Monday, December 29, 2008

Speeding to the finish line

Surprisingly, this post isn't about the downward slide into the new year. This is about what seemed like the monumental task last night - to finish off Neal Stephenson's Quicksilver before this year ends.

At the beginning of the year, along with a committment to write, I put up the goal to read one book a month. At the time it seemed an impossible goal because I hadn't read more than a handful of books each year since Dylan was born. I realised though the writing and reading go hand in hand, and if I was serious about writing, then I needed to get realistic about reading.

In March the ante was upped from one book to two. With the exception of November, I've kept to it. In reality it means one short book and one long book - approximately 600 pages a month -which is where I don't feel so bad for completing one book in November (Snow Crash) - it was 400+ pages long and I took a fair bite out of Quicksilver as well. Deciding to take up the mantle of the 900+ tome during NaNo was short of madness, but well, whoever said that writers were sensible people.

There have been a few months where, like this month, it' a race to the finish line. The month that I read 100 Years of Solitude I closed the book a few minutes short of midnight on the final day of the month. I decided yesterday when we returned home from the Sunshine Coast and the Christmas festivities that I couldn't take Quicksilver into the New Year (bad omen, poor committment to my own standards, the fear that I will never finish it etc etc etc). With a few quiet days between Christmas and the New Year, I've laid myself on the bed and made it a priority to finish it. I also let my long suffering partner know that I 'have' to finish it before the end of the year.

What I've realised in this cram style session of reading, is I've missed the beauty and pace of most of the book because I've read it piecemeal over the past seven weeks. The plot's been diced up, I've forgotten who was who (with a cast of near hundreds that's easy to do), the build up to the action has been lost and the intrigue blunted.

Quicksilver has challenged me in ways I haven't been challenged in years. It's the thinking person's literature - a massive and impressive web of 17th century history, royal/noble genealogy, natural philosophsy (science), political intrigue and some of the best characters I've met in a very long time. One of the things I love most about Stephenson's epic book (which won the Arthur C Clarke prize in 2004 for Science Fiction) is that fact he uses many of the old spellings of words - such as connexion and phant'sy to name two. His turn of phrase is also brilliant. Hats off to Mr Stephenson also for reinventing the genre of 'science fiction' - because this is exactly what his work with the Baroque Cycle is fiction about science - with a generous side serving of piracy, royal debauchery, sex, twists, turns and recreation of some of the greatest names in history from that time.

With two more days to go I think I'll make it across the line, possibly mentally fatigued, probably left hanging on a plot ledge wanting to immediately go out and buy book two but already committed to a break with a Nick Earles' novel.

I'll be back before the 31st with a few lists - as it's been a year of lists and potentially a list of a few writing resolutions which will take full flight on the Chinese New Year (which I really should go and check the date of). Until then ... keep on reading :)

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