Are you reading The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon?
Have you read it already?
Well then, no excuses. Drop everything and pick this one up. You won’t regret it.
Before I explain why, I want to tell you a wee bit about how I came across this fantastic novel. Last year, in the fog of sleep deprivation induced by a tiny, howling, reflux ridden baby, Tom and I binge watched the Gilmore Girls on Netflix. I’m pretty sure you will have heard of the Gilmore Girls. It’s the completely undramatic but very comforting adventures of a mother and daughter living in a fairy tale New England town named Stars Hollow. The mother, Lorelai, has fantastic hair and an encyclopaedic knowledge of pop culture. The daughter, Rory, is super clever, super beautiful, (super spoiled in my opinion but my feelings on the character of Rory are probably best aired on many, many online forums devoted to the show) and absolutely loves books. She reads an impressive 337 in about 5 years.
Anyway, fans of the show have listed all 337 titles that are referenced in the Gilmore Girls and have lain down a ‘rory gilmore reading challenge’for anyone who wants to give the mammoth reading list a go. Take a look at the whole bunch here. It reads like a comprehensive primer in modern American fiction, with some diversions into factual, classics, and 19th century Russian tragedies on the way. Now I may not like Rory. I really don’t -Lorelai and Emily are much nicer. But I do love her taste, (and that of her creator’s, Amy Sherman Palladino) in books. I decided to find out how many of them I’ve read. I felt quietly confident – I can hold my own in the reading stakes – but was shocked to discover that I only managed 22% – about 79 of the total. The remainder was a mix of stuff I had never heard of :’Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress‘, stuff I would never normally think of reading: ‘Please Kill Me: An Uncensored Oral History Of Punk‘, and stuff I had always meant to get round to but never quite made it: ‘The Count of Monte Cristo‘. So, I decided to give it a go.
It seems to me a good way of trying new stuff, expanding my reading horizons, and indulging my competitive streak. Blogging about it also seems like a nice way of keeping a diary of what I’ve been reading when, and how I felt about the books I’ve read along the way.
To get through 339 books in a year you would have to read just under one a day. And as the list includes The Decline And Fall Of the Roman Empire , Nicholas Nickelby and the Complete Novels of Dawn Powell – which counts as one book by the way – unless you go into some sort of zen retreat, that would be impossible.
I’ve been ‘playing’ since about January and read around 15 books. Rory hasn’t given me a bum steer once. I’ve been bullfighting in Spain with Hemingway (not as good as A Movable Feast but Hemingway on a bad day is still above and beyond most other books on any day), high as a kite and there for the comedown with Iggy Pop ( I have found a new and hopefully enduring liking for the New York Dolls and think that Lou Reed was a bit of an asshat) and walked into the warm waters of the Gulf Coast with Edna Pointellier (very beautiful, very austere, and with wonderful observations but still left me strangely unmoved) and the first official blog review: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
The Amazing Adventures Of Kavalier and Clay falls into the category of books I have always meant to get around to. I feel extremely guilty I’ve put it off for so long, because it’s immediately shot to the top of favourite books of the year list. I finished it this morning and I have a real life book hangover: that flat, bereft feeling you get when you surface from a book you want to stay immersed in forever.
Winner of the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, ‘The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay’ is a heart-wrenching story of escape, love and comic-book heroes set in Prague, New York and the Arctic. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg. The book is about love, loss, escape, fatherhood, and friendship. It’s about the jewish refugee experience, and the love of New York, and magic. I still haven’t covered it all.
It’s romantic, and achingly sad. The thing I loved about it most of all were the people in it. The characters make me think I want to meet Michael Chabon, because a man who can imagine such generous, warm and loving humans has got to be a pretty good guy.
I’m going to stop gushing about it now. But read it. If I can convince you to read anything as a result of this blog, this should be it. Let me me know what you think- have I got it completely wrong? What do you think about reading challenges and how did you get on with Rory Gilmore’s? Have you read any more than me and what should I pick up next? I’m about to start The Handmaid’s Tale (not on the reading challenge but I’ve wanted to give it a go for ages) and A Passage to India. All other suggestions gratefully received!