Monday, 26 November 2007

Getting Anal About Books

When I nipped into my email account yesterday, waiting for me was a message from my old mucker, Madam Miaow. In it, she challenged me to have a go at the sort of literary atrocities her and brother Splinters have been inflicting on leftyblogland. As the comrade puts it:
The challenge: to tell the story of the tragic demise of the Respect party through satire and vulgar abuse of the literary classics or whichever other cultural medium floats your boat.
As much as I'd like to participate, I'm afraid I'm far from qualified to do so. Whereas some comrades are deeply steeped in literature and verse, I couldn't begin to tell the difference between an iambic pentameter and a haiku. In short, I am too much of a Philistine.

That said, I have been endeavouring to affect the appearance of a cultivated literary type. Nearly five years ago, I started reading genres beyond my then usual staple of sci-fi and academic works. I even joined a book group run out of the local library, where we consumed such classics as Great Expectations, Crime and Punishment, The Old Wives Tale, etc. So, keen to see how my progress from a canonical point of view was going, I recently picked up 1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. Leaving aside the arbitrary and problematic nature of producing a canon, this at least was compiled by figures heavily involved in the literary field. There are some dodgy entries (Ardal O'Hanlon, anyone?) but at least there isn't any Jeffrey Archer. You can see the entire list here.

I'm partly satisfied to learn I've worked my way through 111 of the books, so still some way to go before I can effortlessly perform any kind of literary atrocity. How many have you read? If you want to retain your modesty or are ashamed, the comments box is open to anonymous contributions ...

7 comments:

Darren said...

I think I've read 79/1001. (maybe a couple more, not sure.)

Not as bad as I was fearing, but I'm a wee bit shamefaced to admit that I haven't read any of the 'good books' from this century.

There was me thinking that it was only in my music tastes where I was sooo last century.

Phil BC said...

When I did this, I was ashamed to see I'd not done many 19th century novels. Not surprising when my experience with them at school taught me to avoid them like the plague.

Of the 2000s novels, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time is, if memory serves, the best of the 21st century I've read from that list.

Renegade Eye said...

I did more reading when my computer was down.

Quite frankly I could do without reading another word about SWP?Respect, no matter how creative.

bob said...

Nominate your person of the year at newstatesman.com

V said...

From this century:

Try 'The People's Act of Love' by James Meek or 'GB84' by David Peace. Two novels that are both riveting and brilliant. And suspiciously not on that 'dubious' list.

From that list 'Middlesex' or 'The Human Stain' by Philip Roth (both by American novelist) are worth a read.

I too wish I spent less time typing shite like this and reading more decent literature! ;)

But there are a number of books I'd leave well alone from that list.

Madam Miaow said...

Memoirs of a Geisha!???!!!! Seriously? The one in the style of Benny Hill!!!!! (Ah, so, rubbery!)

I've only read about 5 from the first 100. Cryptonomicon and White Teeth being faves.

Best recent reads, lots of Chuck Pahlaniuk, Bad Monkeys by Matt Ruff and Death By Hollywood by Steve Bochco.

Also re-read The Magus for the first time since teen age. Bloody fab! Same with The Third Policeman.

Darkness at Noon a perennial favourite.

The Yellow Wallpaper is truly haunting, weird, strange and brilliant. Strongly recommended.

Used to like Martin Amis until ...

No Anita Loos? Grrr!

Anonymous said...

Read my self indulgent post about books here http://action-without-theory.blogspot.com/search?q=austen

Miles