Life As a Reading Challenge, Chapter 7
Until very recently, I've been weathering a bad season for Reading Challenges (official) and reading projects (unofficial) alike.
My first and very basic personal challenge/project of writing down the title of every book I read this year took a completely unnecessary blow last March, when I couldn't figure out whether to count both new reads and rereads. So I just ended up not writing anything down. (Ridiculous, I know.) But it wasn't as bad as what happened a month later, when I found myself with enough material for another list: Books Started and Then Abandoned in 2011. For an even more basic personal reading challenge/project--one that is so obvious that it has hitherto gone unsaid--is that of finishing whatever I start.
Books Started and Then Abandoned in 2011
The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien
Dracula by Bram Stoker
The Genesee Diary by Henri J.M. Nouwen
Mattimeo by Brian Jacques
Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery
A couple of these are rereads, but they still count--if only because they should have been easier to get through.
The Silmarillion, for instance, was my big Holy Week read from several years ago. I had decided to read nothing but Tolkien for those seven days, started with The Hobbit right after Palm Sunday, moved right into The Lord of the Rings, and devoted Good Friday and part of Black Saturday to The Silmarillion, which was the only one new to me at the time. It was strange and arcane then . . .
. . . and remains strange and arcane now. I wanted to make Lent 2011 all about Tolkien again--this time starting with The Silmarillion--and I found I just couldn't do it. And except for The Hobbit, which I read to give myself a nice hobbity holiday from all that elvish erudition, the rest of Tolkien's ouvre languished on my shelves.
Then there was Dracula, which was supposed to be my big February classic--something I could tick off my Extraordinarily Cheddary Postmodern Steampunk Challenge list. It was really the first to wave a red flag. Reading it was like tucking into a sumptuous meal when I wasn't hungry. Wrong book, wrong time: sad story. (Oh, look! A six-word memoir!) After two tries, I gave up.
The Genesee Diary was another reread that went nowhere, although I did manage to get a Locus Focus post out of it. Even after my "compromise" of skipping all of Father Nouwen's personal meditations and reading only the more "action packed" anecdotes from his stay in a Trappist monastery (You see why that's funny, right?), I just couldn't do it.
Now, I really thought Mattimeo had a chance. For one thing, I wasn't reading it just for myself, but also for Lauren of Little Wonder's Recommended Reads, who wanted us to collaborate on a post about Jacques's novels. But as soon as I read her apologetic e-mail about her being swamped and having to put our collaboration on hold, that was it for Mattimeo.
Anne of Avonlea was supposed to turn everything around, if only because it has a completely different vibe from all the other books that came before it. But that's an unfair responsibility to put on a book which was never meant to serve such a function--and this one didn't last two chapters.
(An honourable mention goes to Erewhon by Samuel Butler, another reread from my uni paper on satires and dystopias, because it's on hold at the moment. But I have a good feeling about it and think it has a pretty good chance of being picked up again next month.)
At this point, please note that all "abandoned" books return to the "Future Reads" shelf and are promised another chance in my Life as a Reading Challenge lottery someday. They all take it philosophically and don't let it steal their joy.
As for my own joy in reading nice, long books that take forever and then make me wish they had gone on longer . . . it is back! =D
And it is back thanks to an even longer book--one whose time has finally come:
June might be "Philippine Literature" month here at Shredded Cheddar, but By Sword and Fire wasn't part of my original plan. A 420-page history text with twenty-eight additional pages of footnotes is not exactly giveaway fodder, you know.
And yet the fact is that you'd be lucky to win this book. It's so bloody damn good that I have pushed everything else aside--both Erewhon and the last two books I've shortlisted for the giveaway pool but haven't read yet--so that I have more time for it.
Will this hurt whatever pretense to a schedule I have? Yes. Am I doing it even if I have to extend the giveaway a couple of days into July? You can bet your blogs.
Expect another non-fiction Locus Focus post this Saturday.
Image Source: By Sword and Fire: The Destruction of Manila in World War II, 3 February - 3 March 1945 by Alfonso J. Aluit