Book 100 of 100 + 30 Things Update (not good news)

The Stand – Stephen King

Book 100!

I was delighted to track this book down in a book exchange in Trivandrum.  It almost made it worth going to India.  The final book on my top 100 and I finished on a medium.  The book was ok, although I did notice that Mr King has a bit of a urine obsession going on.  His favourite adjective is variations on pissy, pissing, pissant  and honestly, there are at least a dozen references in the book to people wetting themselves.  I don’t know if this was meant to be a recurring theme in this book, or whether it appears in his other works.

So that’s one more item ticked off the list, and with less than six months to go until the big 3-0, a good time to fess-up that I’m not going to get this all done.  Currently, the list looks like this.

1. Go to Glastonbury – COMPLETED Summer 2009, 2010 and 2011

2. Go to Edinburgh Festival – COMPLETED Summer 2010

3. Go kayaking – COMPLETED Summer 2010, plus we’ve done loads of kayaking on this holiday

4. Read the top 100 books – COMPLETED January 2012 finishing on Stephen King’s “The Stand”

5. Watch the top 100 films – INCOMPLETE 98 down 2 to go (Apocalypse Now and The Seven Samurai).  We are hiring a campervan in NZ which comes with a dvd player, so I could have finished this then, but since I will have other things outstanding as at June 2012, then I’m not so fussed and they can wait until I’m back home.

6. Go surfing – COMPLETED February 2009 in Gran Canaria

7. Learn to ride the unicycle – INCOMPLETE – I have tried and it is bloody hard.  Need to put the hours of falling off again and again in before you can expect results.

8. Go horse-riding – COMPLETED Summer 2009

9. Qualify as a solicitor – COMPLETED 2008

10. Go scuba-diving – COMPLETED Summer 2011

11. Go veggie for 1 month – COMPLETED 2008

12. Paint a picture – COMPLETED in Chiang Mai in 2011

13. Climb a Munro – COMPLETED Summer 2011

14. Get something published – COMPLETED Summer 2008

15. Take a circus skills class – COMPLETED 2010

16. Go to a big arena concert – COMPLETED 2008

17. Do a marathon – COMPLETED 2011

18. Learn to play a musical instrument – INCOMPLETE I don’t think 5 piano lessons can possibly count, will continue these on return to UK.

19. Go paintballing – INCOMPLETE I could get this one done in NZ I expect.

20. Go to a Shakespeare play at the Globe – COMPLETED 2009

21. Go paragliding – COMPLETED Summer 2010

22. Learn to dance – COMPLETED Summer 2009

23. Go zorbing – COMPLETED Summer 2008

24. Go to Notting Hill Carnival – COMPLETED Summer 2008

25. Go skiing – COMPLETED on an indoor ski slope in 2008 and in the real thing in Lapland in 2011

26. Go in a hot air balloon – COMPLETED Summer 2010

27. Learn to do the splits – INCOMPLETE – I’ve been really naughty and not done any stretching.  I will start from today!  It’s blogged now so it’s official.

28. Go rock climbing – COMPLETED 2008 and done loads since then

29. Go abseiling – COMPLETED 2008

30. Learn to rollerblade – INCOMPLETE – I can rollerblade, but I wanted to get good before I ticked this off. Still not good.

So I have six things outstanding currently and at least some of those (unicycling, instrument) I cannot do on my travels. It’s going to be a big, fat FAIL come 13 June 2012. But I still want to do those things, so I’m going to try to get them done before my 31st birthday. Now, I’m not changing the deadline and pretending that’s it still counts – I still consider this a FAIL, but I still want to finish my current list before I start drawing up a 40 things to do list.

Book 98 of 100

A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth

I’ve been scouring every English language book shop from Tokyo to Saigon for the two books that I still need to finish my top 100.  I struck gold in Phnom Penh.


As you can see, this book is so fat that it actually makes me look thin in this photo.  It took me the rest of Cambodia and most of Laos to finish it.  For a book approaching 1,500 pages, it did hold my interest (the similarly long War and Peace took me about four months to finish and that was an effort) and the huge cast of characters was well-drawn and I could remember who everyone was without constantly needing to flip back to earlier chapters (a major difficulty with W&P).

I like the fact that the author does not feel the need to explain every time he uses a word or a reference that will not be familiar to an Indian reader.  I hate it when there is too much explanation – give your readers some credit in thinking they’ll figure most things out.  Because of the 1,500 pages and the last cast of characters, reading this did feel a bit like watching Eastenders instead of reading a novel – there’s no strong narrative that’s heading towards a conclusion, it’s just a bunch of stuff that keeps happening to people with no overall direction.  The author does try to bookend the whole thing with two weddings, but that feels a bit flimsy.

Overall though, I enjoyed this and it made me excited about visiting India next month.

Books 96 & 97 of 100

I was in such a rush before leaving for my trip that I neglected to blog about my 100 books list.  I managed to finish before I went:

The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough – an epic domestic melodrama.   

and then in Japan I read:

Katherine by Anya Seton – another historical novel that wears its research very heavily.  I’d rather be confused than have every little detail of 12th century lifestyle explained to me.   

Of the remaining three, I have Gone with the Wind on the Kindle, and I am scouring English language bookshops in every city I get to for The Stand or A Suitable Boy.

Films 95, 96 and 97 of 100

Rushing through these now before I go away on Monday.

The Wild Bunch – Grim Western.  A good drinking game would be take a drink every time you see a topless Mexican woman.

Saving Private Ryan – War is hell, but let’s start and finish on a shot of the stars and stripes because it’s also just so gosh-darned noble.

The Exorcist – At the beginning, it’s like you’re watching Indiana Jones.  Don’t let this lull you into a false sense of security.  It could be ridiculously camp and silly, but they play it dead straight and it is properly frightening.

Book 95 of 100

The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists – Robert Tressell

I did a mini-review of this after a few chapters because the author’s use of phonetic spelling for working class accents annoyed me.  I thought it was hypocritical of the author to be contemptuous of the working classes.  Having now finished it, it still annoys me, but I no longer think it’s hypocritical.  The author is openly hostile to the working classes, accusing them of being complicit in their own poverty and the future poverty of their children.

This author is angry, with very good reason, and he’s angry at everyone; the working classes, the rich who are exploiting the working classes and the rich who are trying to help.  There’s a character who is the only honest man among all the crooks on the local council.  He tries to hold his colleagues to account for their corruption, and is rewarded with the moniker “Dr Weakling” by the author.  The author has similar contempt for the middle classes honestly trying to be charitable to the poor.

The only character of whom the author approves is the protagonist, because he’s a Socialist.  Now, I’m a big old Lefty so I’ve got no political axe to grind with this, but the book is very heavy on what was wrong with the current system, and very light on exactly how Socialism would improve things.  The character who is a Socialist doesn’t even actively do anything different to his non-Socialist colleagues, apart from believe in Socialism and try to convert others.  He does not hold out for higher wages or try to organise any collective action.  He behaves exactly as they do, but is portrayed as a hero among villains simply because he espouses the correct ideology.

There’s still an awful lot that annoys me in this book, but every word is saturated in the author’s righteous anger, which makes it undeniably powerful.  It’s a polemic, thinly disguised as a novel.  As a novel, it’s rubbish.  As a political argument, it’s incomplete.  But as rhetoric intended to inspire change, by making people so angry that they want to get some shit sorted out, then it succeeded – it’s credited with helping to win the 1945 election for labour.