Unless you've just discovered this blog in the last few months -- unlikely, since I've been an utter slacker about posting during those few months -- you're likely aware of my "A-to-Z Literary Blog Project," a long simmering notion that I put into action beginning over the 2006-2007 New Year's holiday (I miss that era of life) (except for the Dubya & Company of Usurpers' occupation of D.C.) The project involved me reading one book by each of 26 new-to-me authors that I had long meant to read, one for each letter of the alphabet, from Martin Amis to Emile Zola. There were hits (Styron, Vidal, Forster, I swooned!) and misses (die, Ozick, die) and a few shrugged shoulders (Jong, Palahniuk) and raised eyebrows (Ishmael....what? a gorilla? but there weren't a lot of 'Q' choices).
Well, the project was so much fun, and I lived with it for so long (it went from the anticipated year -- yeah, sure 2-3 novels for fun each month of law school, super likely -- to more like two-and-a-half years, which may still be impressive seeing as on top of the law school reading I also threw Infinite Jest in there, which by the way is oddly appropriate for a law student, I maintain) that I hated to see it go. So it didn't! Upon completion, I selected my A-to-Z Top Half and read another book by each of those thirteen. (This was not exclusive...I just mixed them in along with other reading over the next few years.) After the thirteen? Sure enough, I chose six "semi-finalists" and read a third book of each of theirs. That brings us to today. Three, count 'em, three finalists have been chosen, a tough call indeed, and I will now read one more book from each of those authors before choosing the winner of my A-to-Z Literary Blog Project (which, when I began it eight years ago, I had no intention of anyone 'winning').
With no further ado, then, the three finalists are: Martin Amis, E.M. Forster, and Salman Rushdie. Congratulations, boys! (And by the way, I am aware that my finalists are all men...more on that in the weeks to come, by the way.)
I do have to say that Umberto Eco was such an honorable mention. I really had a hard time deciding between him and Forster. I know I want to read more Eco, in the future, too, but for now I had to go with my judgment on their semi-final round novels, and I guess I found that Forster crafted a more perfect Howards End than Eco's slightly more inscrutable Foucault's Pendulum. I've long been looking forward to reading Foucault's Pendulum, after thoroughly enjoying his writing and his intellect and his ideas and his breadth (and rooting for him to win the Nobel for a a few years now!) but Foucault's Pendulum... I don't know. It was a little bit of a slog at times. It never lost its fun/interesting-ness, but it could have been shorter. I know that's a lame cop-out as a criticism (and hey, I like long things!) but in this case I say it because it just started seeming repetitive. I started to not really keep straight all the subculture/cult/gatherings/secrets/girlfriends-in-a-trance etc. and I reached a point where I just wanted to figure out how this was all going to go down. I must say, without spoilering, that it all goes down pretty intensely -- I definitely recommend the book, but I had to choose one and I'm sorry Umberto.
So now, I get to read another Amis (I picked up a used bookstore copy of Night Train last week), another Forster (it's gotta be A Room With a View because no, I still haven't read that, and it's on lists and stuff, which totally matters), and another Rushdie. This last one is the hard choice. I've now read three of his: first, The Satanic Verses (so wacky! I still can't fathom why something so outlandish and bizarre inspired people to murder), Shalimar the Clown (so astute. so brilliant. so packs a punch you don't see coming), and Midnight's Children (which I did also enjoy greatly while learning a bunch about India). But what's next? Should it be Haroun and the Sea of Stories, The Moor's Last Sigh, The Enchantress of Florence, or The Ground Beneath Her Feet? Any advice? What do you recommend? What should my next Rushdie be? For some reason I'm drawn to The Moor's Last Sigh but is there something I should consider about the others?
Books, books, books, books, books!