Pages

12 October 2007

Challenging

I'm a failure at blog challenges. And I don't care that I am.

Last year, when I started blogging (and blogged regularly, unlike this year...but that's another post) I was intrigued about the idea of a 'challenge'. Just trying to read books instead of flat-lining in front of the tv each evening was a challenge to me, but I was curious about this idea of a group of bloggers reading a certain type of book. So I signed up for several challenges and group blogs.

And then failed to keep up with the required reading. Oh I had some 'good' excuses -- behaviors that should have been seen as likely to fail. Like deciding to read The Red and the Black -- in French! I had neglected to apply my weight rule of selecting books (a direct inverse relationship between the weight & portability of a book to the likelihood of my reading it) to the LaRousse's French-English Dictionary, a necessary accompaniment. Don't think I made it past page 50.

Or thinking that I'd read War & Peace, but wanting the paperback version of the Briggs translation not yet available in the US. I carried the copy I picked up in Waterstone's throughout England and then on to Italy. Had I traveled home 2 days later, I wouldn't have been able to bring it on the plane due to the terrorist threats, but it wouldn't have mattered in the long run -- I still haven't read it!

Or last year's RIP Challenge hosted by Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings. That was a challenge that I thought would be challenging since I don't read horror, Gothic novels or fantasy. I thought it would be good to 'stretch' my reading repertoire. I rushed out to the half-priced store and bought 7 books: Hawthorne's The Fall of the House of Usher, a collection of Poe's stories, James' The Turn of the Screw, Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, the short stories of Washington Irving. Like in the original lyrics to The Ballad of Gilligan's Isle, I'll have to add '...and the rest' as I don't recall the last two and I'm not near my bookcases to confirm the titles.

I even wrote a post about "the other side" and my expectations for this foray into works of the creepy, crawly and spooky:
I once heard anxiety described as "fear stretched thin". Anxiety is fear's half-sibling, twilight to fear's night. It bears similar characteristics, a familial resemblance, a safer variety like a quickly moving stream that you think you can surely navigate although you know there is a slight possibility that you might slip and fall into the unswimable rapids. It is the feeling, rather than the knowledge, that fear is around the next bend of the road, on the other side, waiting for us to cross the center line.


I read Hawthorne's work for about 20 minutes or until I fell asleep, whichever came first. I started to re-read The Turn of the Screw and initially was surprised that I liked it. I had hated it when it was required reading in college course and have avoided James ever since (I've been told that is unfortunate, but I have yet to be convinced.) I loved reading Neverwhere and now wonder if I had already started it when I wrote the post I referenced above because I mentioned the Underground station. And one of the best short stories I read last year was Irving's The Devil and Tom Walker. I don't understand how I missed being given this wonderful story to read in school (though the portrayal of the shrewish wife is a bit politically incorrect, to say the least!)

But, participating in the challenge? I didn't post about one of them! The closest I came was a blog entry, saved in draft form, with the words in the body "Irving. Devil. Tom Walker & his shrewish wife" Obviously, my notes to myself served no purpose as I probably didn't read them again until today!

So, this year I've stayed away from reading challenges although many have tempted me, and some have even lead me to consider works I might not have considered otherwise. I easily could have participated in the Non-fiction Challenge, as I've read mostly non-fiction this year. At least I met the reading portion of the challenge, if not the blogging portion. And I've probably met at least a portion of the requirements for a few other challenges.

I started this post thinking I'd write about a book I just finished reading that is indirectly tied to last year's RIP challenge. If it hadn't been for Carl, I probably would not have picked up Coraline or anything else by Neil Gaiman. But this post became something other than I intended. And I'm loosing steam with my writing: it's closing in on the dinner hour and the beach is 10 feet from my doorstep and I think I need to go for a walk. So, maybe I'll write about Coraline another day. But, in case I don't, I'll write this: it's a fairy tale and a horror story, not just for kids despite it being marketed as such, and is a great way to pass any afternoon reading. I'd recommend it, whether for a reading challenge or not. It would probably be a great story to read to your children, especially during this season of the creepy, the crawly and the spooky.

4 comments:

Emily Barton said...

I'm not doing too well with my challenges, either, but they're like fattening food: I can't seem to stay away from them.

I read Coraline last fall and LOVED it.

pmousse said...

Well, you know... the challenges obviously still inspired some stretching and opening. Good things, right?

Dorothy W. said...

I haven't been successful at challenges either, and am thinking about swearing off them for a while, but they are so tempting! It seems so easy to complete them at the time I sign up, and only later do they come to feel like a task instead of something I do for fun. At that point, it's time to drop out. But I DO read some new things because of challenges, so that's good.

chiefbiscuit said...

I remember reading Hawthorne's the Red Letter ... a great story that has remained with me for years after.