Completists' Club discussion

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message 1: by K.D. (new)

K.D. Absolutely (oldkd) Please introduce yourself.

Me first.

I am K.D., a certified voracious reader. I read 277 books last year and I am targeting the same this year.

I joined GR in 2009 but only became voracious last year. My practice before was to read 1 book (the most famous) for each author because I thought I would like to cover more authors from different countries in the world. However, this year, I have been encountering really good authors and I could not help but grab their other books. Thus I have become a completist for Kazuo Ishiguro. Then I am only a book away to be a Truman Capote completist.


message 2: by Tej (new)

Tej | 8 comments K.D., You're my hero! I've been watching your read list grow by leaps and bounds with astonishment!

I have a spreadsheet that orders every book I plan on reading through the year 2035. I estimate 60 pages a day, but I usually exceed that and manage to squeeze in some unplanned books and newly-published books by my "completist" authors who are still living. I belong to two book clubs, so I save one week a month for each. Sometimes we pick a book that's already on my list, which causes me to rearrange the list--something that I find thrilling.

I made the list because I found that picking a new book to read was both exciting and stressful. There's all the anticipation that the next book may just be the best book I've ever read. But with so many to choose from, I actually made myself a little anxious trying to decide. So, I created a somewhat random order and stick with it.


message 3: by Teresa (last edited Sep 17, 2012 09:56AM) (new)

Teresa Thanks for inviting me, K.D. I've tried to be a completist for favorite writers for a long time now. I've completed the canon of several authors, including Thomas Hardy, Walker Percy, Anne Tyler, Ian McEwan, Kazuo Ishiguro, Toni Morrison and Charles Dickens -- the latter being the one I'm probably most proud of!


message 4: by Nathan "N.R." (new)

Nathan "N.R." Gaddis (nathannrgaddis) | 258 comments Say something about yourself:

I don't read an author whose work I have not already decided to read to completion. This is simply insane. I survive only by way of book-by-cover judgements and severe exercise of prejudice.


message 5: by Nathan "N.R." (new)

Nathan "N.R." Gaddis (nathannrgaddis) | 258 comments Anyone technologically capable enough to persuade goodreads to somehow keep score of the completist endeavor? Some kind of %%% bar which would be more perspicacious than the author's book list. What am I asking? Like the page count widget on the status update thingy? "MJ is 91% completionist of Herr Vonnegut's oeuvre." Widget-ville.


message 6: by MJ (new)

MJ Nicholls (mjnicholls) | 211 comments Problem with a widget is it would instinctively add all the miscatalogued German/Italian versions and accidental duplicates, etc . . .


message 7: by Paul (last edited Sep 17, 2012 01:33PM) (new)

Paul Bryant Dear all - I was invited by MJ, so thanks to him -I am always drawn to the idea to completism, it appeals to the OCD aspect of my personality. i usually have applied the completist concept to my musical life, and have pursued various artists in this way, mainly The Incredible String band, John Fahey and Shirley Collins. As regards authors, I usually hit and run, but I will be reading anything by Rohinton Mistry and I would actually like to be completist with several other authors. I am 99% complete with Raymond Chandler. But i have to confess that i am very bad at following GR groups. I join them then I kind of.... never do anything else. Very poor.


message 8: by Eddie (new)

Eddie Watkins (eddiewat) | 25 comments Thanks for the invite, MJ.

I have completist tendencies, though I tend to only consider the major works, not the letters, juvenalia, diaries, etc. though I read those too if I'm interested.

I would like to read all of John Cowper Powys - novels/novellas only. I'd have to check, but I'm probably about 75% done.


message 9: by Jonfaith (new)

Jonfaith | 26 comments Mumbling humbly, I am grateful for the invitation. I suppose I've read all the published fiction from David Mitchell. Only Inherent Vice prevents me from making the same clain about Thomas Pynchon. Here’s To That happening soon.

I'll have to ponder goals in the interim. I make a point of following rules, especially initially.
So, Fuck.


message 10: by Nate (last edited Sep 17, 2012 01:56PM) (new)

Nate (rockhyrax) | 120 comments Likewise, thanks for constructing this this thing and allowing us into it, MJ.

As far as completism goes, I find my general obsessive is often defeated by my equal tendency towards esoteric authors unlikely to have their full oeuvres translated into languages I can understand (ie: Tadeusz Konwicki, Roland Topor, Agota Kristof.) Currently attempting to broaden my reach a little by brushing up on neglected French skills.

As it stands, I've read all available Leonora Carrington, though I suspect there's still untranslated French work out there, and approaching Anna Kavan completism, overlooking for now the more drastically out-of-print of her earlier books written as "Helen Ferguson" and whatever unpublished esoterica is currently living at the University of Tulsa.


message 11: by MJ (new)

MJ Nicholls (mjnicholls) | 211 comments Thanks for the thanks, folks. This group was actually shovelmonkey1's idea, and K.D. suggested I help set it up. Please create any new threads for your respective to-be-completed completist author challenges.


message 12: by MJ (new)

MJ Nicholls (mjnicholls) | 211 comments Re the group's longevity . . . hopefully the separate author threads will keep the content continually interesting as people do dip into their chosen canons over time, and look for support and opinions and etc. This is the theory, anyway.


message 13: by Nate (new)

Nate (rockhyrax) | 120 comments Haven't you also read the entirety of B.S. Johnson's work, by the way? That seems like something I might eventually attempt, even though I know you were less thrilled with the late essays.


message 14: by MJ (new)

MJ Nicholls (mjnicholls) | 211 comments Nate wrote: "Haven't you also read the entirety of B.S. Johnson's work, by the way?"

Almost! The obscure story collection Statement Against Corpses, a multi-authored novel London Consequences and Poems Two remain to-read.


message 15: by Nate (new)

Nate (rockhyrax) | 120 comments Still, he's definitely someone I see myself edging that way on as well.


message 16: by Antonomasia (last edited Sep 17, 2012 02:47PM) (new)

Antonomasia Hello,

Thank you very much for the kind, and not especially deserved, invitation. I am generally too easily bored, and distracted by the new-and-shiny, or else too tired and unwell, for book-author completion. Music and to some extent films are a different matter, however.

Someone, er, poke me if there's a thread for Jane Austen completism: that's one badge I do have, (juvenilia, fragments and all components) though it is 20 years old and a little rusty.
Or indeed a David Bowie discussion ... I definitely have completist aspirations there, but that's a bit off-topic.


message 17: by Lobstergirl (last edited Sep 17, 2012 02:52PM) (new)

Lobstergirl | 123 comments Oh, I thought this was a men only club until I got the invite!

I had never heard the word "completist" until a couple years ago, on a Slate podcast. So I really thought Slate had made it up. It's a real thing? People actually use the word?

My tendency, if I like an author a lot, is to read 80% of his/her books and stop there. There's always something they wrote that you just don't want to read. I love Austen, but do I want to read Austen's juvenilia? Of course not.

My other tendency is to read 1-2 books by an author and then stop.

Okay, so what authors could I actually commit myself to, utterly and totally?

Willa Cather
Edith Wharton
John le Carre
Saul Bellow
Janet Malcolm
Paul Scott

I'm sure I'll think of more.

Maybe:

Virginia Woolf
Flaubert
Dostoyevsky
Nabokov
Barbara Tuchman

As to "populists" and "etc." - the writers we are forbidden from mentioning - what does etc. encompass? Some of the authors I'm going to complete are definitely populist. John le Carre, for one. I thought I would be an Elizabeth George completist until she started a YA series, boooo!


message 18: by Antonomasia (last edited Sep 17, 2012 02:54PM) (new)

Antonomasia Lobstergirl wrote: "I had never heard the word "completist" until a couple years ago, on a Slate podcast. So I really thought Slate had made it up."
I wonder if it's more widely used in Britain....?

The first reference to it I can definitely recall was the 1997 Half Man Half Biscuit lyric "Yesterday Matthew, I was a Factory [records] completist" (song here) but it didn't seem new then.


message 19: by MJ (new)

MJ Nicholls (mjnicholls) | 211 comments I'd prefer the focus to be on "intellectual" writers since that's my preference, but there's no reason people can't create threads for genre people if they like . . . there's room for a range without clashes of interests overlapping, etc.

Anto: Create the Austen thread if you like! Or David Bowie. I actually wouldn't mind discussing the Bowie oeuvre on here, I'm not part of any music fora elsewhere.


message 20: by Sketchbook (last edited Sep 17, 2012 03:30PM) (new)

Sketchbook Tx for invite, MJ. I like to read authors who express what I think, feel - whose sensibility matches mine. Almost dun w Ray Chandler (historian of SoCal where I grew up), and have completed Carl Van Vechten (social historian of NYC where I live). Have read most of Nancy Mitford/Maupassant who give us Paris at different periods (where I've dun "time," but Paris never changes.) Graham Greene, yes.. I like his pervo streak; this is always important. As such, HJames - and what he doesnt say - involves me. Im always drawn to writers like James Huneker whose output is small and wonderfully eccentric.


message 21: by Eric (last edited Sep 17, 2012 03:32PM) (new)

Eric Thanks for the invitation, MJ!

Alan Hollinghurst is the only novelist I've read completely. My Nabokov and James Salter shelves are both a volume or two shy of complete. I read Henry James in three-novel bursts, then turn away from him for a year or more. There are times I think I could become a Hawthorne completist, but then I remember The Marble Faun. I was well on my way to reading all of Martin Amis, but I just don't give a shit anymore; the purity of Money-London Fields-The Information is enough (oh, and Success and Experience, love those).


message 22: by Antonomasia (new)

Antonomasia MJ wrote: "Anto: Create the Austen thread if you like! Or David Bowie. I actually wouldn't mind discussing the Bowie oeuvre on here, I'm not part of any music fora elsewhere. "
Perhaps there could be a separate board for other forms such as film or music...?

May start the Austen thing later. Not quite raring to discuss her.


message 23: by Cecily (new)

Cecily | 31 comments I'm not a natural completist, but I think I have read pretty much everything by Mervyn Peake, Carson McCullers, Douglas Adams, Kafka, David Mitchell, Alan Bennett (and Harper Lee, but I don't think she counts). I will probably read all of Richard Yates within the next couple of years. That is a rather weird mix; I think the nearest thing to a uniting theme is that all but Bennett and Mitchell (who are both still alive) died without having written much!

I often read a couple of related books, or books by the same author in quick succession, but then I usually go for something completely different.


message 24: by Lobstergirl (new)

Lobstergirl | 123 comments Eric wrote: "Thanks for the invitation, MJ!

Alan Hollinghurst is the only novelist I've read completely. My Nabokov and James Salter shelves are both a volume or two shy of complete. I read Henry James in thr..."


I like Hollinghurst. I am willing to become a Hollinghurst c-ist. I'm also willing to be a Martin Amis nonfiction c-ist. I've had too many bad experiences with the novels.

I just realized I'm nearly a Jonathan Franzen c-ist. I doubt I'll ever read his translation of Spring Awakening, though...


message 25: by Megha (last edited Sep 17, 2012 04:46PM) (new)

Megha (hearthewindsing) | 27 comments Thanks for the invitation, MJ.
I don't really fit in here though. In my reading career of about 5 years, I haven't had much time to become a completist, as there are many new-to-me authors that I want to read.
At the moment I am an aspiring Bernhard completist. I have read three of his books so far and 4th is already in the queue.
I can't promise to become a Nabokov completist, given the volume of his work. But I see myself reading several of his books.
As I discover more authors I like, I will keep adding them to my want-to-be-a-completist list.


message 26: by Casaubon (new)

Casaubon (hadrian_gr) Hello everyone. My name is Adrian and I am a book addict.

I saw a few friends on here and felt compelled to join. So here I am. Great idea for a club, look forward to helping each other out. This is going to be quite the trip, I can feel it.

As for authors I hope to complete, I think I'd go for Vollmann first since I'm so close. After him, maybe DeLillo, Nabokov, Dostoyevsky, McCarthy, Vonnegut, DFW, Saramago, Flaubert, Calvino, and others as I remember them.

I might go for Philip K Dick, but I'm not sure if I can endure his pulpy stuff as well as his juicy mind-expanding Gnostic scifi. The man had to earn a living, but still.

I'd like to explore Gaddis and Gass eventually. Pynchon maybe once I get around to V. Flannery O'Connor outside of her short stories. Mario Vargas Llosa in translation or out. Borges in the original. Maybe Proust when I retire, or maybe next year. Joyce Carol Oates in the distant future. Vidal maybe. Updike if I suddenly no longer find him dry.

I wonder if some real scifi fan will post Asimov.


message 27: by s.penkevich (new)

s.penkevich (spenkevich) | 4 comments Thanks for the invite, great group idea.
I have yet to be a completist for any author, although I suppose I have always held a subconscious long term goal of eventually getting to all of Faulkner (even Pylon) and McCarthy. As I have only one Mitchell book left and plan on reading it soon, I suppose he will be my first 'complete set'.

As for authors I will consciously set goals to read everything by, first and foremost is now Knut Hamsun. I can't get enough of him. Perhaps Saramago, DFW and Dostoyevsky as well. And Bowie, yes MJ, lets talk some Bowie ha.


message 28: by Tom (new)

Tom Willard | 17 comments Hi & thanks for inviting me to the group; I'm glad to see there are other neurotic nuts like myself out there. I am a completist for sure, but an odd one. There are many writers I would like to complete, some I am close to finishing. My problem is I like to save things to read for the future. I could probably finish off DFW & Pynchon in the next 2 months, but then I would have nothing to read by them... so I cherish and pick one up here and there. Vollmann is certainly on the list, but the second you finish he will slam another 800 pound tome on your desk; he is a bastard like that. So I pursue many complete oeuvres with the naive assumption that I will live long enough to complete.

I would like to read the complete work of some odd-balls: Jack London, Susan Sontag, Philip K Dick, Julio Cortazar, Honore de Balzac... & many more.


message 29: by Lobstergirl (new)

Lobstergirl | 123 comments There are times when I think I would like to read all the novels of John Buchan. (And there are a lot.) But his nonfiction, no. (Presbyterianism Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow? Canadian Occasions? Sigh.)


message 30: by Ian (last edited Sep 17, 2012 11:34PM) (new)

Ian "Marvin" Graye I started off as a completist in my music and film taste, and it didn't take long for it to infect my literary taste.

In music, I'll quite happily buy multiple re-issues.

I occasionally get home from having snagged a book for a bargain price, only to find I already have it. (I love a good bargain even more than a good book. I even get a perverse pleasure out of buying a bad book at a bargain price.) Otherwise, I rarely buy multiple versions of the same book, unless we're talking about different translations of the Russians (Dostoyevsky) or Proust or more recently "The Master and Margarita".

GoodReads has been a major impetus for me to re-read my personal canon, so I can review them and prove at inordinate length that I can understand them. People are understandably terrified of reading these reviews.

I normally restrict the number of likes for these reviews to under ten. If more than that attempt to like them, I usually email the liker and ask them to "unlike" my review. For a fee (unless you're Paul Bryant), I will recommend that they seek out and like your review instead. AFL followers will know the term "goal assists". I describe this practice as "like assists".

I'm working through (or hoping to work through) personal favourites like:

Paul Auster
John Banville
Saul Bellow
Michael Chabon
Don DeLillo
Dostoyevsky
Siri Hustvedt
Jonathan Lethem
Norman Mailer
Mary McCarthy
Henry Miller
Haruki Murakami
David Mitchell
Richard Powers
Thomas Pynchon
David Foster Wallace

I didn't set out to obsess about anything that Paul Bryant hates, it just turned out that way.

I've developed a few additional obsessions since joining GR, but I'll wait until I read some of them to tell you. At this stage, I'm only a completist in the sense that I'm buying all of them.

I regard re-reading favourites as a bad habit and promise to stop doing it before I die.

However, I rarely review a book, unless I've read it recently or have absolutely no intention of ever reading it (and just want people to think I've read it).

I look back on this post and realise I've made a completist idiot of myself. Sorry. Again.

BTW, I've got three versions of all of the Bowie CD's, though I prefer the ones that Mark Mick Ronson plays on.


message 31: by Stephen M (last edited Sep 17, 2012 11:25PM) (new)

Stephen M | 41 comments Awesome group thanks for the invite.

I love to read as much as I can but it's always a battle with my ADD tendencies. The internet is a vice. So far I'm just a David Mitchell completist, but I'm working on my Pynchon and Murakami status right now. Almost there with Haruki-san! He's got a lot of books.

I'd love to be a Dostoyevsky completist but that'd be one hell of a project. I've also thought about Delillo as well, but we'll see how further reading of his books go.


message 32: by Cecily (new)

Cecily | 31 comments Is there anyone here who isn't a David Mitchell fan or, dare I ask, hasn't read even one of his books? ;-)


message 33: by Megha (new)

Megha (hearthewindsing) | 27 comments Stephen M wrote: "Awesome group thanks for the invite.

I love to read as much as I can but it's always a battle with my ADD tendencies. The internet is a vice. So far I'm just a David Mitchell completist, but I'm ..."


Speaking of Haruki-san, I think I am a Murakami novel completist already.


message 34: by Megha (new)

Megha (hearthewindsing) | 27 comments Cecily wrote: "Is there anyone here who isn't a David Mitchell fan or, dare I ask, hasn't read even one of his books? ;-)"

I am Mitchell-agnostic. I have read two of his books (CA and BSG) - I liked one of those.


message 35: by Lobstergirl (last edited Sep 18, 2012 12:28AM) (new)

Lobstergirl | 123 comments Cecily wrote: "Is there anyone here who isn't a David Mitchell fan or, dare I ask, hasn't read even one of his books? ;-)"

Haven't read anything by him. Why do you dare ask? Is it shocking not to have read anything by this person?


message 36: by Stephen M (new)

Stephen M | 41 comments Wow, good on you Megha. I still need to get his minor novels Dance, Dance, South of the Border, etc. and the nonfiction ones. What would you say is your favorite then?


message 37: by Ian (new)

Ian "Marvin" Graye Megha wrote: "I am Mitchell-agnostic. I have read two of his books (CA and BSG) - I liked one of those. "

You still wrote great reviews about them, Megha. We won't vote you out.


message 38: by Ian (new)

Ian "Marvin" Graye Lobstergirl wrote: "Haven't read anything by him. Why do you dare ask? Is it shocking not to have read anything by this person? "

I am SHOCKED, SHOCKED.


message 39: by Megha (new)

Megha (hearthewindsing) | 27 comments Stephen M wrote: "Wow, good on you Megha. I still need to get his minor novels Dance, Dance, South of the Border, etc. and the nonfiction ones. What would you say is your favorite then?"

Wind-Up Bird Chronicle all the way. That was my first Murakami and the good karma he earned there got me through some of the weaker novels without being disillusioned.


message 40: by Cecily (last edited Sep 18, 2012 12:43AM) (new)

Cecily | 31 comments Lobstergirl wrote: "Haven't read anything by him. Why do you dare ask? Is it shocking not to..."

Not necessarily (though Ian may not be the only one who is shocked), but I noticed that this (so far) small group includes many Mitchell fans (myself included).


message 41: by Stephen M (new)

Stephen M | 41 comments I have to agree with you on that. I'm starting to enjoy his short stories more than the longer form stuff now.


message 42: by Stephen M (new)

Stephen M | 41 comments Cecily wrote: "Lobstergirl wrote: "Haven't read anything by him. Why do you dare ask? Is it shocking not to..."

Not necessarily (though Ian may not be the only one who is shocked), but I noticed that this (so f..."


Ahem. A Mitchell worshipper here, actually.


message 43: by Cecily (new)

Cecily | 31 comments No, not A Mitchell, D Mitchell. ;-)


message 44: by Megha (last edited Sep 18, 2012 12:38AM) (new)

Megha (hearthewindsing) | 27 comments Stephen M wrote: "I have to agree with you on that. I'm starting to enjoy his short stories more than the longer form stuff now."

I haven't tried any of his short stories or non-fiction actually. Those are good, it seems?


message 45: by Stephen M (new)

Stephen M | 41 comments D. Mitch for short. Ace in the face.

Megha: I was particularly moved by After the Quake. The only part of 1Q84 that was up to Wind-Up standards was the part that was released as "Town of Cats" in the New Yorker.

I'm also dipping in and out of The Elephant Vanishes and it's wonderful.


message 46: by Kris (new)

Kris (krisrabberman) | 23 comments It's good to be among fellow completists, in books as well as in music. I am working on reading the complete oeuvre for many writers, including Roberto Bolaño and Javier Marías (with a hat tip to Mike), Murakami (only have to complete his non-fiction), Pynchon, D. Mitchell, Chabon, Dostoevsky, Woolf, and so on. I am trusting all of you to reinforce my compulsive completist tendencies....


message 47: by Ian (new)

Ian "Marvin" Graye Cecily wrote: "Not necessarily (though Ian may not be the only one who is shocked), but I noticed that this (so far) small group includes many Mitchell fans (myself included)."

Please don't take my SHOCK too seriously. I just love quoting "Casablanca" totally inappropriately.


message 48: by MJ (last edited Sep 18, 2012 01:38AM) (new)

MJ Nicholls (mjnicholls) | 211 comments Welcome, people! I think I'm supposed to say that as "moderator" of this group, even though technically it's not my group at all, and I technically shouldn't be "moderating." Authors I have completed, or as-near-as-humanly-possible completed: Kurt Vonnegut, Gilbert Sorrentino, Will Self, Alasdair Gray, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Flann O'Brien, Ali Smith, Nicola Barker, Raymond Queneau and B.S. Johnson. But it's a tough game, this.


message 49: by Ian (new)

Ian "Marvin" Graye Does completism embrace "one hit wonders", i.e., authors who only published one book?


message 50: by MJ (last edited Sep 18, 2012 01:48AM) (new)

MJ Nicholls (mjnicholls) | 211 comments Ian wrote: "Does completism embrace "one hit wonders", i.e., authors who only published one book?"

No. That would be far too easy. Let's set five books as the minimum.


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