Monday, December 29, 2008

A Classic Resolution

A New Year’s Resolution: To do one million pushups in a year. That is the ambitious goal of the weight coach at my work. Apparently, someone has done this. And this guy wants to take a crack at it, even though it means averaging 2,740 pushups a day. Or, if he devoted eight hours a day to doing pushups, 343 an hour for eight hours a day for 365 days.

Personally, I don’t think he is going to do it. Tackling 500,000 pushups in a year is a lofty goal, but twice that? No way, at least not while keeping his job and any sort of healthy lifestyle, but it got me thinking about making a resolution for myself. I like the pushup one because it is a goal with a clear number. I don’t like most resolutions because they are not concrete enough like I’m going to workout this year or I am not eating cheese in 2009. I need a number. If I set a goal to work out 4 times a week in 2009, I would be much closer to achieving that goal than if I had set it without a number. The number sticks in my mind and it is hard to shake a number because it eats at me more than anything else.

The number in my New Year’s resolution is 12. I am going to read 12 classic books in 2009.  I haven’t heard of a superb and successful writer that hasn’t read a chunk of the classics. Whether or not I become a successful writer, reading more classics is something I’ve always wanted to do. In addition, I’ve always wanted to be a well-read writer, but I can’t call myself one unless I read more classics. Despite my education as an English Major, many classics did not touch my path to a degree.

I have set some rules for my resolution. I don’t necessarily have to read one book a month for the next year. Some books are going to be shorter than others. Taking a month to read The Brothers Karamazov is not the same as taking a month to read Heart of Darkness. All books must be designated a classic by some major publishing house. I can move across the spectrum of classics in any manner I wish. For example, I could, if I wanted to, read twelve Victorian classics. I could read twelve classics from Russian literature. Or, I could read six from each. You get the point. I realize twelve is not a high number. Why not pick twenty or twenty-four classics in a year? Well, for the same reason War and Peace is not going to be the first book I romp through in 2009. I need to start with a number of books that is both challenging and achievable. Starting with War and Peace may just derail this whole resolution in a matter of weeks. So, I made the decision to start with something light, and with a book that could not double as a weapon.

Yesterday, I used a gift certificate to buy the first classic on the list, The Grapes of Wrath. I don’t know how I’ve gone this long without this novel being required reading. I’ve read other Steinbeck works, and most memorably cheated by listening to East of Eden, his longest, on CD, but never this novel, which is considered by some to be the best American novel ever written.

I guess now that I have publicly shared my resolution I need to give occasional updates on my success or failure. Even though I have book one on my nightstand, I am not starting it until Thursday. That would be cheating—I’m a stickler that way.

No comments: