Thursday, December 10, 2009

Done with The Man Who Invented Christmas

Okay, I finally finished last night. This book took WAY longer to read than I'd expected. It was interesting enough, but kind of felt like a stretch, overall. I think the material would have done better as a long introduction to A Christmas Carol plus maybe a few nice long New Yorker or Atlantic essays - the history of Christmas in England; Dickens and the evolution of publishing; how Dickens's childhood informed his writing, etc. It felt like the author didn't really have enough material for the book he wanted to write, so he threw it all together and put references to A Christmas Carol on the front because he knew that would make it sell.

But it certainly wasn't bad, and if you're interested in this stuff, go ahead and read it. One thing I learned: several of the "Christmas books" don't actually mention Christmas. Hmph!

On to A Christmas Carol itself today!!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Behind. Already.

Of course I'm behind! Sigh. December is, you know, really busy. That should have occurred to me when I was making the schedule. Oh well. I'm still reading The Man Who Invented Christmas - I'm up to page 89, and we've finally gotten through the writing and production of A Christmas Carol! So that's something. I'm still unimpressed with the quality of the writing - I just found a COMMA SPLICE, for goodness' sake - but the story is interesting so I shall persevere.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Man Who Invented Christmas... Eventually...

I read a few more chapters last night, and it's interesting but still hasn't gotten to anything about Christmas in general or A Christmas Carol in particular. Any time now!

These chapters did talk a fair amount about the evolution of publishing and bookselling, so that was interesting. There was a throwaway paragraph about WH Smith, which was apparently the first bookstore chain. I wonder if there's a book about that? That would be fun.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Man Who Invented Christmas, Update 1

I read the introduction and first chapter of The Man Who Invented Christmas last night. It was mostly background on Dickens' early life and his career up through Oliver Twist or so. Some of the information I already knew, but some was new and interesting. The book seems like it will be a pretty quick read over all, but I'm not thrilled with the quality of the writing so far.

Okay, time to go read some more. Busy day . . .

Sunday, November 29, 2009

December Dickens Schedule

Here's what it will look like to stick to around 50 pages a day but not break up the stories and novellas unless necessary:

November 29 - December 3: The Man Who Invented Christmas
December 4: A Christmas Carol in Prose
December 5-6: The Chimes
December 7: The Cricket on the Hearth
December 8: The Battle of Life
December 9-10: The Haunted Man
December 11: A Christmas Tree and What Christmas Is, as We Grow Older
December 12: The Poor Relation's Story, The Child's Story, The Schoolboy's Story, Nobody's Story
December 13: The Seven Poor Travellers
December 14: The Holly-Tree: Three Branches and The Wreck of the Golden Mary
December 15: The Perils of Certain English Prisoners
December 16: A House to Let and The Haunted House
December 17: A Message from the Sea
December 18: Tom Tiddler's Ground*
December 19: Somebody's Luggage
December 20: Mrs. Lirriper's Lodgings and Mrs. Lirriper's Legacy
December 21: Dr. Marigold's Prescription*
December 22: Two Ghost Stories
December 23: Mugby Junction
December 24: No Thoroughfare*

I'll probably try to get a bit ahead of schedule at the beginning of the month, as I know that things will get busier as we get closer to Christmas, and there are some days when reading time will be quite scarce.

* These three are only excerpted in this volume, so I will likely read online versions of the complete texts. Tom Tiddler's Ground and No Thoroughfare were written jointly by Dickens and other writers, but it would bother me to just read the Dickens parts.

Starting early, sort of.

Well, I'm still technically starting in January. But since I'm starting with Dickens, I've decided to incorporate another of my holiday traditions: trying to read all of Dickens' Christmas stuff during Advent. My parents have a set of Dickens that includes a big 800+ page volume of Christmas stories, and every year since I was, oh, twelve, I've decided that I'm going to read the whole thing before Christmas. I've never succeeded. I always get through A Christmas Carol and sometimes The Chimes and occasionally partway into The Cricket on the Hearth, but I don't think I've ever made it farther than that. So! This is the year! But to make it even harder on myself more interesting, I will first read The Man Who Invented Christmas: How Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits by Les Standiford. Look for a schedule in the next post!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


I'd just like to thank Rachel for leaving the very first comment on this blog. Awww! I'm so excited!

To borrow or to buy?

I'm trying really, really hard not to take this project as an excuse to just buy all these wonderful books I'm going to be reading. This is especially hard with authors like Dickens, because I pretty much know I'll enjoy the books. But really, I can't afford that. So I'm going to make every effort to get the books from the library, and only buy them later once I'm sure I want to reread them. Of course, there are some that I already had, and also some that I may end up buying because I can't get them from the library or something. But I'll try!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Setting a Schedule

I did a lot of thinking about what kind of schedule to set for this project. There's no set end point, since it's an ongoing thing, so there's no "At the end of the year I have to have done xyz." I sort of wish there were, honestly. Instead, I'm going to try to set a rough schedule for each writer when I start with him or her.

It's tempting to say "a book a week" or something, but books vary wildly in length, and I know if I tried to do a book a week I'd never end up reading, say, Tolstoy. And we don't want that. So I'm going to assume about 50 pages a day and assign a number of days to each book that way. This should be tough but not unattainable.

And what happens if I fall behind schedule? Well - nothing. This is supposed to be fun, remember?

The Rules

1. I will select one writer at a time and read through all of his or her major works. How am I defining "major"? I don't know. However I want, I guess. I will also read at least one piece of criticism (an essay or article, most likely), as long as I can find one reasonably easily.

2. If I get particularly into a particular author, I may or may not read minor works, journals/letters, more criticism, biographies, etc. Same with film adaptations.

3. If I've already read something by an author, I will probably reread it, but I'm not making any promises.

4. I will read at least a few pages and blog at least a line or two about my progress at least six days a week. I will write a substantive post at least once a week.

5. I reserve the right to break any of these rules as needed, because this is supposed to be fun, darn it.

The Basics

Who: Me. Kate. Age 27. Former literature major. Current taxonomist and search specialist. Writer. Knitter.

What: I'm going to read all those things I feel like I should have read, an author at a time. I'll read all of the author's major works and at least one piece of criticism. And, of course, I'll blog my progress here.

When: Starting January 1, 2010.

Where: Right here. Also on Twitter.

Why: Oh, lots of reasons. I like projects. I miss homework. I apparently need to make myself as busy as possible. But seriously, it's because I feel like when I tell people that I have a degree in literature, they expect me to have read all sorts of stuff that, for some reason, I did not in fact need to read to get said degree. And I want to read all these things, these classics, these big-name books. Really I do. But I need something to keep me going. So that's where you come in! I'm hoping that by blogging about these books as I read, I'll keep motivated.

Potential Future Selections

Jane Austen
Charlotte Bronte
Emily Bronte
Anton Chekhov
Charles Dickens
William Faulkner
F. Scott Fitzgerald
Thomas Hardy
Nathaniel Hawthorne
John Irving
Herman Melville
Toni Morrison
Edgar Allen Poe
Philip Roth
William Shakespeare
John Steinbeck
Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Leo Tolstoy
Anthony Trollope
John Updike
Edith Wharton