Thursday, July 10, 2008

Progress report

Genaddy Pugachevsky engraving from the Spartanburg, SC, People Reading exhibit

I've been intending to do a mid-year progress report for more than a week, but alas, there have been distractions aplenty, most recently Lin Enger's Hamlet-inspired Undiscovered Country. I downloaded the first chapter onto the Kindle yesterday thinking that would probably be enough to satisfy me until the book showed up at the library in a few weeks. Instead I finished the free sample desperately wanting to read on, so I pushed the appropriate button and did just that. I will be using the treadmill for the next few days, oh yes. Then I'll have The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, the other Hamlet-retelling of the summer to turn my attention to. . . if I don't get further sidetracked by a stack of library books or back on track with my reading plans for the year, which is what I'm getting around to telling you about.

I signed on to too many challenges for the year, especially since I do so love reading at whim. I'm in good shape to complete them all, however, particularly since I'm urging myself through them with the promise that next year I won't commit to any reading challenges at all.

The run down:

Short Story Challenge: I committed to at least one story a week. I've read almost fifty stories already.

19th Century Women Challenge (6 books): I've read three--Silas Marner and two Elizabeth Gaskells, with a third Gaskell still in progress.

What's in a Name Challenge (6 books): I've read in all categories except for weather.

Africa Reading Challenge (6 books). I've completed two and stalled completely in Olive Schreiner.

Russian Challenge (4 books): I've read two books by non-Russians that count, although neither were: Rebecca West's The Birds Fall Down and Tom Rob Smith's Child 44. And a smattering of stories by Chekhov. I'm waiting for fall to start Dostoevsky.

For the smaller challenges, I'm on track to finish both the Southern Lit Challenge and the ILL Challenge in August. I have not read a book for the Planet Earth Reading Challenge--lucky I only committed to read one. I took the journeyman's way on the Once Upon a Time challenge--one book--and hope there will be such a category in the RIP Challenge in the fall--I intend to read a Walter de la Mare I've downloaded on the Kindle.


  1. I'm impressed with your progress with reading challenges. I usually fail miserably at them. However, I am on track to complete the two I have still going, and I did complete the Once Upon a Time II challenge -- very proud of myself.

  2. Anonymous11:28 AM

    I just finished "Edgar Sawtelle" and LOVED it. Looking forward to seeing what you think of it.

  3. Hurray for you, Lisa. It's so easy to get carried away with the challenges and commit to more than it's possible to read. I do try to sign up only for the ones that I really want to--what's the challenge in that, anyway?--but I want to try a year (next year) without any time restraints at all. Just go all willy nilly and see how it goes.

    Anony, I have yet to read one negative opinion on Edgar. I'm going to need to put it off a little longer just because I have three library holds coming in at once. That's the story of my life.

  4. Anonymous4:46 PM

    I had not heard of Enger's book (looked him up; he's Minnesotan like me and the brother of novelist Leif) and either didn't know or didn't remember that Edward Sawtelle was also Hamlet inspired. Interesting that one's in MN and the other's in neighboring WI.Now I must read them.

    While trying to track down a performance of Love's Labor's Lost, which I just read, I came across this upcoming production of Hamlet. (Be sure to read down to see who plays Claudius) Shall we all go, if only in our dreams?

  5. Anonymous4:52 PM

    P.S. I've been very good this year about not reserving multiple books at the library. I try only to have one on my queue at a time. I've borrowed many others that were on the shelf, so I've still been a busy library patron, but I'm using the reserves mostly for dvds and music now. Perhaps we should start a recovery program for library reserve addicts. Heh.

  6. I went an entire year without placing ANY library holds. Soon as I paid my fines, though, I was reserving everything I could think of. MOST of those books will wind up at the university library within a month of my finishing the public library copy, so why can't I wait? I'd save gas, gain a little time to read the books I already own, and not have to worry about overdue fines. A recovery program is a fine idea.

  7. PATRICK STEWART?!?!? Are they trying to make us root for Claudius this time around?

    Don't you wish we were all rich enough to go to performances like that?

  8. Anonymous9:25 PM

    You are doing so well on the challenges! very impressive. Patrick Stewart playing Claudius sounds yummy. I really do need to win the lottery.

  9. I've never read Gaskell. Where should I start?

  10. Dorothy told me to start with Wives and Daughters. I think that was good advice.

  11. You are doing great on your challenges! And, look at all the short stories you've read. wow. And, really you won't do any challenges next year? I sort of want to do that but they are so hard to resist :)

  12. I don't know if I can resist completely, but it would be an interesting experiment to attempt to let my reading be totally organic--just let the book I happen to be reading lead in some manner to the next book I happen to pick up and see where I end up. That's probably impossible to do, but I'd like to try.

  13. Patrick Stewart played Claudius in a television Hamlet with Derek Jacobi in the title role, Claire Bloom as Gertrude. It was part of a complete Shakespeare series aired by the BBC in the 1980s. Netflix has it.

    Loved Gaskell's North and South. Saw the miniseries first (highly, highly recommended), then read the novel, which led to Engel's The Condition of the Working Class in England -- funny where these rabbit trails end up.

  14. And the library has it as well--on DVD. Thanks, Margaret. I don't know why I've never taken a look at the BBC Hamlet anyway.

    Should I watch North and South before reading it or after?

  15. I think it's better to watch the miniseries first, believe it or not.

    A bit of trivia: Patrick Stewart played the lead, John Thornton, in a 1975 production of North and South (no dvd, as far as I know).

    Have a great weekend!

  16. What's the ILL challenge? Isn't it really nice having a good excuse to use the treadmill? Well, other than the obvious (wanting to exercise) that is. I didn't realize there was a 19th Century Women Challenge--I would have joined (and no doubt not finished much by now). I am also planning for Carl's RIP reading. And I do want to finish the What's in a Name--I've read two for far. Otherwise my list of books to read this year is looking pretty unread so far...

  17. The ILL is Imani's Index Librorum Liberorum challenge. There hasn't been any activity on the blog since way back in the spring so I don't know if anyone's still reading censored books. If I have my dates right, it's supposed to end the end of August.

    I finished the What's in a Name challenge on Saturday! Other than finding a book with weather in the title it was no trouble at all.

  18. I can't seem to finish anything at all lately, so I suppose I shouldn't be thinking of starting any new books, which is all I've been thinking about all day--especially a book on my What's in a Name list...


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