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General Bookishness > Re-Reading Experiences

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message 1: by Diane, "Miss Scarlett" (new)

Diane Barnes | 3822 comments Mod
We've had a lively conversation on the thread for "Look Homeward, Angel" regarding some of our experiences in reading it again at an older age. I thought it might be interesting to know if anyone else has had experience of disappointment in re-reading an old favorite. We are different people at different times in our lives, and this necessarily affects our perceptions of the books we read. I have been warned by others not to attempt "The Catcher in the Rye" as an adult, so I won't, because as a 16 year old I loved it, and that's the way I want to remember it. I used to think Henry Miller was a wonderful, brave soul to leave his wife and child behind to go to Paris to pursue his art, now not so much. So how about it, what didn't work for y'all the 2nd time around?


message 2: by Patricia (new)

Patricia Weil | 168 comments Well, you already nabbed the first one for me, Diane. I expected to be so delighted when I re-read Catcher. I was bored. Worse: I was pretty appalled that I could have ever considered that such an important novel. I used to admire Miller, too. Now, I remember that and wonder if there was really so much to admire
--but not enough to prompt a re-reading.

I'll really have to think on this. It's a good topic.


message 3: by William (new)

William | 39 comments Personally, I have believed for some time now that I would have had much more trouble getting through the teenage years without Catcher in the Rye. And, sorry, I liked it the second time around in my fifties and Nine Stories is still fabulous.


message 4: by Martin (last edited Jul 25, 2014 09:51AM) (new)

Martin Zook | 30 comments Umberto Eco, in a series of lectures on reading published as Six Walks in the Fictional Woods, offers up the notion that reading doesn't begin until the first reread.

I agree.

I'll go a step further. It seems to me that many readers today are really consumers of books more than they are readers. Present company excepted, of course.

The problem for a slow reader such as myself is that I read relatively few books for starters, and if I reread them as, say, Eco does, I would read very few books over the course of a year. Problem piled on problem, the years are running out.

Even before taking a speeding reading course, I instinctively developed the practice of reading the beginning and end of a book, then flipping through the middle, before settling down to read it page x page.

In effect, I am rereading books with such an approach.

There are many benefits. Because I am essentially vetting a book, I can weed out stinkers without wasting a whole lot of my dwindling time and energy. I can also read to more deeply appreciate the complexities of what I read.

This brings me to an interesting point of Eco's lectures. He does not use top drawer literature to illustrate his points. Many of his supporting anecdotes come from Ian Fleming's James Bond novels.

All that said, there are authors and books that I am done with. Hemingway, whose works appealed to me greatly when I was 19, do not warrant revisiting as I round third and head for home.

But my read/reread of Gravity's Rainbow is highly rewarding, especially since I have a fair idea of where Pynchon is transporting me. I think knowing the destination and route makes it possible to more deeply enjoy the trip.


message 5: by Larry (new)

Larry Bassett | 0 comments Martin, you gave me this advice several months ago and I like it although I have yet to seriously try it out. One reason for that is that I have been reading quiet a few short stories where it seems not to apply. I have also been reading some demanding books (for me) where I could not manage to focus on some new approach.

It also explains (to me) why I think I like and benefit from "spoilers" although many in this group seem to deplore them. I like to know what is going to happen so I can anticipate it and watch events march in that direction.

Thanks for bringing up the idea of pre-reading to me again!


message 6: by Franky (last edited Jul 26, 2014 01:47PM) (new)

Franky | 313 comments Diane, I have the same feeling about rereading "The Catcher in the Rye." I read it once in high school and liked it, and maybe I should leave it that way. (I'm thinking if I read it again I'll realize what a little punk Holden is...).

Plus, I really admit Salinger's other stuff, like his short stories, so I don't want to tarnish that.


message 7: by Patricia (new)

Patricia Weil | 168 comments Let me respond from a different perspective,on those titles that have withstood the test of time and repeated re-reading: Henry James' Portrait of a Lady and the incomparable Middlemarch. Such great novels.


message 8: by Diane S ☔ (new)

Diane S ☔ Middlemarch is one of my favorites.


message 9: by Diane, "Miss Scarlett" (new)

Diane Barnes | 3822 comments Mod
Dickens is another writer whose works never fail to please me, and I have read To Kill a Mockingbird at least 5 times, and it never changes. And there's the opposite view of the reading spectrum, reading a book before you are old enough or experienced enough to understand it. My book club read "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" a few years ago. I first read it when I was 12, loved it, and remembered it as a favorite children's book. Imagine my surprise when I discovered it wasn't a children's book at all, and a completely different book from the one I remembered. At 12, I could only grasp Frankie's point of view; in my 50's I could see how ugly some of the themes were. My naivete couldn't recognise those undercurrents as a child. I enjoyed the book both times, but it was a different book to me in each reading. We truly bring ourselves to the book when we open the pages.


message 10: by Patricia (new)

Patricia Weil | 168 comments I've thought about re-reading ATGIB, Diane--it's been years-and now your statements have convinced me to.


message 11: by Diane, "Miss Scarlett" (new)

Diane Barnes | 3822 comments Mod
And you, Patricia, have made me want to re-read Middlemarch. That was a great book.


message 12: by Jackie (new)

Jackie Patricia wrote: "Well, you already nabbed the first one for me, Diane. I expected to be so delighted when I re-read Catcher. I was bored. Worse: I was pretty appalled that I could have ever considered that such an ..."

I didn't like Catcher when I read it in school, so I decided to re-read as an adult and see what I must have missed as a teenager. I didn't like it as an adult either!


message 13: by Jackie (new)

Jackie Diane wrote: "Dickens is another writer whose works never fail to please me, and I have read To Kill a Mockingbird at least 5 times, and it never changes. And there's the opposite view of the reading spectrum, r..."

I also read ATGIB when I around that age and I do plan to re-read it.


message 14: by Kim (new)

Kim Kaso | 590 comments I re-read ATGIB when my husband lost his job during the economic downturn. He got his notice the Friday before Obama’s inauguration the first time, & it took until Labor
Day for him to get another job at his normal level (he generally is an asst dean or in charge of 100 plus people in an academic environment or serves as a CFO in the corporate/nonprofit side). The book gave me a perspective on what real hard times are, and was weirdly comforting to me in my 50s. I read it when I was 13 or so the first time, and definitely identified with Frankie. I saw the movie on TCM just after I finished the book, that was another source of comfort.


message 15: by Tom, "Big Daddy" (new)

Tom Mathews | 2461 comments Mod
Kim wrote: "I re-read ATGIB when my husband lost his job during the economic downturn. He got his notice the Friday before Obama’s inauguration the first time, & it took until Labor
Day for him to get another ..."


I haven't read it yet but it's on my list.


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