I’ve started assigning myself homework.

It used to be a simple reading challenge, like read X number of books. Now I find I need more.

In college I bemoaned all the reading I was assigned each semester. I looked longingly at all the pleasure reading being squeezed out until summer, when I could then make a large “TBR” pile of “fun” reads.

Now, years after I’ve graduated, I miss homework/reading assignments! Weird. I know.  I can’t say I miss writing the essays….especially given how often I procrastinated writing them until I was up all night the night before sweating it out. But the reading and the discussions about themes and characters…the introduction to writers with whom I was unfamiliar…I’ve started longing for that again….

So here is my don’t-really-want-to-join-a-book-club-but-want-to-be-part-of-literary-discussion solutions:

  1. I’m taking an open YALE course. This is FREE. Anyone can do it. And the perks: a) you can go around saying, “Oh, I’m currently taking a course at Yale,” and watch people spit out their dentures into their soup bowl at boring posh dinner parties or shut down assholes who like to compete on everything…b) You don’t have to drive to a coffee shop or someone’s living room and sit with a bunch of strangers grappling with their feelings and exposing their childhood traumas…and c) the best part is the lectures are on YouTube….so you can pause them at any time, as soon as the professor starts to give you a splitting headache you can shut her up for an hour or a day or whatever…..and you can set your own pace in reading the text.  The course I’ve selected is:

    The American Novel Since 1945 with Amy Hungerford

    Even though my degree is in English, surprisingly I have not read a good portion of these books before, which really made me feel sad. So.

  2. I’ve challenged myself to read (in no specific order or time frame) ALL of the works on the Barthelme 81 list. You have to love post modernism to enjoy this assignment and since I do, I will attempt it….slowly…maybe even over the course of my life. I thought it might be motivating to keep a blog on the effort.

If you’re curious, here’s the Barthelme list (with a strikethrough on the ones I’ve read):

  • Flann O’Brien, At Swim Two-Birds
  • Flann O’Brien, The Third Policeman
  • Isaac Babel, Collected Short Stories
  • Borges, Labyrinths
  • Borges, Other Inquisitions
  • Garcia Marquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude
  • Thomas Bernhard, Correction
  • Rudy Wurlitzer, Nog
  • Isaac B Singer, Gimpel the Fool
  • Bernard Malamud, The Assistant
  • Bernard Malamud, The Magic Barrel
  • Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man
  • Malcolm Lowry, Under the Volcano,
  • Samuel Beckett entire
  • Knut Hamsun, Hunger
  • Max Frisch, I’m Not Stiller
  • Max Frisch, Man in the Holocene
  • Dinesen, Seven Gothic Tales
  • Tommaso Landolfi, Gogol’s Wife
  • Thomas Pynchon, V
  • John Hawkes, The Lime Twig
  • John Hawkes, Blood Oranges
  • Paley, Little Disturbances
  • Paley, Enormous Changes at the Last Minute
  • Susan Sontag, I, Etc.
  • Tillie Olsen, Tell Me a Riddle
  • Campbell, Hero with a Thousand Faces
  • Bellow, Henderson the Rain King
  • John Updike, The Coup
  • John Updike, Rabbit, Run
  • The Paris Review interviews
  • Rust Hills (ed.), How We Live
  • Joe David Bellamy (ed.), Superfiction
  • Puschart Prize Anthologies
  • Sternburg (ed.), The Writer on Her Work
  • André Breton, Manifestos of Surrealism
  • Motherwell (ed.), Documents of Modern Art
  • Susan Sontag, Against Interpretation
  • Hugh Kenner, A Homemade World
  • Flaubert, Letters
  • Mamet, Sexual Perversity in Chicago
  • Joy Williams, The Changeling
  • Joe David Bellamy (ed.), The New Fiction
  • Tim O’Brien, Going After Cacciato
  • Amos Tutola, The Palm-Wine Drunkard
  • Ann Tyler, Searching for Caleb
  • Kenneth Koch, Thank You
  • Frank O’Hara, Collected Poems
  • John Ashbery, Rivers and Mountains
  • Wesley Brown, Tragic Magic
  • Roland Barthes, Mythologies
  • Barthes, The Pleasure of the Text
  • Robbe-Grillet, For a New Novel
  • Ann Beattie, Falling in Place
  • William Gass, In the Heart of the Heart of the Country
  • Gass, Fiction and the Figures of Life
  • Gass, The World Within the Word
  • Mailer, Advertisements for Myself
  • Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange
  • Celine, Journey to the End of the Night
  • Kobo Abe, The Box Man
  • Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities
  • Peter Handke, A Sorrow Beyond Dreams
  • Peter Handke, Kaspar and Other Plays
  • André Breton, Nadja
  • John Barth, Chimera
  • Walker Percy, The Moviegoer,
  • Jayne Anne Phillips, Black Tickets
  • Peter Taylor, Collected Stories
  • Colette, The Pure and the Impure
  • Carver, Will You Please be Quiet, Please
  • John Cheever, Collected Stories
  • Leonard Michaels, I Would Have Saved Them if I Could
  • Eudora Welty, Collected Stories
  • Max Apple, The Oranging of America
  • Flannery O’Connor, Collected Stories
  • Ishmael Reed, Mumbo Jumbo
  • Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon
  • Carlos Fuentes, The Death of Artemio Cruz
  • Milan Kundera, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting
  • Wayne C Booth, The Rhetoric of Fiction

I’m nuts, right? Yeah. I know. Any other thoughts, feel free to comment below.