|Last year's Christmas Hyacinth. Behind the flower is Big C on stage.|
I'm pretty quiet at the moment because I'm working on finishing two of my challenges: Shakespeare and Woolf. I didn't intend on finishing them by the end of 2011, however I have two new challenges I'd like to replace them with and I'm eager to start. Firstly, over 2012, I'd like to read the complete poems of Ted Hughes to replace Shakespeare, and the major works of Charles Dickens to replace Woolf. It will work out well, because January is Charles Dickens month at Fig and Thistle, and Allie is hosting a Shakespeare month on her blog, A Literal Odyssey. I hope by January I will have been able to read the complete works and be in a position to pick out my favourite plays and poems, revisit them, and write a little more in depth. I have some on-going challenges as well, namely The Penguin Greats, The Bible, and 100 Greatest Books, however it will be a cleaner slate to start with if I finish Shakespeare and Woolf. I am, basically, on track to finish.
I was told, a few days ago, that my way of reading was unusual. My friend said, "Most people just have one book on the go, you have twelve". I said to her I wasn't alone, which I'm not, but it made me think a little about the way I read. I suppose what is unusual (not, perhaps, to you, but to the general population) is that I don't necessarily read for pleasure. I would like to, and with every book I hope to, but I read for knowledge as well. I read what I want to read, and I read what I'm supposed to read, too. Today, Cassandra wrote that she felt everyone who took literature seriously should aim to read Shakespeare's complete works, and I'm inclined to agree, hence, back in October, I decided to undertake the challenge. Shakespeare is too big a part of our world, literary or not, to not take seriously. But the truth? I don't like so much of Shakespeare, and what is more, I struggle. I usually start with a synopsis from my Oxford Companion to English Literature to help me get into it, and so much of it I do not like. I had admiting that, as well. I hate saying I need that kind of help with Shakespeare. Hell, I've read Finnegans Wake, I had no problem with Dante, Goethe, Clarissa, Chaucer (though I've not read his complete works) or any other of the more intimidating authors and titles. For some reason I cannot explain, I didn't need any kind of translation of Chaucer when I read Wife of Bath, so I think I ought to understand Shakespeare just as well. But I don't, I don't at all. By January, however, I hope to have finished, and, as I say, pick out some favourites. I'm thinking I'll write a general Shakespeare post, then four or five plays and a poem to write on. There are some I like very much: Timon of Athens, King John, Henry V, Hamlet, Midsummer Night's Dream, Measure for Measure, and Antony and Cleopatra to name the ones that immediately spring to mind. Others, I hated. I had no interest in Henry IV, and frankly Comedy of Errors is the worst damn thing I have read. Tonight, I'm aiming to read Henry VI (hopefully all three parts), and Richard III tomorrow, along with some poems. Dennis O'Donnell recommended Othello, so I'm looking forward to that.
I'm also reading Moby Dick, and unlike Shakespeare, that's not a chore, so I'm taking my time with it. I don't want to rush it, though that said, I am prepared to rush books (like Shakespeare) to break into them, if I know I'm going to revisit them. But Moby Dick, no, this one's for fun, and I absolutely love it. Once I finish my challenges, I'll be able to just focus on that for the rest of the month. I also have Paradiso on the list for this month, but I'm not treating it as a chore either. Although, as I said, Purgatorio was a bit of a drag, I loved Inferno (and still blame the translation for my lack of love for Purgatorio), so I have high hopes for it.
So tonight, plan is either Henry VI, or The Common Reader Second Series. If I go for the latter, I'll read Venus and Adonis or The Rape of Lucrece to keep up with Shakespeare. I'm looking forward to finishing, because I have several blog posts in mind, particularly 'Re-reading Woolf', but I feel I ought to actually finish re-reading Woolf before I start it! Whatever happens, I would like to say tomorrow night that I have completed the historical plays of Shakespeare. That will leave me with eleven Shakespeare plays, so one a day will see my finish by Christmas.
Final word: another challenge, yes - I need to stop signing up for these, but this one works for me: it's the 2012 Ireland Reading Challenge. As I said in my Finnegans Wake post, I want to read Dubliners and Portrait, and I feel I ought to re-read Ulysses. Because I've been meaning to read Angela's Ashes for a long long time, I've signed up for four books.
And now, I'm going to make a hot drink and go to bed. I reckon I'll be reading Woolf tonight, I've rather over-done Shakespeare these past few days, I think I need a change and just to enjoy reading for an evening!