Friday, September 21, 2007

Reading as a Form of Neurosis

The Neurotic Reader is uncommonly fond of lists. Some form of at least mental list-making is necessary for basic reading comprehension. There are readers who are not entirely sure of the century in which the book in his lap was published, or when the story is set. But my chronological spreadsheet of novels, poems and plays of the 19th and 20th century is surely an obsessive-compulsive step too far.*

Here we have a fellow Neurotic who has put the contents of "1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die" into a spreadsheet, then generously placed it on the internet as a public service. It has a handy column where you can check the books you have read, and the percentage is calculated for you [mean comment about not bring able to calculate the percentage of 1000 redacted].

Ma femme and I received the first book in this franchise ("1001 Places You Must Go Before Being Cremated") as a wedding present. Besides finding the concept bizarrely, and unnecessarily, morbid**, too many of the PYMG were luxury hotels. My deathbed regrets, I can guarantee, will not involve never having stayed at Sun City.

The "or what?" reflex is even stronger with the book on books. If I die without having read Euphues or White Teeth what will happen? Stupid book.*** But of course I looked at the whole thing, compared it to my own lists, pondered books I'd missed, looked up a couple I hadn't heard of. Lists are great fun.

If this whole train of thought seems too morbid, it is probably because I am still imagining being guillotined.

*My lists for earlier centuries are on paper.

** On the other hand, a book called "1001 Places You Should Go To Die" would be a great idea. Scenic mountaintops, sacred groves, elephant graveyards, that sort of thing. But you can't die in 'em all!

*** There's also "1001 Paintings You Must See Before Joining in the Choir Invisible", which includes reproductions of the paintings, so if you just sort of flip through the book with your thumb you can die happy.


  1. But death surely, being the one event we can all say for certain we will face, demands more than just a passing moment of preparation.

    Therefore, how can talking about death be a bad thing. Bring it on, I'll be ready to go.

    Thanks for the link BTW...

  2. On the one hand, you're right -- the franchise itself is kind of squicky...but on the other hand, seriously: you really should spend a weekend at the Broadmoor.