Wednesday, December 31, 2008

I'd rather you didn't call me Ishmael, actually.

We shall begin with a little explanation, I think.

I've decided, as only a truly insane English major could, to read the hundred greatest novels yet written in English and write about them for my pleasure and that of the internet masses. (The level of complexity of the previous sentence will not be maintained throughout this experiment, although my predilection for pedantry in diction may, at times, express itself in a maddening fashion. See? Just like that.) Of course, in order to do this, I had to choose a list of books. I couldn't very well make the list up myself, since I haven't read the hundred greatest novels of all time, which is, after all, the problem. So, I found a few and assessed them, and in the end, I chose one that was composed neither by a publisher nor by a poll, but rather by a group of students, albeit students of publishing. The Radcliffe Publishing Course, from whom I got my list, is a 50-year-old class, established at Radcliffe College in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and later moved to the Columbia Journalism School in New York, that teaches students of publishing. The point being, my books come from an educated group, but not an entirely academic one. Also, this list has Winnie-the-Pooh and Ulysses, and who's going to turn that down? Really, as far as selection goes, it was a broader and more realistic one than the academic lists, and didn't include novels that I know are absolute trash, as did some of the reader-poll created lists.

So, all that said, I'll be posting about the reading that I do every day, and working my way solidly through the list, starting with number 100 and finishing with number 1. There are quite a few that I've read already, but I'll re-read them as I get to them. I vow not to avoid or put off the ones I don't want to read (most notably the aforementioned Ulysses and The Naked Lunch), but neither will I censor my invective about those that I dislike. That said, I'm happy to have you, dear readers, argue with me about the error of my ways. Tell me why I'm wrong - maybe you'll even convince me. (I wouldn't count on it, due to the fact that my grudge-holding and stubbornness know virtually no bounds, but go ahead and try. We'll all have fun. Although, if you get nasty and personal, there'll be no more posts for you.)

Oh, finally, an explanation of the name - Deus ex Libris is my attempt to be clever and combine deus ex machina and ex libris. Deus ex machina being the old phrase for "God from the machine," meaning the gods that would swoop in at the end of Greek plays and save the hero or heroine, or otherwise resolve the story, often in a chariot or other mode of transport. Now, it means the way an author will sometimes save characters or a situation with a contrived and usually ridiculous stroke of luck. (Think J. R. R. Tolkien. Yes, that's right. I insulted him. Get used to it.) Ex libris means "from books," but is commonly printed on bookplates (those labels you stick inside the cover) and is interpreted, also, as "from the library of." So, together, it means something along the lines of "God from the library." Books are as close to God as I've ever gotten, and have saved my life, though they shouldn't have, in every way that's important. I love them more than anything in the world (except, perhaps, my husband, and they're neck-and-neck).

So, there you have it. I'll also be writing about whatever's going on in my life as I read these books, because, really, if books don't relate to your life, then what's the point in reading them? The connection of life and literature is the whole point of their mutual existence, in my opinion, so I won't be separating the two. I sincerely hope that by the end of this project I'll have learned something from these supposedly great examples of one that I can apply consistently to the other.

I'll be starting in earnest tomorrow with Midnight's Children, by Salman Rushdie. So I better go get my hands on a copy.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Bated Breath

The project will commence on the first of January of the coming year.


A Clockwork Orange (5) A Good Man Is Hard to Find (4) A Passage to India (6) A Room with a View (3) A Separate Peace (2) Absalom Absalom (6) Achebe (5) Adams (3) All the King's Men (8) An American Tragedy (17) Atlas Shrugged (16) Babbitt (8) back from hiatus (1) baking (11) Baldwin (4) Baum (3) Bonfire of the Vanities (6) borderline (12) Brideshead Revisited (9) Burgess (5) Burroughs (1) canon (1) Capote (6) Cat's Cradle (3) Cather (19) cheesecake (4) Chopin (4) Conrad (5) cooking (25) Death Comes for the Archbishop (6) DeLillo (6) Dreiser (17) du Maurier (2) Edith Wharton (1) emergency (2) Ethan Frome (1) excuses (141) Faulkner (9) Felicia DeSmith (3) Finnegan's Wake (1) Fitzgerald (24) For Whom the Bell Tolls (3) Forster (19) Fowles (7) Franny and Zooey (2) Go Tell It on the Mountain (4) Grahame (2) Guest post (3) Hammett (2) Hemingway (5) hiatus (4) holiday (5) horrible (4) Howards End (6) In Cold Blood (6) In Our Time (1) Irving (6) James (25) Jazz (1) Joyce (1) Keneally (7) Kerouac (5) Kim (7) Kipling (7) Knowles (2) Lady Chatterly's Lover (6) Lawrence (26) Lewis (13) Light in August (3) London (3) Look Homeward Angel (9) Lord Jim (5) Mailer (7) Main Street (5) Midnight's Children (9) Miller (6) Morrison (1) Mrs. Dalloway (3) My Antonia (6) not a novel (4) O Pioneers (7) O'Connor (4) On the Road (5) Orlando (4) other books (7) page updates (1) Rabbit Run (4) Rand (24) Rebecca (2) recap (1) Rhys (6) Rushdie (18) Salinger (2) Schindler's List (7) Sinclair (6) Sons And Lovers (12) Sophie's Choice (10) Star Trek (1) Stein (5) Styron (10) Tender is the Night (10) The Age of Innocence (4) The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (5) The Awakening (4) The Beautiful and the Damned (8) The Bostonians (9) The Call of the Wild (3) The Fellowship of the Ring (5) The Fountainhead (8) The French Lieutenant's Woman (7) The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2) The Jungle (6) The Lord of the Rings (16) The Maltese Falcon (2) The Naked and the Dead (7) The Naked Lunch (1) The Old Man and the Sea (1) The Portrait of a Lady (10) The Return of the King (6) The Satanic Verses (9) The Two Towers (5) The War of the Worlds (4) The Wind in the Willows (2) The Wings of the Dove (6) The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (3) The World According to Garp (6) Things Fall Apart (6) This Side of Paradise (6) Thomas Wolfe (9) To the Lighthouse (3) Tolkien (16) Tom Wolfe (6) Triv (2) Tropic of Cancer (6) unworthy (33) Updike (4) vacation (2) Vonnegut (3) Warren (8) Waugh (9) Wells (4) Wharton (4) Where Angels Fear to Tread (4) White Noise (6) Wide Sargasso Sea (6) Women In Love (8) Woolf (10) worthy (25)