Sunday, July 01, 2007

How the bricks fell


This is why I generally don't go in for reading challenges: because I fail! I won't commit to anything much unless my careful weighing of the situation shows the prospect of success to be likely, and even then, well, it seems I can still fail.

The Chunkster Challenge, hosted by Bookfoolery and Babble, was this: to read books of intimidating length, between January 1 and June 30, 2007, with "chunkster" defined as anything over 400 pages.

My self-inflicted variation of the challenge was to read 6 books of at least 600 pages. I named 5 books, reserving a few options for the 6th. Here's how I did:

Dickens, Charles: David Copperfield (pb, 750 p).
I read it, read it fast, thoroughly enjoyed it. Am currently mulling over which Dickens to set myelf for next winter (one a year is plenty, I think).

Powers, Richard: The Gold Bug Variations (pb, 639 p).
Read it, loved it. Quite possibly the best book I've ever read.

Wallace, David Foster: Infinite Jest (hc, 1079 p).
I started it, and it bored me. My bookmark is placed at page 85. I still intend to read it, as I still want to understand what all the fuss is about. But life events have not been conducive to my wallowing in a glut of postmodern nonsense. That'll have to wait a couple more months.

Dumas, Alexandre: The Count of Monte Cristo (1276 p, including notes).
Purchased. That's a step in the right direction. I made the mistake of thinking I'd warm up to it by reading a slimmer, recently released retranslation of Dumas (Georges). I haven't even gotten very far with that one, though I am picking away at it, and in combination with the swashbuckling tale I read last week (Purity of Blood, by Arturo Perez-Reverte), I'm building up a huge appetite for The Count. This will be my big summer read. I start next week. Or maybe the week after.

Stephenson, Neal: Quicksilver, The Baroque Cycle, Volume I (hc, 944 p).
Umm. I know where it is in my house. Along with the rest of the Cycle.

So that means I've read, uh, 2.

To my credit, I note the successful completion of the following "chunksters":
Mieville, China: Un Lun Dun (448 p).
Hamilton, Patrick: Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky (527 p), which is amazing. (Really. Amazing!)

Stroud, Jonathan: The Amulet of Samarkand (462 p), although I haven't exactly finished it, but I did pass page 400 yesterday, and I can't imagine being able to sleep tonight before I know how it ends.

Oh, never mind. I'm not sure about counting kids' books either.

But I'm willing to credit myself with half a challenge completed, even amid gruelling work contracts, and weird diseases, and the general upheaval of my life (why do I so desperately feel the need to justify myself?), and give myself the second half of the year to finish.

See how everyone else fared.


rachel said...

Amulet of Samarkand is one of my favourite YA fantasies EVER. I was not convinced it needed to be a trilogy, even after reading the second book, but the third book was wonderful again. I didn't cry, but I ALMOST cried.

I think you got farther in Infinite Jest than I did.

Suzanne said...

Don't be so hard on yourself. Those attempts, and the successes, far exceed any literary mountain I will ever try to scale.

Darby M. Dixon III said...

If you can give Infinite Jest about 200 pages, it does pick up a lot of speed, and gets quite a bit yummier. (I know, I know...but, it's true.)

Meanwhile, the only time the Baroque cycle picked up speed, was when I finished it, and threw the whole set out my window.

Liz said...

I'm about 400 pages into "Infinite Jest." I've been working on it since September. It's the book I read when I'm in between novels.

Bybee said...

I failed as well. Most of my Bronte challenge remains untackled. One Charlotte and one Anne and I wimped out. I lost one of my Chunksters and stopped midway through the last one in March and just now picked it up again two nights ago. Sigh.

Melanie said...

I set the same challenge to myself as you did; and I failed miserably. I read three; just squeaked in the third one...

Ted said...

I've enjoyed discovering and reading you over the past couple of months. The Goldbug Variations IS my favorite book EVER! I'm just writing to echo your enthusiasm about it! Mystery/ love story, past/present, science/art - it is so satisfyingly dense.

danielle said...

I am moving very slowly through David Copperfield. I like it--I just have too many other books on the go and it is suffering (that's what I get for reading more than one book at a time). I read The Count of Monte Cristo (the unabridged ed) and Loved It! As for the challenge--don't feel bad--I am lucky if I can get one or two books read whenever I do these challenges. I think they usually just give me an excuse to read something I have been meaning to read...but keep putting off.

Pour of Tor said...

I too had to cheat a bit and extend the challenge by a month in order to finish the last two of my six, one of which is the amazing "David Copperfield" (I too try to read a Dickens a year, as well as a Faulkner a year, and often fail at one or the other). I am now on chapter 22 and have miles to go before I sleep. :) But still, I pride myself on the fac that, if I hadn't joined the Chunkster Challenge, I wouldn't have read the other four books (all considerably slimmer than the ones you triumphed over, one a YA novel, and one a fantasy/thriller).

I am very glad to see that you loved "The Gold Bug Variations," since it is on my Unread Authors Challenge list. I nominated it for a three person book group, um, six years ago, the other two participants adored it, and I never got past page 50. I have been carrying that shame around with me for more than half a decade. Also, it is my father's favorite book. Ever.