeks?

39. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man – Read this in high school too. Found out later it was one big allegory about masturbation. Anyhoo... moving on now…

40. Love in the Time of Cholera – I can’t believe I haven’t read this. I should add it to my short list. Wait, hold on, I think I did read it in Portland.

41. Brave New World – Another one I’ve always meant to read.

42. The Fountainhead – I remember when I was reading this I moped around sullenly all the time. It required Ken Kesey’s Demon Box to snap me out of it.

43. Foucault’s Pendulum – Eco requires commitment, but I might be ready now.

44. Middlemarch – Okay this is the sequel to Middlesex right? I’m kidding…please no corrections.

45. Frankenstein – I’ve not read many romantic monster novels.

46. The Count of Monte Cristo – It seems like parts of this were read to us as kids, but I’ve never actually read the novel.

47. Dracula – Emily’s read this more than once, but me? Haven’t even cracked the binding. Dark, gothic, creepy things make me claustrophobic, but I should never say never.

48. A Clockwork Orange – I carried this around in my back pocket when I was in tenth-grade. I assume this means I read it.

49. Anansi Boys – I haven’t heard of this.

50. The Once and Future King – I loved this one. I read it Scotland.

51. The Grapes of Wrath – This one affected me when I was twenty. I read East of Eden the same year.

52. The Poisonwood Bible – Frustrating and disturbing, it’s stayed with me. The Mosquito Coast by Paul Theroux involves similar themes.

53. 1984 –read it in 1984.

54. Angels and Demons – I like the title.

55. The Inferno – can you believe I’ve never read it all? I named my band after Dante.

56. The Satanic Verses – The only thing I remember about it is two characters falling forever and ever and discussing something. Oh, and all the stuff about Rushdie going into hiding.

57. Sense and Sensibility – Okay, I’m going to get in trouble for this, but isn’t this list just a little female-centric? There are six Austens on the list (unless I missed one). :)

58. The Picture of Dorian Gray – Hate to admit it, but I know little about this work as well.

59. Mansfield Park – this is the Austen that I’m really anxious to read. It apparently explores themes relating to my focus in history

60. *One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – Required reading for Deadheads. I wish Sometimes a Great Notion had made the list.

61. To the Lighthouse – Haven’t heard of it.

62. Tess of D’Urbervilles :( - an excruciating way to experience springtime in a beginning lit. class.

63. Oliver Twist – A must read for me.

64. *Gulliver’s Travels – this was tough but I’ve read it a couple of times now. Like the satire, but it does go on and on in places.

65. Les Miserables – Started it numerous times but couldn’t make it to the end.

66. The Corrections – I’ve had a love/hate relationship with this novel since reading it some years ago. Stunning narrative about a family of selfish assholes, which would be fine if Franzen didn’t seem to champion them so.

67. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay – almost got to the end of this one. Why do Pulitzer Prize winners often seem to fall short for me? I’m starting to realize that the fore-mentioned genre that I’ve chosen to ignore might offer me something that many modern novels are lacking, brilliant character development.

68. The Curious Incident of the Dog at Night-time – I love the title, I’ve seen it in the library, must investigate.

69. Dune – Not interested in the least.

70. The Prince – Why oh why have I not read this? I always get it mixed up with the Little Prince.

71. The Sound and the Fury – I remember coming to the end of this novel after placing blind trust in Faulkner for several mind-boggling hours and thinking “Oh, my God! I actually understand what happened…it’s a miracle.” Never has a book so challenged and rewarded me. A top five.

72. Angela’s Ashes – Not really sure this one would be for me.

73. The God of Small Things – This is another one I know very little about.

74. A People’s History of the United States: 1492-Present Day – No to this one.

75. Neverwhere – Never-read.

76. A Confederacy of Dunces – Just thinking of this one makes me smile. Another one high up on my list.

77. A Short History of Nearly Everything – Sounds exhausting.

78. Dubliners – I’d like to give this one a try.

79. The Unbearable Lightness of Being – I must be the only person who was college-aged during the eighties who didn’t read this. To busy with Karamazov.

80. Beloved – I just felt Morrison borrowed too heavily from Faulkner on this one (with some Styron thrown in.) It’s a shame because I know what a great work it is. I liked Song of Solomon better.

81. Slaughterhouse-Five – That reminds me, I should reread this one.

82. The Scarlet Letter – “You haven’t read The Scarlet Letter??!! You can’t be serious.” Yep, I’m serious.

83. Eats, Shoots and Leaves – This is on my nightstand. I’ll check it out. It comes highly recommended by an editor-type.

84. The Mists of Avalon – Another one I want to read. My list keeps getting longer and longer and longer….

85. Oryx and Crake – No idea.

86. Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed – Is this another Jared Diamond? I’m still trying to understand how the germination of wheat led to the extinction of the Plains Indians.

87. Cloud Atlas – I avoid titles with the word Atlas in them. It’s Ayn Rand’s fault.

88. The Confusion – I get confused often enough when reading, so a book called The Confusion might induce complete melt-down.

89. Lolita – Should a middle-aged man really read this?

90. Persuasion – More Austen, I’m going to lock myself in a room with my mother’s special Austen bookcase and get it over with. Freudians, stay away from that last statement.

91. Northanger Abbey – Two in a row? This is brutal.

92. The Catcher in the Rye :( – Holden Caulfield is the most annoying of all American fictional characters (except maybe those sickos in The Lord of the Flies). I knew a guy at school who wanted to emulate him, can you imagine?

93. On the Road – I read this under the delusion that it was a novel about freedom and self-discovery. I found it heartbreaking and fatalistic. Kerouac is a master at provoking gloom. Liked Big Sur better

94. The Hunchback of Notre Dame – “The Bells, the Bells…” This was probably never a quote in the book, but I like saying it.

95. Freakonomics – Sounds like the parking lot at a Dead show.

96. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – This was the one book you were supposed to
read as a young adult. I don’t know why, every time I started it I dozed off. Maybe it was a ploy to make the youth more complacent. Give me Kerouac’s depressed-state any day.

97. The Aeneid – I keep a copy in my living room. Does this mean I’ve read it? It does not.

98. Watership Down – Talking Rabbits? Bugs Bunny please. I like the Wind in the Willows. The Rabbits are kind of the chumps in that one.

99. Gravity’s Rainbow – No, but I slogged through Vineland. Pynchon’s writing ability is so far ahead of my reading ability.

100. The Hobbit – I actually enjoyed this one many years before Peter Jackson’s assault.

101. In Cold Blood – I tried it years ago. This one might be ruined by the handful of good movies dealing both with the events of the murder and Capote’s involvement in writing the book. But then again it Capote writing in the true-crime genre makes it a must read.

102. White Teeth – A sequel to Jack London. Just kidding… don’t believe I’ve heard of this.

103. Treasure Island – No, ‘fraid not.

104. David Copperfield – Must read more Dickens…must read more Dickens…

105. The Three Musketeers – Not really interested, but if there was nothing else.

I’ve only read a measly 31 of these. Sigh…must get busy. 'Til next time, happy reading.


Emily Barton said...

Oh, phew! I was sure that with the exception of all the Jane Austen, which I know you haven't read, you were going to have read everything on this list (always being convinced I'm the least well-read one in the family). I didn't know your hilarious Don Quixote Youtube video had caused such a stir. The humorlessness of people would be sad if it weren't so funny. Interesting that so many of your absolute favorites are mine as well. That means LIFE Of PI must be read by me this summer, right? After all, it's been four years since you gave it to me. Oh, and so glad to find someone else who thinks of Holden Caulfield the same way I do.

IM said...

I know Emily, I really need to get busy on the serious reading. But I have read some pretty long history tombs. If the list had included some Hemingway, Twain and Styron I could have bumped my numbers up as well. Hope you like Life of Pi. I'm sometimes relunctant to recommend books. I believe there's a plagerism controversy over it, but I still love it.

Froshty said...

Don't pay any attention to Emily--I'm the least well-read member of the family. I've only read 27 of these books. By the way, Philip Roth is one of my favorite authors although at times, his obsession with male sex organs can be difficult for me to read.

IM said...

Yep Froshty, we won't even go into Portnoy's Complaint. Glad you're reading the blog.

Anonymous said...

madame bovary is one of my favourite books. and yes you should read lolita.....

IM said...

A visit from Nurse Myra! Woah. I'm gonna read both books now. Move over boring history of Palestine.

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

I found I had read about 40 of the list (I did it about a week ago) and "The Historian" IS about history buffs. I haven't read Madame de Bouvary either

IM said...

Archie, with many of the ones I haven't read I was very tempted to say "loved the movie" but somehow I don't think that would count.

Anonymous said...

Ian and Archie - I expect madame bovary reviews on my desk next month!

don't make me get out the whip

IM said...

Hmmm.... I've never wanted to procrastinate so much in my life.