Friday, January 05, 2007

New Year Reading LAUNCH!

I'm very excited! Today I decided to finally set in motion a literary plan I've had rattling around my head for a while. I have been very caught up in appreciation for new years, fresh starts, launching plans and projects, making resolutions, etc., so I decided to finally do this one.

Sometimes I get just flat out sad at how very many books there are out there that I want to read, and sometimes in my Borders wandering and shelving I would especially look at the fiction and think that even one such as I, who is ostensibly a writer and who has often been accused of "reading a lot," has still neglected to read many an author. I would think, 'Some day I am going to start with "A" and work my way through the fiction section, selecting one major author from each letter of the alphabet that I've always meant to read and never got around to reading, and read something by that author, then move on to the next letter...'

Friends, that "someday" is today! And what better day, seeing as this afternoon one of my favorite new friends called me "comprehensively dorky, but also practical."

I'm not sure if it was because I've been restless with reader's block lately, having commenced and left unfinished at least four books in the past few months and mostly reading The Economist, The Atlantic Monthly, and Poets & Writers of late...or if it was because I've been so assigned to within an inch of my reading life due to law school that I need to bring some structure to my leisure reading in order to get back into novels again...or if the inspiration of New Year's resolutions was the perfect time to launch said plan...or maybe because it was ultra-convenient that there was a Borders across from the movie theater where I had an hour to wait before seeing Notes on a Scandal (see my supporting actress rant)...I think it was a combination of all of these things.

But I am totally going to do it. I figure, two letters per month. Yes, I am aware that that makes only 24. Unless George W. declares an extra month in the year so he can be president usurper longer. And I am equally aware that there are 26 letters in the alphabet. (George may or may not be aware of this.) I figure I'll throw an extra letter in a month here and there...or just extend the party through January 2008. No big deal.

And the best part is that it can give this here literary supplement blog a bit of a focus again. You will recall that when I launched it a year ago I meant to blog unceasingly about War and Peace, but I ended up getting distracted by about a hundred other things right while I was reading The Book (friends, alcohol, the play, a life in Korea, life back home, whatnot). And since then it's just been random nonsense here and there. So I hereby resolve--law school notwithstanding--to read and blog through the alphabet this year, twenty-six authors I've always meant to read. And you can join the discussion! (This may be more appealing to some of you than reading War and Peace was.)

So here's how it works: I walk into (presumably) Borders (but it could be another store, I suppose. It was Borders today, at any rate, the one at Scottsdale Fashion Square) and stare at the appropriate letter in Fiction. Today I began with "A." The rules are:

1. It has to be an author of multiple books who has received some critical acclaim or is well-regarded in literary circles.
2. It has to be an author I've never read but have meant to read.
3. Then I look at the books by that author and select one to read. It doesn't have to be that author's most well-known work if another appeals to me more.

And then, it is hoped, some of y'all might also want to read along with me!

All right, I know you're breathlessly awaiting the announcement of our first book. (I'm a regular Oprah, with all this suspense I'm building around my book club choice, eh.) Just hang tight, we're almost there. Today in the "A"s there were many authors who ilustrate the level of acclaim to which I refer, but who were eliminated from the running because I've read one or more of their books already: Edward Abbey, Chinua Achebe, Richard Adams (Watership Down), Louisa May Alcott, Isabel Allende, Dorothy Allison, Margaret Atwood, Jane Austen.

So, with them out of the running, on to the contenders, all of whom I would be ashamed to say I've never read except this is not about shame! This is about taking steps to go forth and read and next year know way more authors than I do this year! systematically! Here are the contenders: Julia Alvarez, Rudolfo Anaya, Martin Amis, Paul Auster, Sherman Alexie, Jorge Amado.

Jeffrey Archer would have been a contender, except as it happens I have recently picked up (and not finished) his False Impression. I was intrigued because it's a mystery with a plot swirling around a painting by my boy Van Gogh, and if you've been reading this blog AT ALL since we finished War and Peace you'll know Vincent is my new inspiration about whom I have had a MAJOR artistic/creative madness epiphany of late. So technically I have read Archer, even though I'm not through with that book. Anyway, enough about him.

In the end it came down to Martin Amis or Julia Alvarez. I found it interesting that I was most drawn to Amis' The Information and Alvarez' !Yo!, both of which are those writers' novels about writers. This whole plunge-back-into-good-fiction-and-I-mean-business clearly is related to my New Year's and even old year's Artist's Way-driven getting-down-to-business about my writing and myself as a writer...

And in the end, while I did read the beginning of !Yo! and mentally note to return to it one day, the first member of Linda's Alphabet Stew Book Club is none other than Martin Amis! Congratulations!

The Information is about a novelist who is watching his friend become the darling of publishers, awards committees, TV interviewers, etc. as his own writing/self seems to be flailing. He is envious, and he wants to spoil his friend's success, but how? The book has been described as "blackly hilarious," "pleasantly wicked," and "funny and disturbing." Amis himself has been called "genius," "provocative" and "demonically alive."

I'm now on page 20. Join me! This weekend I shall start posting about the book in earnest. Also--anyone out there have any thoughts on Martin Amis you'd like to share?

The Information by Martin Amis ISBN: 0-679-73573-9

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