6.23.2009

Reading Challenges (Weekly Geek 2009-23)

Well, I'm trying to be more social, and I love some of the challenges I've read about from the Weekly Geek. I need more excuses to write... :). So, I'll try doing these for a while, and we'll see what happens! So this week's challenge:

"Reading Challenges: a help or a hurt? Do you find that the reading challenges keep you organized and goal-oriented? Or, do you find that as you near the end of a challenge that you've failed because you fell short of your original goals? As a result of some reading challenges, I've picked up books that I would have otherwise never heard of or picked up; that, frankly, I have loved. Have you experienced the same with challenges? If so, which ones? Do you have favorite reading challenges?"
Hrm... okay. Well, let me start off, by saying, I really don't mean to hurt anyone's feelings. I think challenges are really a great idea, and it's obvious that people put a lot of work into them. It's also clear to me that they do so many people such a deal of good. I think that's wonderful. That being said, I don't like them very much - for me, is all I mean. I guess, more accurately, I don't like me when I do them very much. I am not like, say, Amanda or Nymeth, who post blogs that... you know. People read. I'm first of all much lazier than they are, and second of all, I think I would get sick to my stomach knowing that many people were reading me all the time. It's not stagefright, per se - god knows I've a skill for being loud and obnoxious when called for. And when not called for. And when called against. It's more like... I write more because I am trying to figure things out, but I know when I read other people's blogs, I read them because I like their ideas in a fully-formed kind of way. My ideas are often pretty messy and unattractive even when I get them as far as I can tease them. When I'm just plopping them down, god forbid anyone should take them seriously. There's a great and terrible responsibility in writing, because you speak to people at their most vulnerable. I'm not up to responsibility. I'm not the responsibility type, I guess. So what does this have to do with reading challenges? Well... there's three ways that you can realistically blog on a long term basis, it seems to me. The first is to polemicize information. The second is to share information. The third is to analyze information. I'm not organized enoguh in my little mind to do any of these. So, when I post, I do blogging type number four - poking at information (or, at times, less than information). This is the way I write, precisely because this is the way I read, learn, work, play, and think. Information is great and marvelous, and shiny, and I look at it, and stroke it, and think of how much wonderful good I could do with it, then get distracted by something else. I'm being a LITTLE facetious of course. I do learn things. I'm not completely unlearned - if I was ignorant, I could make mistakes with impunity :P. But, my learning, my thinking, is far more intuitive than analytical, I'm not a very good analyst (ask poor Amanda about the way I edit creative writing some time, for instance). But I love thoughts, I love to look at them, at the shape of them, to drift in and out of them. This little weakness of mine makes some thoughts very dangerous to me. I have so little individual self aside such grand and great things that I tend to swallow myself up in other people, other places, other thoughts. I read the Jungle recently, for instance, and for days felt a sort of nervous intensity, like the feeling of being hunted that is so omnipresent in that book. I didn't feel this just while I was reading. I felt it while writing code. While working on Diggery Bottoms. While brushing my teeth. On the other side of my character, I'm a terrible romantic. I don't mean that in the adorable way you look for in a mate. I mean it in the awful, obnoxious way that teenagers are sometimes portrayed on TV (notably, not the way they are in real life), where everything seems much bigger and grander than it is. I suffer from a grand case of perspective blindness. This is far more crippling than it seems at first glance. When we had a poetry unit in middle school, for instance, I felt this thrill of excitement, because we were to write several poems, to collect in a poetry book. This. Was. My. Moment! I knew it! I loved poems, and I could write something, something grand, something tragic and perfect, some little scrap, and put it in my book, and someone would read it, and they would come to me, the tears still damp on their face, and they would ask me where I had found this, and I would stammer out an explanation of what I was thinking, and they would wrap their arms around me and weep deeply... and so, here's the thing. To write such a poem, one must, of course, be in the 'right place' (also known as, one must have practiced a great deal, and work even when they don't feel like it. Neither of these being great strengths of mine). So, I never wrote it. I almost failed 7th grade English, because I didn't turn this book in, and had to scrape something together after it was due, just to get a D. Something that included, literally, a poem that ended with the shameful, seriously painful to remember rhyme "I was a poet, And I didn't know it!" Oh how the might have fallen! Or, oh how the think-they-are-mighty stay fallen... Anyways, now combine these two traits - a poor sense of perspective, and a weak, easily influenced personality - with a reading challenge. Lets say... oh... a challenge to read three fairy tales in the next three months. Doesn't that sound wonderful? I love fairy tales! I wanted to major in studying fairy folklore in college (yes, note the influence of trait #2 on my choice of major)! And... this will be wonderful! All the dreams, all the seriousness I put into fairy tales in the past, this is where it can mean something again! I'll have to read Edmund Spenser's Faerie Queene, of course, because it's been sitting on my shelf for how long. And then Andrew Lang's... hrm... which one of his books? I mean, how do you choose one? And they're such easy books... I'll just do the whole series! And one more, one more... hrm... let's do... something very personally meaningful like this book that Nymeth reviewed. Yes that's right, I just committed to read several thousand pages in three months. So, I start reading. Now, option one, and the most likely option, is I fall flat on my face. I have done that frequently, so at least it's familiar. Option two, is I actually read SOMETHING and finish a few of the Lang books, and the Faerie Queene (which is a hard goal, anyway...) and the time is running short, and I compromise, and say that'll do. I mean, it's technically three books. So, at least I can pretend I didn't fail. Now, let's try the third option, because that's the REAL doozy. Let's say, by hook and crook, I do read it all. I make it through the Faerie Queene, and infuse my mind with a deep sense of the great breadth of heroic experience, in a way that I think the faerie queene conveys (I've read the beginning. Twice. On two failed attempts at challenges or what-not). Then, I work through Lang's fairy tales, slow but sure, in the process filling my mind with an endless menagerie of vivid, powerful characters, all of different emotions. I've done this before, it leaves me in this intense, enrgized state, where everything in the world is moving at a sickening, exhilerating speed. Then, I finish off, with my emotions keened to a fine edge, by reading a book that actually relates ideas that mean something to me personally. God forbid this last book be emotionally powerful, because afterwards I'm completely demolished. I've done this before too, and there's something deeply frustating about having to tell people that you're sorry you've been weepy and grouchy, but Holly Golightly went out of the taxi to find Cat, and it's really been hard for you to deal with. So, as it is, I've taken three challenges, so far, at all. First of all the Fill in the Gaps project - my list there is classic Jason foolishness (see http://fillinthegaps100.blogspot.com/2009/04/jasons-list.html) - huge, overly ambitious, etc. The second is my wife's GLBT challenge. It's... better. At least some of these books will be easier, and it's a good long challenge. I had the distinct advantage, here, of having my wife's good advice while choosing books. Finally there is the Name Challenge. Again, overly ambitious, but at least it's pretty uch a subset of my 100 list (btw, for bonus points, can you tell I was reading the poetry of Emily Bronte while writing the entry for that challenge? YEah, see what I mean about bad habits?). As I final note, being only a small, shy little book blogger who's only just begun to live, I've never finished a book challenge. So my opinions terribly unfounded. And again, I think book challenges are great for most people. An apparently I'm not so against them that I'm not joining them. I guess I'm just nervous...

9 comments:

gautami tripathy said...

At one time I joined more than 25 challenges and found that it regimented my reading. I was in some kind of a stress all the time which book to finish and which one to start. One fine morning I decided to read only for myself. Yes I do joing challenges but only those which are somewhat different and help me look out for interesting books.

And I write what I feel about a book. Not what is expected. I take care not to have spoilers and also why it worked or didn't work for me.

I don't trash any author unles it is really a bad book. Then I don't read it at all and let the author know about it.

WG: Reading Challenges

PS: I don't mind anyone adding me!

:D

Amanda said...

I was a little overwhelmed at the beginning of the year, but I'm a little easier now that I've finished several of them. I still am not sure how I 'm going to make it through the end of the year with school. I think next year I'm going to try to restrict myself to 3 or less at a time, and none of the huge ones like the A-Z like this year.

PS - next thing you know, you'll be doing the readathon, too!

Jason Gignac said...

Ms. Tripathy - 25 challenges. Yikes! I can't imagine. What sorts of challenges do you join now, then? What kind interest you?

Amanda - I can't join the readathon! That would be like if I started having babies - my value in this world is supporting you while you do great things :D.

stageandcanvas said...

Nice rambling rant. Props for referring to Tiffany's, which has been a favorite for years. The way I see it I'm writing for myself, to express Me, jot notes, and keep track of whatever. If the small handful of people that visit feel like commenting, fine, if not, that's fine too. I'm not a very public person so having a blog is a challenge in itself.

I'm hesitant to join reading challenges outside of my comfort zone because my Dread Pile o'Reads is teetering enough without themed "assignments". My personal challenge was to get through some of the stack and books I already own. Sometimes they're the same, sometimes not. My reading moods change with the tides and if I'm not in the mood I'm most likely not going to read something. For my first year of challenges set by others I went easy: short stories and plays, which I read anyway. Next year I may or may not get involved with more/other challenges. *shrugs* Either way, I'll be reading.

Jason Gignac said...

stageandcanvas - I understand the public person idea - good luck with your reading! It makes you wonder - what is the purpose of keeping notes-to-self in a public forum - one would think I'd know the answer, as I do the behaviour... ;)

Mish said...

Thanks, I shall.

Okay, Mr. Psych, care to share your thoughts? *chuckles* I know my reasonings...

Jason Gignac said...

Mish - ?

Mish said...

Oh, Mish <-> Stageandcanvas

Jason Gignac said...

My answer is very simple. I have no idea.