No one could ever accuse Jeff VanderMeer of being a slouch.
I became interested in the author's work in 2001 and since then he has written and had published three novels and four collections of stories (including the epic City of Saints and Madmen), edited alone or with an accomplice (often his wife Ann) six short-story collections, and contributed reams of fascinating material to internet discussion forums, his very popular blog Ecstatic Days, the Amazon Blog Omnivoracious, Bookslut and the Huffington Post. If I've left anything out – and I'll bet I have – it's entirely his fault and not mine. I just can't keep track of everything he's up to this or any other day. (I'm also beginning to suspect there's more than one of him: perhaps he's cloned himself – twice.)
However, there is one thing he's currently up to that I've just got to tell you about.
A couple of months ago, Jeff contacted me with an idea he'd had. He'd seen that Penguin had a new set of Great Ideas out (that makes three sets, sixty books in total) and he wanted to blog about them. Nice idea, I thought. They're good books, beautifully designed.
Then I read the rest of his email. He wanted to blog about EACH book in all three sets. Okay. Brave man to set himself such a task. But then it got ridiculous. He wanted to review one book per day for sixty days.
If anyone else had suggested this to me, I'd have suggested right back that they were an idiot.
Even Jeff, I've noticed, isn't claiming with one hundred per cent certainty that he can go the distance. But he's going to try. And he's started.
Yesterday, the first post went up: Seneca's On the Shortness of Life. And it's not a short post and it shows a great deal of understanding about just why certain classic works remain vital and interesting. Get over there and check it out. And go back each and every day for the next fifty-nine days. Lend him your support in this endeavour.
No slouching now.
** Update: Jeff's 60-in-60 has been made the Guardian's Site of the Week. **
#1 - Seneca’s On the Shortness of Life
#2 - Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations
#3 - St Augustine’s Confessions of a Sinner
#4 - Thomas à Kempis’ The Inner Life
#5 - Machiavelli’s The Prince
#6 - Montaigne’s On Friendship
#7 - Swift’s A Tale of a Tub
#8 - Rousseau’s The Social Contract
#9 - Edward Gibbon’s The Christians and the Fall of Rome
#10 - Thomas Paine’s Common Sense
#11 - Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Women
#12 - William Hazlitt’s On the Pleasure of Hating
#13 - Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels’ The Communist Manifesto
#14 - Arthur Schopenhauer’s On the Suffering of the World
#15 - John Ruskin’s On Art and Life
#16 - Charles Darwin’s On Natural Selection
#17 - Friedrich Nietzsche’s Why I am So Wise
#18 - Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own
#19 - Sigmund Freud’s Civilization and Its Discontents
#20 - George Orwell’s Why I Write