Sunday, January 03, 2010

Thoughts on Re-reading

I am not really a re-reader of books.  Well, let me add a caveat to that.  I am not really a re-reader of non-romance novels.  I can re-read my favorite romance novels again and again and again.  I probably read my favorite romance novel, Shanna by Kathleen Woodiwiss, once a year.  Stephanie Laurens and Julie Garwood are two more authors I like to re-read.

But for some reason I never seem to pick up my other favorites more than once.  I got to thinking about this recently when I watched the film adaptation of A.S. Byatt's Possession, my favorite contemporary work.  I read that book at least eight years ago and haven't read it since.

This made me think about why I read the books I read and why they become my favorites.  Stephanie Laurens and Julie Garwood write fun stories that I like to revist, just like I like to re-watch fun movies like Bring It On and Anchorman.  Books like Possession appeal to me for different reasons. 

I have always been an avid reader, but for most of my life I was a very one dimentional reader.  Growing up I read Sweet Valley High, etc., and then I moved into romance novels and read those almost exclusively.

But something changed when I read Possession.  Even though it's been years, I can still remember how awed I was by the writing.  Not just the plot or the characters, but the actual writing of the book.  I think that was the first time that I became consciously aware of good writing. 

And for some reason, I don't have much of a desire to revisit those kinds of books.  It's like Brokeback Mountain; I loved that movie, but I just don't want to see it again.  In both cases, my first exposure provoked a strong emotional reaction.  I wonder if maybe I don't re-read or re-watch because I'm afraid of diluting that memory in some way.  Does that make sense?

I thought I'd write one this because lately I've been thinking that I do need to re-read some works that I haven't read in years.  For instance, I watch the 2005 movie version of Pride and Prejudice so much that I was turned off by coldness and arrogance of Darcy and Elizabeth in the BBC version.  It made me realize that I need to re-read the book in order to accurately remember what it's about.  Maybe I should made a resolution to re-read all of my favorite books that were adapted as films in order to keep the purity of the book in  mind.  I guess I'll have to add The Power of One, Atonement, Wuthering Heights, and Cold Mountain to that list.

1 comment:

Joan Barleycorn said...

I've only ever re-read Dickens and Doris Lessing. Some books I keep and vow never to give to charity shops or friends. I'll re-read some of them if I get the chance and run out new and exciting possibilities. One book I have been meaning to re-read is The Fountain Overflows by Rebecca West, which blew me away when I read it twenty odd years ago.

Some books I positively love to give way, so other people can enjoy them and then, hopefully, give away to others.

Some books are meant to be re-read and I'm sure Possession is one of those. One day I'm actually going to read it. AS Byatt is a really good, possibly a great, writer. I've read a couple of her books and although they left me a little exhausted are so bloody worthwhile. Not the sort of thing I'd necessarily pass on to a friend as an entertaining reading 'fix'.

I agree with you totally about Brokeback Mountain.

Cheers and happy reading and re-reading.
J