Wednesday, May 14, 2008

I'll never make the water polo team, but I could procrastinate for Australia

I got this meme from Hoyden About Town. And I'm doing it because (a) I'm having a thought-provoking mid-decade birthday, (b) I have to meet a deadline, and then (c) I have to go and have a local anaesthetic in my face. Call it an escape to a parallel universe.

Apparently these are the 106 books most often listed as 'unfinished' on LibraryThing. The rules are that you bold the ones you've read all the way to the end, underline the ones you read for "school", and asterisk the ones you started but didn't finish. I'm ignoring the 'school' thing, and underlining the ones I started but didn't finish.

From where I'm standing it's an extremely interesting exercise in cultural history. These are the books that pretty much any Australian of my age with a postgrad-level liberal education will have read -- and, perhaps even more revealingly, will have failed to read. An alert historian of reading would be able to deduce my year of birth from this list.

It's not just a matter of curricula, but also of fashions in reading; for instance, second-wave feminism and the (closely related, I think) resurrection of Jane Austen in endless screen adaptations and variations on the fanfic theme will have made her about four times as popular these days as she was in the 1970s.

God it's depressing to be so predictable.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Anna Karenina
Crime and Punishment
Catch-22
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Wuthering Heights
The Silmarillion
Life of Pi : a novel
The Name of the Rose
Don Quixote
Moby Dick
Ulysses
Madame Bovary
The Odyssey
Pride and Prejudice
Jane Eyre
The Tale of Two Cities [I never finished this, but I know it's actually called A Tale of Two Cities]
The Brothers Karamazov
Guns, Germs, and Steel
War and Peace
Vanity Fair
The Time Traveler’s Wife
The Iliad
Emma
The Blind Assassin
The Kite Runner
Mrs. Dalloway
Great Expectations
American Gods
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
Atlas Shrugged
Reading Lolita in Tehran : a memoir in books
Memoirs of a Geisha
Middlesex
Quicksilver
Wicked : the life and times of the wicked witch of the West
The Canterbury Tales
The Historian : a novel
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Love in the Time of Cholera
Brave New World
The Fountainhead
Foucault’s Pendulum
Middlemarch
Frankenstein
The Count of Monte Cristo
Dracula
A Clockwork Orange
Anansi Boys
The Once and Future King
The Grapes of Wrath
The Poisonwood Bible
1984
Angels & Demons
Inferno
The Satanic Verses
Sense and Sensibility
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Mansfield Park
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
To the Lighthouse
Tess of the D’Urbervilles
Oliver Twist
Gulliver’s Travels
Les Misérables
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Dune
The Prince
The Sound and the Fury
Angela’s Ashes : a memoir
The God of Small Things
A People’s History of the United States : 1492-present
Cryptonomicon
Neverwhere
A Confederacy of Dunces
A Short History of Nearly Everything
Dubliners
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
Beloved
Slaughterhouse-five
The Scarlet Letter
Eats, Shoots & Leaves
The Mists of Avalon
Oryx and Crake
Collapse : how societies choose to fail or succeed
Cloud Atlas
The Confusion
Lolita
Persuasion
Northanger Abbey
The Catcher in the Rye
On the Road
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Freakonomics : a rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance : an inquiry into values
The Aeneid
Watership Down
Gravity’s Rainbow
The Hobbit
In Cold Blood : a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences
White Teeth
Treasure Island
David Copperfield

17 comments:

ThirdCat said...

What's the sign for bought/borrowed but haven't opened? And the sign for 'bought, knowing full well you were unlikely ever to read it'.

Feral Sparrowhawk said...

Happy birthday. Sorry to hear about the anaesthetic. I don't know that you're entirely predictable. I would have bet plenty on you having read Eats, Shoots and Leaves, and probably at least started Mists of Avalon.

On the other hand, I'm bloody amazed that anyone finished Ulysses.

Zoe said...

Happy birthday, Pav.

Couldn't the anaesthetic wait until tomorrow?

Ampersand Duck said...

thirdcat, I think they're the ones totally left unmarked.

Pav: What?! You've never read Demons and Angels?! ;)

I totally understand people not finishing The Time Traveller's Wife. I did, but chucked it at the wall with disgust about 3/4 of the way in and almost never picked it up again. I'm a bit bloody-minded about finishing, though.

Happy Birthday!

Jennifer said...

Fascinating list - I'm amazed that A Brief History of Time isn't top of it, though.

I'm also amazed that there isn't even one that you've failed to finish - is it your professionalism (having had to finish real ones, you can get through it?) Or are there other books sitting on your bookshelf half way through?

lucy tartan said...

Happy Birthday. Dracula's really good, especially if you are interested in psychoanalysis, and particularly when you have had an anaesthetic in the face.

Van Helsing does this thing where he revives maidens by flicking them with wet towels.

Jennifer said...

Oops, sorry reread your key - I'm relieved there are some you failed to finish (although I think my average would be much worse)

Stephanie Trigg said...

Damnit! yet again did I forget your birthday, when you are always so brilliant about remembering everyone else's, and sending cards and emails and all. Happy Birthday, dearest cat! I trust there was much feasting.

No surprises, but I think my list would look awfully close to yours, except for The Curious Incident... which I read and was totally intrigued by and lent to someone and then bought again for The Boy, who also became totally engrossed.

Pavlov's Cat said...

3C -- I think we need a few new html tags for those. Unless you went with acronyms - BKFWYWEUTRI and so on.

Zoe, alas, you know how speshlists work -- 'Either you come in now when we have a cancellation or you have to wait till September'. Just as well I went as there is in fact a large basal cell carcinoma at my hairline where the removal site will probably need to be skin grafted, and the whole thing done ASAP. Which wasn't even the thing I was worried about. NB locals in the face are not as bad as they used to be.

Laura -- I have been meaning to read Dracula for about 20 years. And I will.

Stephanie -- but you did not forget, not really, for here you are and it is not yet midnight!

Thanks all for birthday greetings! I do feel a bit shop-worn, so they are cheering me up no end.

Stephanie Trigg said...

large basal cell carcinoma?

bleeaahh. but yeah, good to move FAST on this, skin graft notwithstanding.

sorry to hear this, PC, as you have always been very careful about the sun, for as long as I've known you.

When is ASAP, by the way?

Ampersand Duck said...

um-aah
I hope that bit goes well.

will be beaming good thoughts your way...

Pavlov's Cat said...

Yeah, icky. I see the plastic surgeon on June 17th (which is fast for these dudes, and the wretched thing has already been there for years and years, having been misdiagnosed back in the mists of time as 'nothing to worry about' -- I just thought it was some weird little patch of ageing skin) where if it is not too big he will remove it in his rooms, otherwise hospital, graft donor sites, etc etc yuk. Stephanie, indeed, many's the pavement cafe table I have fascistically rearranged in order to stay out of the sun but these things are 20-30 years in the making. It must date from the days when I didn't have a fringe and often wore my hair in 'council house facelift' style.

Mindy said...

Ahh the joys of pale skin the the Australian climate. Hope you had a good birthday. I have decided not to do this meme on account of how I'd be kicked out of the latte sipping left for having actually read far too few of them.

ThirdCat said...

You can sit at my table if you like, mindy. I'm drinking cappucino and wondering how to spell it.

Pavlov's Cat said...

For goodness' sake, 3C, it's 'cup of chino'. I know you knew that.

Mindy -- the first time I consulted that dermatologist, she took a bit of a history. We'd already been through '50 years old', 'Red-headed grandmother and mother, both with multiple facial skin grafts by the time they died', 'All three aunts ditto', 'Used to sunbake as a teenager', and 'Younger sister with skin cancers in early 40s'. When we got to 'Grew up on a SA wheat farm' she put down the pen, put her head in her hands and said 'Oh God, it just gets worse and worse.'

tigtog said...

Hey, I'd skimmed over the detail of needing the anaesthetic in the face the first time I read this - sorry to hear it. You're the second person I've heard that needs a BCC dealt with just this week. Bugger.

Bernice said...

I've just noticed that not ONE Australian title makes the list. Come on PC, do us an Oz Sarsparilla list - now that would be interesting.

And happy birthday.