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.



Anonymous said...

Copperfield is a great choice, but if you're going to read Super-Chunksters and you want to do Dickens, might I suggest Martin Chuzzlewit? It's a hilarious novel, with one of the greatest character descriptions I've ever read:

Major Pawkins (a gentleman of Pennsylvanian origin) was distinguished by a very large skull, and a great mass of yellow forehead; in deference to which commodities, it was currently held in bar-rooms and other such places of resort, that the major was a man of huge sagacity. He was further to be known by a heavy eye and a dull slow manner; and for being a man of that kind who, mentally speaking, requires a deal of room to turn himself in.

What's not to love about that? :)

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Cipriano said...

Copperfield. One of my all-time favorites, Isabella. It is truly worth the wade.
As for myself, I am just about to embark in a sort of largish novel that has been nagging at me for a while, Ayn Rand's, The Fountainhead.
And just tonight, at the bookstore, I was ogling Susanna Clarke's, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, that one is a REAL doorstop!
Still, two I have sitting here, Middlemarch, and The Crimson Petal and the White [authors' names not needed]...... I want to dig into them both!
I love the big story!

marydell said...

Enlightenment is annoying. I've seen that massive post on other blogs and it amounts to nothing more than spam.

Have you read Danielewski? House of Leaves is 709 pages, but moves pretty quickly since some pages only have one sentence on them. I recently read and enjoyed John Fowles's The Magus at 650+ pages.

This isn't a challenge I'd be very good at. After walking around for weeks carrying the same book (I'm almost done with Dr. Z and have tR&tB still staring at me.), I always need something short to clear my mind. Short books also help me feel like I'm making progress on the TBR pile.

Isabella K said...

Chuzzlewit does sound good (and I'm starting to understand why Patrick Hamilton is compared to Dickens — but that's for another post), but I'll start with Copperfield since it's sitting on my shelf. Maybe Chuzzlewit will be my 6th though.

Cip: If only I'd known you back in March, I'd've forced you to read Middlemarch with me. You're going to love it. For what it's worth, I didn't like Strange & Norrell nearly as much as the rest of world seemed to.

Marydell: I loved House of Leaves. His new book doesn't qualify size-wise but I'm considering picking it up soon anyway. I know what you mean about that feeling of accomplishment — I'll be looking for slim books to slip into the spaces between.

(And I'm deleting Enlightenment's post.)

litlove said...

I'm impressed by the people taking up this challenge. Those big, big books scare me. Will be watching your progress with interest though, Isabelle and bon courage!

reasonably prudent poet said...

i suggest dostoevsky -- i'm reading 'the idiot' right now and it weighs in at just shy of 700 pages. and engaging.

or that new thomas pynchon is pretty long. my friend started another one of his "long-tome" book clubs around it. their last "long-tome" book club was around 'ulysses' and it went over like a lead balloon, but at least they all read it. i was too busy w/ school. oh well. good luck.

nessie said...

Genius. I love Stephenson's Baroque series and Count of Monte Cristo is ONE OF MY ALL TIME FAVORITES. I signed up to the challenge as well, and though I agree with you that times 400 is like a WHATEVER when it comes to number of pages, I have some 400 page books that have such time writing its more then double that with normal print. I included these keen details in my list because I like dragging. You know, thats why I bother to join these challenges, no!? ;) Best of luck and will check ed out. I shake hands with you on philo. Has Bookfool said anything about this?

Tim said...

That's not a bad idea. I usually call bigger books door stoppers (cause they're heavy enough to hold a door open), but I like the idea of taking on six in the first six months of the year. My only problem is that I don't know that I have six door stoppers in my "to read" pile. I guess I'll have to add to it.

Stefanie said...

I am quite impressed by your ambition! Looking forward to following your progress.