Manuscripts Burn


"Manuscripts don't burn"
- Mikhail Bulgakov

Hi, I'm horror and science fiction author Steve Kozeniewski (pronounced: "causin' ooze key.") Welcome to my blog! You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon. You can e-mail me here, join my mailing list here, or request an e-autograph here. Free on this site you can listen to me recite one of my own short works, "The Thing Under the Bed."

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Announcement: The 2013 Hundie Challenge

I've never read Faulkner.  Or Hemingway.  Or Joyce, for that matter.  But that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to my literary, er, illiteracy. 

Generally speaking I think I'm moderately well-versed in Russian Lit (check out the etymology of the blog title if you don't believe me) and I've dipped my toe into some classic sci-fi, but I'm not sure if I've read a proper classic since high school.  And even some of those books I just pretended to read.  (Sorry, Mr. Huxley, reading your book was like being on soma, and I only know that that's a drug because I paid attention in class.)

Now, I hate to be an ignoramus in general but I hate to be a book-writing guy (is there a word for that?) who is ignorant of his craft even more.  Sure, I always mean to get around to reading "The Old Man and the Sea" (read: not really) but if there's a new book out about zombie spiders, guess which one is getting read first.  That's right: Hemingway can go get fucked in his clean, well-lighted asshole.

Aaaaaanyway, to correct this considerable character defect, I came up with a resolution last New Year to read a solid hundie of classics from one of those "100 best novels of all time" lists.  But, as often happens with the best laid plans of mice and men, that idea got shot in the head by its non-mentally disabled hobo travelling companion.  (I mean, what was I supposed to do, put down "A Clash of Kings" halfway through?  That shit was GOOOOOOOD and it was only, like, the second book in the series.)

So that never happened last year.  (Thanks a lot, George R.R. Asshole.)  But this year I am resolved to take a crack at it again.  So, here is my plan for 2013:

1.  Pick a list.  After perusing a few possibilities, I decided on the Modern Library Top 100.  Are there problems with this list, up to and including the fact that it's kind of a cheap marketing ploy for novels that only Modern Library publishes and includes precisely zero foreign language works?  Yes.  But will I ever find a perfect list?  No.  Besides, of the other top contenders one was almost entirely French works and the other was compiled in 1908.

2.  Filter out the books on the list that I've already read.  Here's the abysmally short list of books which I've already read.  The reason that I'm removing these is because my intent with this experiment is to expand my literary knowledge, not to re-read the classics I already have under my belt.

3.  Get a library card.  Because fuck capitalism.

4.  Read all 87 books on my revised list in 2013.  I would say "in order" but that's probably not going to happen unless the library begins catering exclusively to my needs at the expense of every other patron.  Besides, the Modern Library's order is more than a little arbitrary to begin with.

5.  Blog about each.  Yes, indeedy, friends, your favorite blog is about to undergo a sea change, at least for the year 2013.  No manuscripts will be burned this coming year (sorry, but it's not like we've been doing it all that regularly since 2010 anyway.)  I was also considering vlogging about every classic on the list, but since I'm pretty confident that won't happen either, I'm not going to make that commitment.  I will try, though.  At least some of reviews will be in a different format than strictly text.

"But Redleg," I can hear you saying, "Surely 87 is a different integer from 100, and, as a prime number, quite a bit lamer.  How can you even sleep at night calling this the 2013 Hundie Challenge when the 'hundie' part is such an obvious, vile lie?"

Hold your rhetorical horses there, strawman commenter.  I'm not finished.  You may have noticed that this post is also a YOU DECIDE!!!™  So, if you'd like to leave a comment on what important classics Modern Library left out I will add them to an auxiliary list that I will try to get to at the end of the year to reach that all-important 100 number.  Why 100?  Well, partially because it's a nice, even number, but mostly because stupid Flav said it couldn't be done.


  1. I keep the Modern Library list on my blog's sidebar, a testament to my laziness. I've read 32 out of 100 plus a chunk of Ulysses.

    You might like to know that The Postman Always Rings Twice, The Day of the Locust, The Maltese Falcon, and The Bridge of San Luis Rey are all very short (though that last one is terrible).

    Larry McCaffery offered an alternative 100 list which introduced me to some interesting writers (Raymond Federman, Samuel R. Delany, Djuna Barnes, Ben Marcus, Harry Mathews). Time magazine also had a list, similar to the Modern Library's, but with a few interesting additions (e.g. Watchmen).

    I recommend you add Miss Lonelyhearts to the list - also by Nathanael West, very short, and considered his best work. And throw in Ubik by Philip K. Dick if you haven't read it yet.

    1. Thanks! As a matter of fact, your blog was the inspiration for this. Well, not the hundred in a year idea, but for going with Modern Library's list. I was asking my friends to send suggestions to make a list but that didn't really pan out and I figured one arbitrary list is as good as another.

      Ubik is probably more my speed. It's been on my reading list for a loooong time. Thanks for the suggestions!


Enter your e-mail address in the box below and click "Subscribe" to join Stephen Kozeniewski's Mailing List for Fun and Sexy People. (Why the hell would anyone ever want to join a mailing list?)