Sunday, December 4, 2011

Gaps in the List

Last week the PWxyz blog posted about having a Literary Wall of Shame and admitted to some classics he'd not yet gotten around to reading. With the year winding down, it is an obvious time to assess, as well as in planning for next year. Also, it was recently made very plain to me that I have an enormous, gaping hole in my literary expertise: The Russians. So here are my own wall of shame books, and I hope to have read a few of them by this time next year.

1. Any Russian novel. Any one at all. I own a super-short one, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch by Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn. In fact, it's tentatively on my list to read before the end of the year since I've owned it for more than 10 years and it's only 160 pages (I am 2 books behind if I want to have read 100 books this year so from here on out it's mostly short books for me.) A friend strongly recommended Crime and Punishment, which has also tempted me from hearing Frank McCourt talking about it in 'Tis, but a friend who has both read more Russians and knows my literary tastes very well has said that wouldn't be a great one for me. I'm thinking Anna Karenina might be more do-able. I've also owned a copy of that for well over 10 years (probably closer to 17) but I've heard the latest translation is far superior, so a new purchase may be in order. we'll see.
Update: my book club picked Doctor Zhivago by Poris Pasternak for January, so this one I'll knock out early!

2. Dickens. This one I admit to swiping from PWxyz but I have been thinking about improving my Dickens knowledge for years. My boss from about 4 years ago has read all of Dickens which impressed the heck out of me. I have read 3.5 (I did not finish David Copperfield although I aced the test on it.) I loved the recent Masterpiece Theater productions of Bleak House and Little Dorrit. And a couple of years my mother got be a few lovely antique leather-bound editions of his novels (by no means the whole set but I am hopeful she may find more in the future.) Little Dorrit is one of the ones from my Mom, and I picked up a Bleak House at a Border's Going Out of Business sale. I'd like to read at least one of those next year.

3. Finish Jane Austen. When I was in college I took my senior seminar on Jane Austen. My professor got pregnant and put on bedrest midway through the semester and while it was quickly worked out (we met at her house and she reclined in a La-Z-Boy) we did miss a class or two. Which meant that at the end of the semester while we had read all 6 novels, we had not read The Juvenilia or Lady Susan. She suggested this was not exactly a terrible thing as we can claim that no, we haven't read ALL of Jane Austen and seem a little more sane, but as a long-card-carrying member of the Jane Austen Society, it's time to finally read that last book that I bought for the class.

4. Moby-Dick. I have read THREE other Melville stories: Billy Budd, Bartleby the Scrivener, and Typee. None of them encouraged me to pick up a book ten times longer by the author. But, the book has been taunting me for years. This is a serious long-shot though.

I think I'm sticking with 4. I'm okay with the fact that I haven't (yet) gotten around to Bonfire of the Vanities or The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and I'm simply never ever going to read Catcher in the Rye or Love in the Time of Cholera, I don't care how many other people love them (unless they're assigned for book club but even then I might skip). I know a lot about those books and I know I'm going to hate them. As for the not gotten around to yet, well there's still time! They're on my list. Check in next December to see if I accomplished any of these goals.


Teacher/Learner said...

What a great idea for a New Year's resolution. I'm also blushing over my lack of classic gaps, including no (gasp) Dickens. *Sigh* One book at a time...

Christy said...

I hated David Copperfield, so I don't blame you for giving up on it. I loved Bleak House and Our Mutual Friend and highly recommend either (though maybe Our Mutual Friend is one of the ones you have read).

I've heard Little Dorrit is not that great as a book, though the miniseries was pretty good.