Bryan Wright hates Naked Lunch. So why did he read it? We told him to.
The 32-year-old from Alberta, Canada probably has an entire catalog of vocabulary words to fling at William Burroughs’ spiraling, doped-out vignettes, but “vulgar minutia” was NewsFeed’s favorite of the list. The book took Wright all of December 2009 to finish, a punishing month for someone who swears he’ll never go near Burroughs (or his lunch) again.
(More on TIME.com: See TIME’s list of the All-TIME 100 Novels)
Since May 2009, Wright has been working his way through our list of the All-TIME 100 Novels and archiving the experience on his blog. He’s made it through 31 titles so far. NewsFeed talked to Wright about his journey reading everything from Lucky Jim to I, Claudius to Lolita. Just don’t get him started on Infinite Jest.
We’re thrilled you’re taking this challenge on. How’d it happen?
I’ve always been big into history books: WWII, American and Canadian history, political history, those were my main interests. I’ve got a degree in political science and a minor in American and Canadian history, but I’d only read six of the books on your list*, so…
*(The Great Gatsby, The Lord of the Flies, The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe, Catcher in the Rye, 1984 and To Kill A Mockingbird.)
Just how long is this going to take?
I’m hoping for four years, which would be about two books a month. I think right now I’m on a four and a half year pace. You read some books in a week, then there are some that take a month and a half two months.
You’ve read 31 of the novels already. Where were we wrong?
Infinite Jest. It is a gargantuan read. I don’t know if it because it was so vague, but it just wore me down. I slugged my way through it, but it just wasn’t one I’d pick up again. When I’d talk to people about it, I found it very polarizing. People either loved it and thought it was the greatest thing ever, or they hated it. There’s no in between on that one.
That must be awful to lug around. Are you an e-book or physical book kind of guy?
I’m a physical, “real book” guy. I can see the appeal of an e-reader, but it’s not for me. I like having a stack of books. I have a stack of ten right now from the library, so I can pick and choose. There’s something so much more romantic about a stack of books on a mahogany book shelf.
It would be hard to compare the stack with e-books.
I actually took a picture of Infinite Jest next to The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe and it looked like a leaflet next to Infinite Jest.
Okay, so we may have misstepped with Naked Lunch and Infinite Jest, in your opinion. Were we right sometimes, too?
There’s only a few of the books that I haven’t liked. Most of them I’m really enjoying. John La Carre’s The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, I really enjoyed that one. Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections. I have yet to read Freedom, but that’s mostly because I have a few more to read first.
Anything you’re dreading?
I’m dreading The Lord of the Rings. That’s not really my favorite genre and I’ve actually never even seen the movies. I’m just not into fantasy and sci-fi. I have no doubt that it’s really good, but I’m dreading it because it’s so long. I actually emailed Lev Grossman (TIME senior writer and resident book nerd) a while back to see if he was including all three or just the first one. And he said “all three.” That’s 2,500 pages – I think it might take a while. But I need to do that one as that 50th. Right in the middle. I don’t want to leave the longest for the end. It’d take three years to get through the last five.
Any celebrations planned for the big finish?
Nah. I’ll be really excited, but then I’ll think, “Now I’ll have to pick books out on my own.”
(More on TIME.com: See the best authors to follow on Twitter)