Thursday, December 14, 2006

Let the bricks fall as they may

As I'm finishing up a batch of books, I've been thinking about what next, how to tackle some of the unread books I have lying around, and lo, along comes a reading challenge, down on them though I am, that I feel I can get behind, or jump on — I mean support, and actually join, because I can fashion it to include a bunch of stuff I'm meaning to read anyway: The Chunkster Challenge (though I don't think I'll refer to it by name much, because I really hate that word, "chunkster" — saying it makes me feel dirty, and not in a good way, like I'm slumming for all the wrong reasons).

The challenge: to read books of intimidating length, between January 1 and June 30, 2007.

Bookfool defines "chunkster" as anything over 400 pages, but I'm with Ed in saying, that's nothing. I read 400 pages before breakfast. Ed proposes the Super-Chunkster Challenge: at least 4 books over 600 pages.

The way I see it, 6 months equals 6 books. Here's what I'm going to read (order yet to be determined):

Dickens, Charles: David Copperfield (pb, 750 p). Lying around since early 2005, when I promised to read me some Dickens (which I haven't since).

Dumas, Alexandre: The Count of Monte Cristo. Yet to be purchased (and I have a gift certificate earmarked for this purpose), so I don't know exactly how many pages, but it's a lot. I've always meant to read it, and it's been particularly much on my mind since reading Perez-Reverte's The Queen of the South. And I like Dumas.

Powers, Richard: The Gold Bug Variations (pb, 639 p). Finally acquired August 2006. I'm surprised that I didn't read it years ago.

Stephenson, Neal: Quicksilver, The Baroque Cycle, Volume I (hc, 944 p). On my shelf since 2004, I think. I loved The Cryptonomicon, and Snow Crash.

Wallace, David Foster: Infinite Jest (hc, 1079 p). On my shelf since April 2006. Because I need to see what all the fuss is about.

Yes, I know that's only 5 books (and only the Stephenson and the Wallace could really be said to intimidate me, and the Stephenson only does so because of its length, at least when considered as the first part of a trilogy).

Number 6 will be a surprise. Maybe Volume II of Stephenson's Baroque Cycle. Maybe my 10-year-old copy of Umberto Eco's Island of the Day Before (oh, damn, that's only 528 p). Maybe Gravity's Rainbow, though I'm not sure I'm ready. Maybe I'll pick up that "new" Dumas book in the spring. Maybe I'll cheat. Maybe I'll count The Red and the Black, even though I've less than 400 pages to go (although, I am in effect reading it twice, in 2 languages). Maybe I'll count Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky (527 p), if I don't manage to get to it over Christmas after all. Maybe I'll count something really short, like Un Lun Dun (428 or 464 p, depending), since I'll be snapping it up anyway, first chance I get. Maybe I'll change my mind about the whole thing.

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