A few years ago, I decided that I needed to occasionally challenge myself with my reading choices. Although there is absolutely nothing wrong with a consistently steady diet of science fiction and fantasy — especially if your reading choices mark you as a lit snob of sorts within the genre — breaking out of the comfort zone struck me as beneficial. Above and beyond that, there are a huge number of classics out there that I keep meaning to read but never get around to. Thus, the idea of purposefully picking one unread classic a year, The Annual Classic, was born.
This year, I found myself with a little bit of a dilemma. I decided that I would make Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow this year’s new-to-me yearly classic. However, this struck me as potentially a bit of cheat. Although it won a National Book Award, it also was nominated for a Nebula Award — though plenty of people don’t consider it sf. In addition, it was published in 1973, which makes it more recent that the novels I typically consider.
To help me decide whether picking this book was in the spirit of the The Annual Classic, I created a Facebook poll that laid out my dilemma and asked whether it qualified. Was it “old” enough, and was it far enough removed from the traditionally acknowledged boundaries of the genre? The final result was a resounding “yes” — which was clearly the answer I wanted.
Next year, I’ll be sure to pick something that is unquestionably outside the sf&f ghetto.