Monday, 18 October 2010
Do You Re-Read Books?
I never really read books as a child. I was too busy playing football in the winter and cricket in the summer. If I read at all, it was Tintin and Asterix, cos they like, you know, had pictures in them...
The book that turned me on to literature was Albert Camus' "L'Etranger". An older cousin of mine, who I always tried to cling on to the coat-tails of his cool, had recommended that I listen to The Cure song "Killing An Arab" and read the Camus' book.
I faithfully did both and have never looked back in either category. (Thanks Cuz!) I have been a voracious reader ever since.
Every year I made sure I found space on my list to re-read "L'Etranger". I think I probably kept this up for about eight to ten years. The number of other novels I've read for even a second time I can probably count on the fingers of one hand. I almost never go back to a book I've read, I think because somewhere psychologically, I feel it would hold me up from discovering the next great novel on my list.
As with L'Etranger", I'm sure reading most books would yield things I missed first time round. And though I am indubitably a different person from the one twenty years ago, (having become a parent for example), would I inevitably have a different reaction to a book I had read twenty years ago? I don't know the answer to this and my empirical sample is too slight to base any conclusion on.
Also, the thing is, I kind of like imbibing what I can from reading a book for the first time. The way it can both wash over and yet percolate me. If one returns to a previously read book, both mechanisms are dampened by a base recall of the plot and character from the first time round. I've recently finished Tom McCarthy's superlative "C" (reviewed here). The book is rich in intertextuality and reference, but I feel I got the ones I got and that to read it again may yield me me more of the references I missed first time round, but would that in itself enhance my pleasure over and above what I obtained a couple of weeks ago?
I'm curious when I read online reviews of books when the reviewer mentions they would like to re-read it, whether they in fact do return to it at a later date? Like "L'Etranger", many readers have their one or two seminal texts that they return to over and over again, but do readers do it routinely with more titles than just these?
I'm about to launch into a re-read of Murakami's "Hard Boiled Wonderland And The End Of The World". The reason for this is mainly because I want to study its ingenious dual plot structure that work themselves towards a convergence that just doesn't seem possible at the outset. I want to study it because it impinges on my own work in progress. Yet I can't help feeling it's going to take the gloss off my memory of one of my all time favourite reads.
Wish me luck.