The Resolution Project Season Two: The Man Who Loved Children (Part Two)

“Henny, never speaking to him, heard him with fright; but she had given herself up entirely to despair; she said nothing, and it seemed to her that (now that the clouds had rolled away) she saw her husband for the first time: she had married a child whose only talent was an air of engaging helplessness by which he got the protection of certain goodhearted people – Saul Pilgrim, who was penniless, various old Socialists, of small property, and in the dim past, by the same means, her own father.” (p. 325)

The Man Who Loved Children cover

The Resolution Project Season Two: For my New Year’s resolution last year (2011), I decided to try and read all one hundred of the novels picked by Time Magazine as the best since their inception in 1923 to the list’s publication in 2005. I got almost halfway through. I’ve decided to bull-headedly push on through and try and finish the challenge, continuing with the same caveat as before: I’ve exempted myself from reading books I’ve already read, leaving eighty-six or so left to go. Some spoilers may lie ahead, so be warned if you’re the type to be bothered by that. It’s not really worth getting that angry about though.

Thoughts: So I finally finished this beast. As I mentioned before, I really did not care for this book at all. I will say though, that it got a little bit better, but that is really not saying much. Maybe it’s the Stockholm Syndrome talking, but once the Pollit clan moved out of Washington to “Spa House” in Annapolis, halfway through the book, it started to get marginally better. This is a book that was desperately in need of editing. Look at the quote I pulled above. That is one long sentence there, folks, Frankensteined together with count ‘em, seven commas, two semi-colons, a regular colon, a dash and a pair of brackets. And the whole book is written like this! It’s a nightmare.

I kind of started to compare this book to a movie like Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father in my head, as that too deals with a similarly rising dread throughout. The problem is though, the film takes 95 minutes to tell its terrible story, whereas The Man Who Loved Children is an agonizing 527 pages of overwritten handwringing, philosophizing, babytalking and insulting, delivered to us through a cast of characters who are all completely and totally unbelievable. Had the book been cut down substantially, we wouldn’t have to spend hundreds of pages detailing just how and why mother Henny and father Sam are so goddamn terrible. One or two instances would have been more than enough, as opposed to the relentless cavalcade of misery that is heaped upon the children, and by extension, whatever poor bastard decided he should read this book in a feat of literary masochism.

Jonathan Franzen, who I believe alongside Time 100 list creator Richard Lacayo is the only reason this book has any critical sway right now, tells us in 2010 that the character of Louisa is based on author Christina Stead. This must be the only reason that the character is an accomplished poet/martyr figure, because nothing in Louisa’s background and upbringing would suggest that. She’s a total Mary Sue-type character, an author stand-in and wish fulfillment fantasy. You literally have no choice but to side with her, and by proxy, the author. Note though that she is given substantial physical defects though, so it’s not a classic Mary Sue move. It’s absolutely ludicrous, though, that a twelve year old would be as well-read as Louisa is in the novel. In addition to that, the school scenes, featuring Louisa’s only friend Clare, are absolutely nonsensical and a complete waste of space, and also prove that she’s not getting some sort of amazing schooling to make her this way. It’s pretty unbelievable to me that Louisa and her friends compose an epic poem cycle about their teacher, alongside numerous plays and other pieces. I realize that before TV and video games people were more inventive, but come on now ;).

So, I get it. Sam Pollit is an absolutely horrifying man. He’s a symbol of the evils of American-style paternalism and science gone unchecked. One of my “favorite” running themes concerns his attitude towards eugenics and social planning; at one point the phrase “if I were a Stalin or Hitler” is dropped, as Stead decides to go so far as to invoke Godwin’s Law on her main character about 50 years early. There must have been a more elegant way of relaying this information to me.

Franzen’s right about how this book should be included in the feminist discourse, though. If only for the fact that it makes The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo series seem like a nice place for a little girl to grow up. It’s about as strident an attack on patriarchal society as you’re going to get, although I’d argue that Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook does this in a much more interesting form, with much, much better writing. I am so glad to be done this book, you have no idea.

Similar books on the Time 100 list: If I was to be a real bastard and recommend books like this one to someone, The Golden Notebook for sure. I’m also assuming that people who “enjoy” this one would get something out of Revolutionary Road, although this is me saying this without having read the book yet, just based on the movie. Also, Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret would probably share some thematic similarities, but I kind of feel like a dick for grouping those two together.

Total pages read since January 1st 2011: 16452 pp. (1993 this year)

Total books on the Time 100 list read: 56/113, or 50% complete.

Next up on the Resolution Project: I am going to have to think about this one, it depends on what treasures the library makes available to me.

The Resolution Project Season Two: The Man Who Loved Children (Part One)

“Henny daily revealed the hypocrisy of Sam, and Sam found it his painful duty to say that Henny was a born liar. Each of them struggled to keep the children, not to deliver them into the hands of the enemy: but the children were not taking it in at all. Their real feelings were made up of the sensations received in the respective singsongs and treasure hunts.” (p. 33)

The Man Who Loved Children cover

The Resolution Project Season Two: For my New Year’s resolution last year (2011), I decided to try and read all one hundred of the novels picked by Time Magazine as the best since their inception in 1923 to the list’s publication in 2005. I got almost halfway through. I’ve decided to bull-headedly push on through and try and finish the challenge, continuing with the same caveat as before: I’ve exempted myself from reading books I’ve already read, leaving eighty-six or so left to go. Some spoilers may lie ahead, so be warned if you’re the type to be bothered by that. It’s not really worth getting that angry about though.

The Elevator Pitch: For me, living at the Pollit house would be akin to hell on earth. Sam and Henrietta “Henny” Pollit must rank among the worst couples of all time. They live in Washington D.C. where Sam works in some sort of governmental capacity while Henny attempts to look after his ever-increasing brood of children. She acts like a shrewish harridan, while Sam is a baby-talking buffoon. I hate this book.

What I knew about this book, its subject and its author going in: Nothing at all. I am kind of jealous of those days now.

Thoughts: As I mentioned in my last post, this book is a real motherfucker. It is long, overwritten, and filled with characters I can’t even begin to identify with. The eponymous “Man”, Sam Pollit, is among the most annoying characters it has ever been my misfortune to read about. He shifts wildly between Roosevelt-era Socialist dreamer, to baby-talking manchild, to condescending educated douchebag, almost every other sentence. I get that we’re not supposed to like him as readers, but this is a bit much.

He also brings back another one of my pet peeves, the overuse of accents in fiction. Whereas in something like Call It Sleep, The Berlin Stories or some of the Boston parts of Infinite Jest, accents are used to demonstrate the differences between people, be they immigrants, tourists or members of the underworld, Sam Pollit busts out accents all the time, just because he’s a dick. He pretends that he’s a stereotypical old Jewish guy, or a “cornpone” Southern guy, or someone from Singapore, just to get cheap laughs out of his kids, who essentially worship the ground he walks on. That’s literally the only reason. I’m sure Stead knew that this would happen, that I would hate her main character, so bravo, Stead! You made me hate a guy by making him unbearable to read about. You deserve some sort of award. And so does Sam Pollit, who is able to impress children with “funny” voices. What a champ, you guys.

His wife Henny is probably the closest thing to someone we can empathise with, as her husband has essentially driven her crazy with his wacky antics. The children in the book are so far pretty unbelievable characters. Louie, Sam’s daughter from his previous wife, is prone to reciting bits of poetry and theology, which would be okay if she wasn’t something like 12 years old. How is she able to remember all this stuff? Could it be that she’s only a mouthpiece for the author to attempt to class up her story with? Much like Scarlett’s son in Gone With the Wind, the younger children are written as if Stead had never seen a real human child talk. It reminds me of nothing more than the “Superbaby” stories that would crop up in Action Comics in the ’50s and ’60s. Here he is packing up a super-bindle:

Superbaby! Relevance!

So yeah, so far I don’t really like this book very much. I’m hoping it ends in Grand Guignol-style with a huge bloodbath. To close up today, here’s Henny discussing which is the best way to kill yourself, which is not a great thing to put in a book that seriously makes you consider it:

“There are so many ways to kill yourself, they’re just old-fashioned with their permanganate: do you think I’d take permanganate? I wouldn’t want to burn my insides out and live to tell the tale as well; idiots! It’s simple. I’d drown myself. Why not put your head in a gas oven? They say it doesn’t smell so bad.” (p. 164, this goes on for a long time).

The Resolution Project Season Two: The Death of the Heart (1938)

First off, I feel like this is in order, because this book was a chore to get through, and as such delayed my reading project even worse than Skyrim did:

“She had watched life, since she came to London, with a sort of despair – motivated and busy always, always progressing: even people pausing on bridges seemed to pause with a purpose; no bird seemed to pursue a quite aimless flight. The spring of the works seemed unfound only by her: she could not doubt people knew what they were doing – everywhere she met alert cognisant eyes. She could not believe there was not a plan of the whole set-up in every head but her own” (p.72)

The Death of the Heart cover

The Resolution Project Season Two: For my New Year’s resolution last year (2011), I decided to try and read all one hundred of the novels picked by Time Magazine as the best since their inception in 1923 to the list’s publication in 2005. I got almost halfway through. I’ve decided to bull-headedly push on through and try and finish the challenge, with a caveat: I exempted myself from reading ones I’ve already read, leaving some eighty-six or so left to read. Some spoilers may lie ahead, so be warned if you’re the type to be bothered by that. It’s not really worth getting that angry about though.

The Elevator Pitch: Portia Quayne is an orphan. After flitting about in hotels and shabby flats on the Continent with her mother before her death, Portia has come to London to live with her brother Thomas and his wife Anne. No one really knows what to make of the quiet young girl, whose gormlessness and eager-to-please nature seem to lay bare the veneer of civilization in the 1930s. Portia falls in love with an old friend of Anna’s, Eddie, who works at Thomas’ advertising concern. This adolescent crush sets in motion a series of events that makes everyone feel really bad.

What I knew about this book and its author going in: Absolutely fuck-all. It is apparently a defect in my character and education that not once in working towards my degree in English Literature that the name Elizabeth Bowen and this, her supposed masterpiece ever came up. Now that I’ve rectified the situation, I cannot say that I feel like I was missing out in the slightest.

As I noted above, this book was an absolute beast to work through, and this is solely due to the style it was written in. The back cover calls this a “psychological novel”, which I take to mean it purports to explore the psychological makeup of characters as they move through the world of the book. Which it does. To a fault, I’d say.

Bowen proves herself capable of really beautiful turns of phrase, and really good at examining how people tick, especially when it comes to the female characters in the book, Portia, Anna and Matchett the housekeeper. What I found, in my opinion anyway, fault in, was that the book was narratively not as strong. It shares this distinction with the last book I read on the Time 100 list, Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping, which I also had a hell of a time pushing through.

Where Bowen shines is in depicting thumbnail sketches of characters right at the exact moment she turns her eyes towards them. One in particular I found well done was the character of Major Brutt, a military man who vaguely knew Anna before mustering into the service. He’s sort of a boring guy to encounter, as he’s been out of circulation for so long that he has forgotten how to get along in London society, assuming of course he ever really fit in to begin with. One sequence I enjoyed was when Brutt, who has sort of accidentally ingratiated himself into life at 2 Windsor Terrace, mistakenly drops in at the wrong time and has a drink with Thomas instead of Anna. Thomas, who’s not exactly a social butterfly himself, feels like Brutt wants something from him, something like a job or a connection, rather than the basic human company he actually craves. It leads to this excellent summation of men of Brutt’s type:

“All he seemed to have put on the market was (query) experience, that stolid alertness, that pebble-grey direct look that Thomas was finding morally hypnotic. There was, of course, his courage – something now with no context, no function, no outlet, fumbled over, rejected, likely to fetch nothing. Makes of men date, like makes of cars; Major Brutt was a 1914-1918 model: there was now no market for that make. In fact, only his steadfast persistence in living made it a pity he could not be scrapped.” (p.113)

This makes concrete a really unfortunate facet of the world of the 1930s, as well as the world of today. It is especially poignant considering the death of the last known participant in the Great War, Briton Claude Choules, died last year, while the last serviceperson, Florence Green, died only a few days ago (source). Some people unfortunately find their purpose in a specific time and place, and cannot cope with the world after that time and place are no more.

Portia’s kind of in the same boat. While living with her mother, she was itinerant, moving around Europe in a sort of fairy tale of funny people met in hotels and different vistas seen out of the window, a counterpoint to, again, the homeless girls in Housekeeping. When this state of affairs is no longer applicable, she cannot fit in with the upper-middle class London society that Thomas and Anna aspire to. She gets along better with the staff of the house, taking tea with Matchett everyday. So, like Brutt, Portia has a tendency to put people on edge; where he makes younger folks feel a little ashamed at their lack of service, or forces them to imagine the hell he’s been put through in their defence, Portia reminds them of their own innocence long forgotten, and makes them feel ashamed of what they’ve become.

When she meets Eddie, it seems good on paper (joke). Eddie’s a misfit too, he didn’t set the world on fire with his writing (unlike fellow houseguest St. Quentin, who appears to do all right for himself, and is also the catalyst for the climax of the book), nor does he do a great job in advertising. It doesn’t work out between them though. Eddie’s a bit of a man-whore, catting about with Anna at the same time as his so-called romance with her half-sister in law Portia, and holding hands with women he meets in Seale, which I gather is the 1930s equivalent to a dirty bathroom hookup? Anyway, he’s a mess, and he takes Portia’s 16-year old heart and fucks it up, seemingly irrevocably.

So while I can appreciate the amount of detail Bowen is able to put into character study, in my mind anyway, a little of that goes a long way. When that’s the main “driving” force of your novel, though, it starts to wear on me. Narrative-wise, there’s maybe 5 or 6 actual events that happen throughout the year or so the novel takes place in. I can only imagine how long this book would have been in the hands of another writer. Raymond Chandler probably could have told this story in a page or two, and would have had enough room for shots to ring out and a couple of one liners. I guess what I’m trying to say here is that The Death of the Heart, while probably a great novel based on sheer technical brilliance alone, was not for me, in the exact opposite way the something like Blood Meridian wasn’t for me. Give it a try, though, if the subject matter and time period sound interesting to you. Personally, it reaffirmed my enjoyment of historical novels written long after the period has come and gone. I like the insight into London at this time that Bowen brings to the table, but I’d rather it was filtered through the little bit of artifice that “historical” writing brings.

“We all create situations each other can’t live up to, then break our hearts at them because they don’t. One doesn’t have to be in love to be silly, because then one makes a thing about everything.” (p. 315)

Similar books on the Time 100 list: American Pastoral and Are You There God?It’s Me Margaret also examine the state of mind of a preteen/teenage girl, but in radically different ways. If you’re interested in the time period, the Dance to the Music of Time cycle is a look at London right around then. Appointment in Samarra, while it takes place in America, examines the same sort of set I believe that Anna and Thomas would feel a part of, at around the same period in time as well. Finally, I feel like The French Lieutenant’s Woman also explores the psyche of Victorians in the same way this looks at that of the Interwar Period, but in a way I found much more enjoyable to read. It’s something about the distance between author and subject that I enjoy.

Total pages read since January 1st 2011: 14877 pp. (418 this year)

Total books on the Time 100 list read: 52/113, or 46% complete.

Next up on the Resolution Project: I, Claudius, by Robert Graves (1934)

The Resolution Project Book Eighteen: Call It Sleep (1934)

“The sight of him this evening was terrifying. Never, not even the night he had beaten David, did he radiate, so fell, so electric a fury. It was as though his whole body were smouldering, a stark, throbbing, curdling emanation flowed from him, a dark, corrosive haze that was all the more fearful because David sensed how thin an aura it was of the terrific volcano clamped within.” (p. 127)

The Resolution Project: For my New Year’s resolution this year (that being 2011), I decided to try and read all one hundred of the novels picked by Time Magazine as the best since their inception in 1923 to the list’s publication in 2005. I exempted myself from reading ones I’ve already read, leaving some eighty-six or so to read before the end of this year. Some spoilers may lie ahead, so be warned if you’re the type to be bothered by that.

Call It Sleep cover

David Schearl is a young immigrant boy growing up in the slums of New York City in the 1910s. He’s of Jewish descent and lives with his mother and father in the city’s Lower East Side. His father’s rage gets him bounced from job to job, and David and his mother live in perpetual fear of the next outburst. After a series of events show what 5-year old David is afraid of, namely the cellar in his apartment building and women who aren’t his mother, the precocious boy finds out about his heritage in more ways than one, leading to a shocking conclusion.

This book was very difficult for me to read. It was almost like the parts I didn’t like the most about Infinite Jest (difficult-to-parse regional dialect), An American Tragedy (buckets and buckets of melodrama) and Go Tell It On the Mountain (rampant theological meandering) teamed up to form Voltron; creating a perfect storm of frustratingly slow reading for me. Roth uses some very specific stylistic traits in constructing the slum New York of the book, specifically the fractured English that the kids in the street use. While I’ve encountered books in this project with some difficult language, this one definitely takes the cake.

Voltron

Any excuse, no matter how slim, is enough to show a picture of Voltron.

Here the afterword, while liberally strewn with academese, was very helpful to me. Roth has conversations in the book which take place in Yiddish be written down in gramatically correct English, making it feel easy to the reader, and making us want to read those parts more; the intent here is for the reader to feel as David does, i.e. that the only place worth being is at home with his mother Genya. The afterword also says that the ideal reader of Call It Sleep is someone who is familiar with Jewish culture, Yiddish and theology, which makes me 0 for 3.

While the purpose behind this use of language makes sense to me, it doesn’t make passages like this any easier to plough thorough:

“It c’n catch rats, dot’s wot yuh do wit’ it. See dis little door? De rat gizz in like dot.” … “Foist yuh put sompin’ ove’ hea, and on ‘iz liddle hook. An’ nen nuh rat gizzin. Dey uz zuh big rat inna house, yuh could hear him at night, so my fodder bought dis, an’ my mudder put in schmaltz f’om de meat, and nuh rat comes in, an’ inna mawningk, I look unner by de woshtob, an’ooh – he wuz dere, runnin’ dis way like dot.” (p. 49)

When combined with the fact that most of the people speaking English are little kids, whose grammar isn’t there anyway, this book made for some headaches (especially coming after Infinite Jest, which also had its share of strange grammatical tics, but at least they were spelled correctly). So, yeah, I too longed for David to be at home with his mother. I enjoyed the way Yiddish phrases were dealt out though, they have a great feel to me, but the other half of the book was almost impenetrable at points. Reading Nadsat was easier than reading this book. Also a guy shows up later on who shares this speech pattern, but with the added bonus of a speech impediment on top of it. Great.

This book also comes from the Modernist tradition, occasionally lapsing into stream of consciousness writing to show the interior thoughts of its protagonist. While stream of consciousness is usually okay with me (it’s how I write this blog usually), I found it this time to be a little grating as well. I felt like some of the feelings and thoughts David put forth were way too much for him to have possibly had, especially in the realm of symbolism and metaphor. Maybe he’s supposed to be tapping into the collective unconsciousness somehow, I don’t know. He was a very precocious child. I like the way James Agee dealt with a child’s way of thinking in A Death in the Family a lot better, it felt more like a child’s real voice. It’s been a long time since I was five, though, so perhaps Roth is closer than I feel he was? Who knows.

“Wipe your muddy nose. Hurry, I say! If you could read as easily as your eyes can piss, you were a fine scholar indeed! (p. 216)

Who would I recommend this book to?: People who are very interested in the American immigrant experience near the turn of the last century, who have a high tolerance for having to stop and sound out words every five minutes. People who enjoyed Go Tell It On The Mountain, and would like to read a similar story, this time set in the backdrop of the Jewish faith.

Total pages read since January 1st: 11125 pp.

Total books on the Time 100 list read since January 1st (not including ones read before 2011): 27

Next up on the Resolution Project: The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (1939)

The Resolution Project Book Nine: At Swim-Two-Birds (1938)

The Resolution Project: For my New Year’s resolution this year (that being 2011), I decided to try and read all one hundred of the novels picked by Time Magazine as the best since their inception in 1923 to the list’s publication in 2005. I exempted myself from reading ones I’ve already read, leaving some eighty-six or so to read before the end of this year. Some spoilers may lie ahead, so be warned.

“The novel, in the hands of an unscrupulous writer, could be despotic. In reply to an inquiry, it was explained that a satisfactory novel should be a self-evident sham to which the reader could regulate at will the degree of his credulity. It was undemocratic to compel characters to be uniformly good or bad or poor or rich. Each should be allowed a private life, self-determination and a decent standard of living. This would make for self-respect, contentment and better service.” The nameless protagonist, explaining his novel-in-progress. (p. 21)

At Swim-Two-Birds Cover

At Swim-Two-Birds, by Flann O’Brien

This was kind of an amazing book, like Lev Grossman writes, “[o]ne of the best kept secrets of 20th-century literature.” The plot, which I will attempt to summarize insomuch as it is possible to do so, is as follows. A nameless Irish college student, when he’s not out getting drunk with his quasi-literati friends, is writing a novel about a famous author named Dermot Trellis. In the book, Trellis too writes a novel, conjuring characters into being and then binding them to service by making them stay at his home, the Red Swan hotel. During the odd times when he is awake, they have to perform the roles Trellis has set out for them; when he sleeps, though, due to what I believe is narcolepsy, they go off-message and do whatever they feel like doing. What happens next is when those characters, including among them the legendary Irish hero Finn MacCool, the mad half-bird king Sweeny, a pair of Irish cowboys (large swathes of Dublin have been removed to make room for grazing lands, it’s a long story), and a pooka (a kind of evil devil-fairy) named MacPhellimey along with the Good Fairy who lives in his pocket, are not treated in the civil matter outlined in the above quotation.

This is the sort of book that, if you’re like myself, you’ll have to wrestle with the impulse of continually wanting to quote out great lines to your loved ones and colleagues, because they will simply have no idea what you’re talking about. So much of the fun of this book comes from the different writing styles employed by O’Brien (the pen-name of Brian O’Nolan), which include epic Irish poetry, rough and tumble pulpy Western stories, an almost kids-book style when visiting the Pooka MacPhellimey at home, etc. Some of these sections do drag at first, though, the Sweeny and MacCool poetry sections for sure, but once the walls between the various stories start to break down, it gets a lot more fun. Reading the wikipedia article for the book tells me that many pieces of the book are actually found literature, the Sweeny cycle and a letter received from a bookie about an upcoming horse race.

Something this book has a little bit of that I really like is “fake” art pieces. What I mean by this is that in the world of the novel, there are certain manuscripts and books that have a lot of power, and are alluded to with the same reverence we would give to masterpieces in our world, but with the caveat of not having existed. For some reason I really like lists of books that never existed, or, like in a future book I’m to be reading on the Resolution Project, Infinite Jest, lists of movies made by a fictional directors. I really liked Flicker for this as well, a book about a film studies student unearthing the oeuvre of a director attempting to end the world with secret cinematic techniques. At Swim-Two-Birds gains a lot of mileage from me due to the depth imparted to it by the references to, and outright quotations from, books that exist in the narrator’s and Trellis’ worlds. Maybe it’s just the influence of H.P. Lovecraft on my younger self, or more specifically my enjoyment of seeing how much SAN points you would lose in the Call of Cthulhu role-playing game by coming into contact with powerful books that made me like these sorts of things. It could also be the splurging on Borges I partook in my second year of University, for that matter, but the fact remains that I loved this book too.

I’d really like to read some more O’Brien, specifically his posthumously-published The Third Policeman, but that’ll have to wait until after my task is completed. For some crazy reason though, Brendan Gleeson (the actor I first recognized for playing “Mad-Eye” Moody from the Harry Potter movies) is apparently attempting to turn At Swim-Two-Birds, this most arcane and literary of books, into a movie, which is just bonkers. I know people who found Inception somewhat confusing, so in order to make this book into a film you’d either need to dumb it down substantially or administer obligatory IQ tests before every screening to weed out people who wouldn’t get it. Still, good on him for trying to get this excellent book back out into the public imagination.

“He is a great man that never gets out of bed, he said, He spends the days and nights reading books and occasionally he writes one. He makes his characters live with him in his house. Nobody knows whether they are there at all or whether it is all imagination. A great man.: (p. 97)

The List

Total pages read since January 1st: 2655 pp

Next up on the Resolution Project: Christopher Isherwood’s The Berlin Stories (1946)

Resolutions

My lovely lady E. and I (whose website I’ll link to as soon as it becomes fully operational) are going to have interesting New Years resolutions this year. Here are mine:

1. Try and get the fuck away from Facebook as much as possible. From now on, the f-book will be used solely for D&D group management, sarcastic comments on my friends’ walls and as a way to disseminate funny videos and shit I find in my internut travels. Hopefully writing on this blog will take over for any creative use Facebook still had for me. Sorry marketers!

2. Here’s the one you might actually find interesting. So while eating fish and chips at our local “English” pub, E. and I discussed the insipid “BBC says you’ve only read 2 books in your entire life you stupid fuck” or whatever list going around at that time on Facebook , this being another reminder of what I need less of in my life (see resolution 1), also a complete fabrication (see this article on the meme’s creation: http://www.purplecar.net/2009/03/how-do-memes-start-a-case-study-100-books-in-facebook/ ).

Anyway, griping about the list, and how folk that we consider educated wouldn’t brag about how many things they’ve read because they also have the self-knowledge to know how much they haven’t read as well, we decided to challenge one another. Before the New Year is through, we will see who can get through more of the Time magazine list of stellar entries in their respective field (hers being film, and mine being literature).

Now, you might think that I’d be at a disadvantage here, as your average movie takes maybe 1.5 hours to get through while your average book is, well, a book, but we added a few caveats in order to make it fairer.

- I don’t have to read books I’ve read already (this makes my list have 86 books instead of 100), where E. needs to watch all the movies again.

- E. needs to devote all of her attention to watching a film and can’t, say, play Bejeweled for hours on end, with the rationale here being that you can’t really half-ass reading a book. Also, if she falls asleep during a movie, which hopefully Leni Riefenstahl’s Olympia will do numerous times, she has to start all over from the beginning.

We’re both excited/dreading the task ahead of us. E’s list is actually more than 100 movies because there’s a few trilogies on there, and as a student she has far less free time than your humble narrator. This leads me to believe I have a chance. There’s a few killers lurking on both our lists, though. E. has the aforementioned Riefenstahl picture, as well as the Lord of the Rings saga, which she despises. I have to plow through David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, which has already defeated me once, and a couple books by Virginia Woolf, who I hate for some reason. The prize for the winner has yet to be determined, but it will likely involve me being known as “King” for the rest of my life. Here’s the lists at Time’s website:

The movies :

http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/0,28757,1953094,00.html

The books:

http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/completelist/0,29569,1951793,00.html

As the weeks wear on, stay tuned here, as I either ascend new heights of literary mastery or crash and burn in a sea of modernist whatever.