Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Sorry, I’ll read that again

A piece in the Observer a few weeks ago had prompted me to muse about rereading, what we come back to and why.  I lost interest, but a friend has just reminded me of one.*  I said I’d come up with my top ten.  (I’m good at self-imposed challenges.)

To deal with the ‘why’ first, some rules are needed.  (I’m good at self-imposed rules.)  Rereading from desperation because there’s nothing new to hand doesn’t count, except when it does.**  Comfort or nostalgia are insufficient motives – for example, I will never read ‘The Lord of the Rings’ again, because though it may have been a comfort blanket in the past I now recognise that, basically, it’s crap.  And some books are just plain worn out.  I’ll never read ‘Catch-22’ again.  And big fat multi-volume sagas are not allowed, just because I say so.  So no ‘Dance to the Music of Time’, or Patrick O’Brian, or Harry Potter (hah, gotcha!).

No, the ‘why’ has to be caught in that one ineluctable word: quality.

So here we go.

·         ‘The Outsider’, by Albert Camus.
·         ‘The Great Gatsby’, by F Scott Fitzgerald.
·         ‘The Tin Roof Blowdown’, by James Lee Burke.
·         ‘The Third Policeman’, by Flann O’Brien.
·         ‘Vilette’, by Charlotte Brontë.
·         ‘The High Window’, by Raymond Chandler.
·         ‘Good as Gold’, by Joseph Heller.      
·         ‘The Code of the Woosters’, by P. G. Wodehouse.
·         ‘?’, by ?
·         ‘?’, by ?
 
Perceptive as you are, you’ll have noticed two things (apart from how boring and narrowly read I am – some of those Observateurs were doing Aristotle and Thomas Mann and stuff like that): they’re not ordered; and there are two empty slots.  Those are for you to fill, with a book that you reread but I’ve probably read once at most.  You’ll have to apply some guesswork there, of course.  And obviously I can’t rank them until I have all ten.

 * It’s on the list, but I’m not telling. 

** That’s a snitch from another one on the list, by the way.

14 comments :

  1. Life of Pi. Or at least I will reread it again once I've found it.

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  2. My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell.

    Has saved my life and my sanity over and over for 50 years.

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  3. Last year I reread War and Peace for probably the 10th time. And recently I reread Vanity Fair and Crime and Punishment. I reread very few modern novels. Actually, I don't even finish a lot of them nowadays. Life of Pi was an exception.

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  4. Mostly I don't get to read them the first time. But being reminded of Crime & Punishment is probably one, thank you Z. I was quite small when I first read it (I'm larger than that now)& don't recall much - something about a horse wasn't it?
    And The Seige, Helen Dunmore.
    Is it something about Russia? I have to ask myself.

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  5. I don't reread many books either, but I one I did reread with pleasure was The Count of Montecristo by Alexandre Dumas. Such a ripping good yarn.

    Sometimes I pick up a book thinking I haven't read it and then half way through think 'this sounds familiar' and realise I have read it after all.

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  6. AQ, I will buy Life of Pi and read it, twice.

    Z, no wonder you never have time to do anything.

    Lo and Eliz, I like your candidates very much, and will re-reread them, if I can find them.

    Sarah, never read it! At least I don't think so - I'll probably get halfway through and think oh...!

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  7. I read in the night on my phone. But you're right, I'm the laziest person I know.
    Diary of a Nobody, yes! (and I read it again recently). Also Huckleberry Finn. And I read Saki all the time and have done for 50 years. Chris and I both love Saki.
    I last read Lord of the Rings in Kerala, having read all my books I went to buy one and it was suitably long, in English and readable. I've no problem with reading crap.

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  8. Apologies for blathering on, btw. I'm waiting for a taxi.

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  9. "We didn't mean to go to sea" by Arthur Ransome. I know his books are old fashioned but they still tell good stories if you want a bit of escapism!

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  10. How can Catch 22 have slipped off the list and Good as Gold be on it???

    Anyway no list of re-reads is complete without The Sun Also Rises, Sunset Song,The Catcher in the Rye, Wide Sargasso Sea, The Quiet American and er Frost on my Moustache...

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  11. Thank you all for your stimulating suggestions. Some of them don't yet qualify for me, not having read them the first time - but that's easily fixed!

    Macy, Catch 22 belongs to a category of books that don't need to be reread, because they've been memorised.

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  12. Kim by Kipling, I reread it about once every ten years and it seems different every time.

    And I'm saving The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver for a special treat and then I'll probably have to reread all the rest of hers too.

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