Home > The Ray Bradbury Reading Challenge
This is the Ray Bradbury reading challenge which I first wrote about here. The goal is to read 1 poem, 1 short story and 1 essay/nonfiction work every day for 1000 days. Each day I'll post an update of what I've been reading here with a few thoughts. If you've been here before you might remember me doing weekly updates but I think this system works better.
Have a recommendation for what I should read next? Feel free to shoot me a suggestion.
- Short Story: Mother's Teeth by E.L. Chen
- Poem: The Surrounded by Muriel Rukeyser
- Nonfiction: In Argentina, How the Bones of the Dead Communicate With the Living by Alexa Hagerty
The above piece by Hagarty concerns Argentinian "death flights" and is truly haunting and tragic stuff.
"Do other parts of his mother roam at night? A finger, a femur, one of fragile bones of the foot? But no others would be able to say his name on a frigid winter night. - E.L. Chen
- Short Story: The Final Girl's Daughter by Ray Cluley
- Poem: Letter to Brooks: Spring Garden by Major Jackson
- Nonfiction: A Revolution in Creativity: On Slow Writing by Melissa Matthewson
Really enjoyed the essay by Matthewson, which touches upon the pressure writers face to become content machines in today's digital marketplace.
"We should lichenize our writing. And in this, I mean, challenge all the ways we are influenced to rush our composition, to push against capitalism’s engine insisting a kind of efficient production of creative works." - Melissa Matthewson
- Short Story: A Shinagawa Monkey by Haruki Murakami
- Poem: Revenger's Tragedy by Jane Yeh
- Nonfiction: Why I Decided to Update the Language in Ursula K. Le Guin’s Children’s Books by Theo Downes-Le Guin
A Shingawa marks the end of my time reading Haruki Murakami's 'Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman.' It was a good collection overall but I would recommend reading it sporadically over a long period, rather than all in one go because Murakami can get a bit samey.
"But she left me a clue: a note over her desk asking, “Is it true? Is it necessary or at least useful? Is it compassionate or at least unharmful?”" - Theo Downes-Le Guin
- Short Story: The Kidney-shaped Stone by Haruki Murakami
- Poem: Mirror by Sylvia Plath
- Nonfiction: The problem with billionaires fighting climate change? The billionaires by Kate Aronoff
More Plath and Murakami today, though I'm heading towards the end of my time with latter. Also read a nonfiction piece as part of my research into a piece I wrote for Climate Conscious
"In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman
Rises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish." - Sylvia Plath
- Short Story: Where I'm Likely To Find It by Haruki Murakami
- Poem: Hello by Naomi Shihab Nye
- Nonfiction: 'We know what to do: why don't we do it?' by John Vidal
I spent some time today learning about the life of Wangari Maathai, the Nobel peace prize winner and founder of the green belt movement, the latter of which continues to empower vulnerable women through the act of planting trees. The above nonfiction piece by the Guardian was written about her in 2009 a couple of years before her passing and was pretty illuminating. Also enjoyed today's poem courtesy of the poetryfoundation.org and another story from Murakami's Blind Willow collection.
"The tree is just a symbol for what happens to the environment. The act of planting one is a symbol of revitalising the community. Tree planting is only the entry point into the wider debate about the environment. Everyone should plant a tree" - Wangari Maathai
- Short Story: Hanalei Bay by Haruki Murakami
- Poem: The Arrival of The Bee Box by Sylvia Plath
- Nonfiction: We Used to Watch Ads, Then We Became Them by John Gorman
I read a lot of nonfiction today, but the above article by John Gordon was the most interesting. Quite enjoyed the following quote too:
"All you wanted was your Aunt Bethel’s Buffalo Wing dip recipe, now yo u’re watching some drop-dead gorgeous young trad-wife cook wings in her kitchen fo r a brand partnership with Frank’s Red Hot. Meanwhile, Aunt Bethel went QAnon." - John Gormon
- Short Story: Darwanian Pool Room
- Poem: The Real Reason by Ada Limon
- Nonfiction: The Slow Cancellation of the Future by Mark Fisher
I didn't fancy another Murakami story today, so I went with a sci-fi story instead, only to be disappointed with my decision. The Fisher piece is from his book ghosts of my life which I've read before, but I enjoyed the refresher.
"I knew it wasn't so much the tattoo but the making, the idea
of scars" - Ada Limon
- Short Story: Chance Traveller by Haruki Murakami
- Poem: White Basin by Lindy Barbour
- Nonfiction: Excerpt from The Republic (Book III) by Plato
My incredible literary analysis for you all today is that White Basin is a brilliant poem you should seek out, Chance Traveller is a rather good story, and Plato's Socrates would be an annoying git to know in real life.
was still flowering strongly that November. I watched her
gaze at the roses through two layers of glass." - Linda Barbour
- Short Story: Firefly by Haruki Murakami
- Poem: Elm by Sylvia Plath
- Nonfiction: Excerpt from The Republic (Book II) by Plato
First time during this challenge that I've read all the same authors two days in a row. The result of my choosing to stick to the books I have at hand rather than scour the internet.
The plato piece is from the Norton anthology of theory and criticism - a beast of a book that would probably take a quarter of this challenge to complete.
"I was always reading, so people thought I wanted to be a writer. But I didn't. I didn't want to be anything" - Haruki Murakami
- Short Story: The Ice Man by Haruki Murakami
- Poem: Cut by Sylvia PLath
- Nonfiction: Ion by Plato
The Ice Man is a Murakami story told from the perspective of a woman. So, naturally, instead of a "not exactly beautiful" female love interest, we get a "not exactly handsome" man, which I found quite amusing.
"Dreams come from the past, not the future. Dreams shouldn't control you - you should control them" - Haruki Murakami
- Short Story: Crabs by Haruki Murakami
- Poem: Cold Summer By Charles Bukowski
- Nonfiction: Thoreau on Living Through Loss by Maria Popova
I'm not 100% sure, but I believe that Bukowski's Cold summer was written in the lead up to his death. In any case, Bukowski is kind of like the Hemingway of poetry, in that he captures so much without directly addressing the things he's discussing.
"My wife is with me. I am sorry for my wife, I am sorry for everybody's wife" - Charles Bukowski
- Short Story: The Rise and Fall of Sharpie Cakes by Haruki Murakami
- Poem: i can't stay in the same room with that woman for five minutes by Charles Bukowski
- Nonfiction: The problem with billionaires fighting climate change? The billionaires by Kate Aronoff
Felt like I hadn't read some truly great poetry in a while, so it was grumpy Bukowski to the rescue today.
"what’s the matter with you, buddy? he asked. I submit my poems to the magazines, I said. you submit your poems to the magazines? he asked. you are god damned right I do, I said." - Charles Bukowski
- Short Story: Tony Takitani by Haruki Murakami
- Poem: Revenger’s Tragedy by Jane Yeh
- Nonfiction: Simple Twist of Fate by David Weir
Idea for a drinking game: read a Haruki Murakami story and take a shot everytime he brings up Jazz, an introverted man and a "plain-looking" romantic interest. I promise you'll be smashed in no time.
“There was something odd for him about not feeling lonely. The very fact that he had ceased to be lonely caused him to fear the possibility of becoming lonely again.” - Haruki Murakami
- Short Story: The Seventh Man by Haruki Murakami
- Poem: Mines by E. Serebrovskaya
- Nonfiction: What I’ve Learned From Coffee by S.J.Carroll
I'm a sucker for boyhood friendship stories, darkly comic poems and coffee. So, today was a good day for reading. Incidentally, the Carroll piece in particular reminded me of one of my favourite quotes from one of my favourite shows, Twin Peaks:
"Every day, once a day, give yourself a present. Don't plan it, don't wait for it, just let it happen. It could be a new shirt at the men's store, a catnap in your office chair, or two cups of good hot black coffee"
- Short Story: Nausea 1979 by Haruki Murakami
- Poem: The Fly by Ann Lauterbach
- Nonfiction: Fascinated to Presume: In Defense of Fiction by Zadie Smith
Nausea 1979 showed a lot of promise but Murakami's decision to end on a meta note felt a bit flat here. But fascinated to Presume provided some food for thought on an article I'm working on
- Short Story: A Poor Aunt Story by Haruki Murakami
- Poem: Framed Picture by Dorothea Lasky
- Nonfiction: Horror Muse by Alice Gregory
None of these really struck me as fascinating, but all good stuff here nonethless. Though A Poor Aunt Story was a bit of a drag.
"The dead only speak through poetry So make the poems be the things That you give everything" - Dorothea Lasky
- Short Story: Man Eating Cat by Haruki Murakami
- Poem: Form and Feeling by Jenny George
- Nonfiction: Sad as hell by Alice Gregory
Cat's, the internet and eerie stories have defined my reading over the last few weeks. Today was no different
"Gone are the tacit alliances with fellow subway riders, the brief evolution of sympathy with pedestrians. That predictable progress of unspoken affinity is now interrupted by an impulse to either refresh a page or to take a website-worthy photo. I have the nervous hand-tics of a junkie. For someone whose interest in other people’s private lives was once endless, I sure do ignore them a lot now." - Alice Gregory
- Short Story: The Year of Spaghetti by Haruki Murakami
- Poem: Opera Singer by Ross Gay
- Nonfiction: The Problem With Trauma Culture by By Catherine Liu
More comical absurdity from Murakami. But the essay on trauma culture is what really engaged me most. The brandification and commodification of private human experiences is one of the more troubling trends that have been amplified in the digital era, and Liu really capture the issues at hand.
"By focusing on all forms of trauma except exploitation, trauma culture has helped disguise the economic violence at the heart of neo-liberal macro economic policies"
- Short Story: Dabchick by Haruki Murakami
- Poem: A Guy in a Black SUV by William J Harris
- Nonfiction: A Movement That’s Quietly Reshaping Democracy For The Better by Claudia Chwalisz
Highly entertaining and comical reads from Murakami and Harris, the former proving he can in fact be funny when he wants to be.
"And as he would crumble to the ground Holding his privates (This magnificent fury Beyond his comprehension)" - Claudia Chwalisz
- Short Story: A Perfect Day for Kangaroos
- Poem: Haiku by William J Harris
- Nonfiction: Finding Awe Amid Everyday Splendor by Henry Wismayer
No points for guessing what form today's poem was in.
“Many of the best and most spiritually nourishing things in life are all too often rendered invisible by the tyrannies of time, money and force of habit.” - Henry Wismayer
- Short Story: Hunting Knife by Haruki Murakami
- Poem: The Midnight Muse by John Hansen
- Nonfiction: The Exploited Labor Behind Artificial Intelligence By Adrienne Williams, Milagros Miceli and Timnit Gebru
Today's reads more than made up for yesterday's poor showing. Hunting Knife was one of the more mysterious reads from the Blind Willow collection. While the nonfiction piece was the only truly interesting thing I've read on AI since the arrival of ChatGPT.
"Was it all an illusion Or was I the illusion? Maybe it didn't matter. Come tomorrow, I wouldn't be here anymore." - Haruki Murakami
- Short Story: The Mirror by Haruki Murakami
- Poem: City Pastoral by William J Harris
- Nonfiction: As Western Liberalism Declines, Civilization States Return by Bruno Maçães
Honestly, I didn't think a lot about these three pieces. The Mirror was a bit of a throwaway and City Pastoral didn't do much for me at all. Maçães's essay was probably the most thought provoking of the bunch but not so much that i'd recommend it is essential reading by any stretch
- Short Story: Aeroplane: Or, How He Talked To Himself As If Reciting Poetry by Haruki Murakami
- Poem: The Baying Hound by John Welford
- Nonfiction: How Online Mobs Act Like Flocks Of Birds by Renée DiResta
Aeroplane was pretty much every Murakami love story ever, but that's not neccesarily a bad thing. Meanwhile DiResta's essay on algorithums and their effect on human behaviour is both facinating and concerning.
“Trying to litigate rumors and fact-check conspiracy theories is a game of whack-a-mole that itself has negative political consequences.” - Renée DiResta
- Short Story: New York Mining Disaster by Haruki Murakami
- Poem: Seamstress of Tragic Heroines by Misbah Sheikh
- Nonfiction: Stairway to Heaven: the Story of a Song and its Legacy
Death is everywhere in New York Mining Disaster, but what an absolutely fantastic tal that reminded me why I enjoy Murakami's work so much.
"A poet might die at twenty-one, a revolutionary or a rock star at twenty-four. But after that you assume everything´s going to be alright." - Haruki Murakami
- Short Story: Birthday Girl by Haruki Murakami
- Poem: February by By Margaret Atwood
- Nonfiction: In Defense of Tourism By Peter Jon Lindberg
Poems named after times of the year are generally dire. But February is about a cat trying to rest on his owner’s head and is actually pretty terrific. So was Birthday Girl and Lindberg's article too
“Of course I’d like to be prettier or smarter or rich. But I really can’t imagine what would happen to me if any of those things came true. They might be more than I could handle. I still don’t really know what life is all about. I don’t know how it works” - Haruki Murakami
- Short Story: Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman by Haruki Murakami
- Poem: No Images by William Waring Cuney
- Nonfiction: How I Fully Quit Google (And You Can, Too) by Nithin Coca
Going to be reading just Murakami stories for a while, simply because I need to get through some a book I have lying around. But as good as Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman was, Cuney's poem stole my heart. It's only a short but there's a lot captured and stored up in those words.
"But there are no palm trees on the street, and dish water gives back no images." - William Waring Cuney
- Short Story:The Woman in the Park - Rainstorms in July
- Poem: The entirety of https://housefly.neocities.org/Housefly
- Nonfiction: Why Do All Websites Look The Same by Boris Muller
The housefly website is like a graphic story with some surrealist poetry thrown in but isn’t really either. Arguably doesn’t belong here, but I’m including it anyway because I make the rules and wanted to share it.
"It was a little secret, our morning almost meetings. At that brief moment, the world is silent, and only we exist, sharing that small bubble of grass and branches. Lately, I've been walking slightly closer to her hoping for a reaction. A glance, a movement. Nothing." - Rainstorm in July
- Short Story: Buzzcut by Imaginings
- Poem: Who You Gonna Call? .. Ghost-writer! By John Hansen
- Nonfiction: The Handheld Is Dead! Long Live The Handheld! by Emille M Reed
Decided to source my reading from the internet today. Or specifically Neocities, where you are pretty much guaranteed to come across something facinating sooner or later.
“I dream of a chunky little handheld computer, not small enough to follow you everywhere in your pocket, but worth taking with you everywhere in the way that a really good paperback book you’re in the middle of reading is.” - Emille M Reed
- Short Story: Hit on the Head with a Cow by Joseph Mitchell
- Poem: Sheep in Fog by Sylvia Plath
- Nonfiction: Want anonymity? Make a persona, not a mystery. by Derek Siverse
The eccentric "Captain Charlie" from 'Hit on the Head' is my favourite Mitchell character profile yet. Meanwhile Sheep in the Fog was beautiful but tragic, with or without hindset.
“When a man takes to meddling with Egyptian Mummies fresh out of the tomb, damn near anything’s apt to happen” - Joseph Mitchell
- Short Story: Mazie by Joseph Mitchell
- Poem: If I Had To Live My Life Again By Linda Pastan
- Nonfiction: ChatGPT: Automatic expensive BS at scale
More Mitchell again.This time the piece was on the “Queen of the Bowery,” Mazie Phillips-Gordon. She was a real-life heroine of sorts who gained a reputation for her kindness towards the ever-increasing homeless population of New York in the 1920s and 30s (as well as her no-nonsense attitude). Linda Pastan's piece was a real surprise treat too
"I think of Degas’ words as the snow continues to fall, blanking out the green earth, bleaching the sky" - Linda Pastan
- Short Story: The Old House at Home by Joseph Mitchell
- Poem: Introduction to Up in the Old Hotel by William Fennes
- Nonfiction: The Couriers by Sylvia Plath
Today's short story could equally be placed under the nonfiction I suppose, but it belongs more under the short story section. Mitchell fabricated and embellished his stories/character profiles anyway. But what he uncovers through them is a kind of greater truth nonetheless.
“To a steady McSorley customer, most other New York saloons seem feminine and fit only for college boys and women; the atmosphere in them is so tense and disquieting that he has to drink himself into a coma in order to stand it.” - Joseph Mitchell
- Short Story: Your Tiny Hand is Frozen by Robert Aickman
- Poem: Gangsters by Patience Agbabi
- Nonfiction: A History of Violence by Steven Pinker
Aickman's story, where he warns us about the dangers of the phone some fifty years before smart devices, is the standout again. Just wonderfully eerie and chillign stuff
“It is plausible that the reading of history, journalism, and fiction puts people into the habit of inhabiting other peoples’ minds, which could increase empathy and therefore make cruelty less appealing.”
- Short Story: I Could See the Smallest Things by Raymond Carver
- Poem: Vertigo by Michael Murphy
- Nonfiction: Blood and Iron: Robert Aickman’s “The Trains” by Brendan Moody
Likes yesterday's Aickman story so much that I read some criticism on it, along with two short pieces about two different forms of heartbreak.
“the mattress sighs as you lower your- self into the breathing dark. A lifetime away, her voice rehearses what it is” - Michael Murphy
- Short Story: The Trains by Robert Aickman
- Poem: Bonedog by Eva H.D.
- Nonfiction: 40 Years of the internet
The 40 years of the internet seems an odd choice I know, since the article is itself a decade old. But I found it fascinating. Especially the insinuation that the internet would exponentially evolve in the coming years.
The Aickman story was the real treat though. Had everything you'd want from one of his stories: surreal imagery, psychological horror, sexual undertones, and the ever-looming fear of modernity.
“Coming home is terrible whether the dogs lick your face or not; whether you have a wife or just a wife-shaped loneliness waiting for you.” - Eva H.D.
- Short Story: The Wine Dark Sea by Robert Aickman
- Poem: The Lammergeier Daughter By Pascale Petit
- Nonfiction: Where do you get your ideas by Neil Gaiman
Probably the most disapointing reading day so far. Even the Aickman story didn't live up to his usal standard
"That night, I opened your wardrobe and found a trophy of vultures, their necks pierced by hanger hooks." - Pascale Petit
- Short Story: Into The Wood by Robert Aickman
- Poem: This Is Just To Say by William Carlos Williams
- Nonfiction: Building a Note-taking System with Vanilla Vim
Robert Aickman stories are rarely outright scary. Often, it's only once you've put one down that you realise it's creeped under your skin
"No milk. It is black coffee, pure but strong, that fortifies against the powers of darkness with which the world is filled." - Robert Aickman
- Short Story: Cat In The Rain by Ernest Hemingway
- Poem: Morning Song by Sylvia Plath
- Nonfiction: Yearly theme 2023 - Nicky’s Blog
Unfortunetely, Cat In The Rain was not in fact a Hemingway story written from the pov of a cat
“I’m no more your mother Than the cloud that distils a mirror to reflect its own slow Effacement at the wind’s hand” - Sylvia PLath
- Short Story: Mr and Mrs Elliot By Ernest Hemingway
- Poem: air and light and time and space by Charles Bukowski
- Nonfiction: How Anti-Consumerism Sold Out by Thomas Ambrosini
Air and light and time and space by Charles Bukowski is one of my all-time favourite poems and Mr and Mrs Elliot is Hemingway at his most brutal. The real diamon in the rough here though is the Anti-consumerist piece which I discovered over on Medium.
“Millennials may have avoided the Ikea catalogue trap of a consumerist lifestyle, but in doing so, they’ve traded in an old misery for a new one. Instead of being unhappy buying and selling things, they’re unhappy buying and selling themselves.” - Thomas Ambrosini