Monday, 10 September 2012

Books: 30 books for 30 years - introduction

In less than a fortnight, I hit a milestone in my life: I turn 30. Though I’m not usually one to be emotionally swayed by the arbitrary nature of our base-ten counting system, 30 seems like a pretty big deal (even the ancient Babylonians, with their base-six counting system, would have found significance in the number 30 (though perhaps not as much as 36)).

What does it mean to be 30 in 2012? For me, I can no longer be considered youthful. Though my boyish good looks and wistful charm have served me well over the past decade or so, I fear that my aged frame and inelastic flesh will only sag further and further downwards, thus destroying my boyish good looks, and with it, my hitherto unquestionable charm. I feel too old to be listening to Radio 1, with its unlistenable music and its equally unlistenable presenters. I also feel too young for Radio 2: every time I hear Ken Bruce’s sub-Wogan patter, I want to kick something (usually my radio, or Ken Bruce, or Jeremy Vine, or Steve Wright). I don’t get popular culture any more, but Radio 2 just seems like an unwanted step closer to a pipe and slippers (though I am wearing a very comfortable pair a slippers as I write this). In terms of fashion, I feel as though I’m in a strange kind of clothing purgatory: I’m too old to be wearing my Cactus Jack t-shirt and be taken seriously as anything resembling a mature adult. But then if I don a casual shirt or attempt to wear a tossed sweater, it makes me feel dirty - and not in a good way.

So what is the point of all this? What is the purpose of this self-indulgent naval gazing? Anyone over the age 40 is probably laughing at me right now, enjoying Ken Bruce's sub-Wogan patter and sporting a tossed sweater with gay abandon. It’s okay for you: life begins at 40. I’ve got another ten years to wait before my life begins, so I’m stuck in the temporal equivalent of Stoke-on-Trent. This is why, through a tenuous thought process, I have decided to turn my 30th birthday into one of those journey things that people do on the telly. One of those journeys where they learn something about themselves; and a meaningful indie-pop ballad is playing as everyone smiles and feels a warm fuzzy glow of smugness.

I have set myself a challenge, my own meaningful journey. One that is a mixture of discovery and nostalgia: distalgia, if you will. My journey is a literary one: I am going to read a book for every year of my life. By this, I mean that I will begin by reading a book that was published in 1982; once said book has been read, I will review said book on this website. I will then read a book that was published in 1983, and repeat the process every year until I reach 2012 (this year, the 30th anniversary of my birth). My literary journey, as noted above, will be distalgic: some books I will have read, and some not. I will reread some books from my childhood and teenage years, and no doubt destroy the fond memories I had for those stories.

I have not made a list, and nor will I. I will read only fiction, and will force myself to finish a book even it’s terrible. I will then use the review of that book as an opportunity to publicly humiliate and berate the person that recommended the book in question.

And so it goes.

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