A Pyrrhic Victory
I done it.
September 1st seems so far away. In just a scant 296 days, I managed to complete 100 books, varying in page length from 202 to well over 1300. This means on average, I completed 1 book every three days. To even complete the Cannonball Read meant you’d have to average at least 2 books a week. There were some weekends where I banged out four books over the course of two days. Others seemed to take me forever. I think I finished ten books while in the course of reading Book 5 of the Wheel of Time.
When I took up the mantle of my friend Marci’s challenge, to see if I too could read 100 books in the course of a year, I just did it to see if I could. Pink and I decided to pull a Kenny vs. Spenny on it, which quickly spiraled out of control, and by the time December rolled around, we had almost 60 participants, with people STILL trying to leap on the bandwagon as it rolled. I read faster than Manda, but she kicked my ass in the reviews. I must admit, I hate writing reviews. Unlike my movie tastes, I’m pretty forgiving when it comes to a book. It takes a lot for me to hate a book outright. But thanks to the awful recommendations of some of you, I finally found books I could loathe. Amazingly, I only threw aside two books in the course of reading this: Donna Tartt’s odious The Little Friend, and Dostoefvsky’s Demons, which I will complete on my own time.
I finally knocked down a bunch of the books that were sitting on my shelf of “To Be Read” for damn near a decade now, like East of Eden and Infinite Jest. I still have to get to Don Quixote, Pnin and Pale Fire, and The Old Curiosity Shop — which finally surpassed Crime and Punishment as the book I’ve started more times and put aside. I was introduced to a slough of new authors, who now fill the ever gaping capacity of my new Kindle. Seriously, the motherfucker has 156 books on it, only four of which aren’t mine, and that only includes the first four of the thirty-some-odd Discworld books I have yet to read. I’ve only managed The Colour of Magic, much to the disgust and chagrin of my friends and well-wishers.
What I hoped would happen with the Cannonball Read happened: that people would share books and authors they loved with each other. It was something I loved about working in a bookstore — giving people a new book to love. There was nothing better than discovering a new author and telling people about it. I handsold like a bastard, because I’m passionate about books I love. And now I have a ton of new scribes to shill. I’m looking at you, Swiercynzski and Huston.
It was a tough year. I knew obstacles would arise. That was part of the challenge. If I didn’t have to go to work, be social, pay attention to my girlfriend, or go to stupid Bacons, then I would easily knock out two-hundred. But life gets in the way. When I went into the hospital with heart problems — stress and poor diet skyrocketed my blood pressure to around 212/113 — I got jammed up. I was too scared about dying to bother with reading. And let me tell you, holed up in a hospital bed with crushing melancholy and suicidal thoughts is no fucking time to be reading Infinite Jest. How that unwieldy tome didn’t end up soaking up my slit wrists is beyond me.
I lost two people I care about to cancer this year, and didn’t manage to raise a single damn dollar for the cause as Pink and I had pontificated. The point wasn’t to turn this into a fundraiser or a contest. It was about challenging ourselves to see if we could pull off a pretty daring feat. It wasn’t the immediate glorious vomit-violence of a wingeating championship, or a fist pumping dance on the steps of the art museum. It was a slow plod, a marathon, and I crossed the line. Now, I’m waiting on the rest of my contenders.
As I approached the upper echelons of the hundred, I could hear my fellow Cannonballers lamenting. Oh, man, I’m never going to reach one hundred. I’m only at thirty or forty. But what they fail to realize is that holy shit, you read thirty books! That’s thirty one more than most people read in a lifetime. Even if they only manage to crack fifty, that’s still one book a week for an entire year. That’s no small feat.
I don’t know if I’ll do this again next year. I’ve been hemming and hawing about it for a while. Writing the blog entries is a bitch. Getting snarled at by fucktard bitchass literary snobs with their library cards so far up their asses they can’t smell their diplomas isn’t really much fun either. I certainly won’t do the recommendation requirement again. It would have been more fun to just pick as I went along the way. I won’t stop reading, but I don’t know if I feel the spirit of this event anymore. It became about Pink, and well, we lost her. And I don’t want this to become some sort of memorial to her. I don’t want this to be another cancer contest. I never did. It was supposed to just be me and my pal Manda taking shots at each other as we made our way to 100.
I told her I’d win.
I’m giving the trophy, the Bea Arthur Justice — a pink machete — to her husband. I’m still trying to figure out what to do for participant prizes and rewards for those who cross the finish line behind me. I’m still trying to sort out 5K vindicators and the like. It’s a lonely task, because originally, Pink and I were brainstorming, but now, I have to do it alone, and it’s not nearly as much fun. I made it, and I’m proud of myself, because it’s really the only task I set for myself this year that I accomplished. But it’s kind of sad, crossing the finish line, looking back, and realizing that’s it. The one you started running with lost it on Heartbreak Hill.
So thank you for following us on our journey. You’ll still get to enjoy the other Cannonballers reviews, as I’m through. Thank you for the recommendations, and the compliments, and the encouragement. Thank you and fuck you to those who gave us shit for our reviews. Yours was the fire that kept me wanting to write worse and worse, bending the laws of grammar over a table and unlubricatingly having my way with them. We started some fires with our reads, we started some jokes with others. It was a wild ride, and for me, it’s come to an end. My blog gets to return to the former nonsensical ramblings and egomaniacal headtrip it once was. I’ll get to rant about hipsters, and what’s pissing me off today, and how much I hate you all while secretly loving you while openly loathing you. It’s finally over. I celebrated with a pizza.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to A Storm of Swords. What? You thought I’d stop reading after 100? Bitch, please.