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Re-reads

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

The saying goes that one can never step into the same river twice. I believe the same to be true of reading. Memorable books from my childhood are particularly worthwhile re-reads, because if they were good enough then for me to recall them now (I don’t own many of my original volumes due to numerous purges and moves), chances are, I’ll find something that resonates in my adulthood. Books that deal with personal identity are always fascinating to revisit, to see if – and hopefully how – I’ve grown since the last reading. And of course, there are some classics that can show us how very simple it can be to escape any number of frustrations, distractions, and seemingly insurmountable obstacles. An example from each group, if I may…

Anastasia’s Chosen Career, Lois Lowry. I adored Anastasia as a child, and now I see that she and I are truly one and the same in many ways, even if I didn’t see that at the time. I’ve since discovered The Giver, which I absolutely loved, and which made Lowry even more of a literary hero of mine. I’ve purchased, but have not yet read, Gathering Blue and Messenger.

Stone Butch Blues, Leslie Feinberg. Each time I read this book, some new aspect of the community gets my attention. The first time through, I was obsessed with the femmes – I existed on some level, in print! There’s even a word for women like me! – and was enamored of Jess/e. The second time, I paid closer attention to the relationships the butches had, with the femmes, and with each other. The ways they connected, and, more importantly, the ways they couldn’t. The most recent read was for school, and I saw the book through straight people’s eyes for the first time. I’m actually getting really emotional just thinking about the comments that were presented in the class discussion; I felt so… “Other,” and alienated, and despairing, even though this should have been my night, dammit. I’ll never forget that session, though I wish I could… Except that it serves as a reminder of how far we have yet to go. I’ll be reading it again for class this semester, and honestly don’t know what to expect. I don’t want to put up walls… But some things are just too fragile.

The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupery. I’ve owned this book in French since my freshman year of high school. I was never fluent enough to read it, and so it wasn’t until I picked up a used copy at Modern Times earlier this year that I finally experienced this amazing little story. The first read was simply an engrossed and awed solid hour of page-turning. I was sobbing far before the end, and went back to several parts once I’d finished to read them again for the simple beauty of the premises set forth. The second read was the night before I flew home to Maine, and I was bringing this now-treasured volume with me to share with someone. It had been a very trying few days leading up to my departure, and I was feeling more anxious than excited about my trip. It served to calm me in a way… Not solving any of what was gnawing at me, but permitting me to release it to the universe. I’m looking forward to reading it regularly to see how the decisions I’ve made in my life influence my perception of the story.

So, enough out of me – do you re-read? If so, what? Is it simply for the fun of revisiting a favorite story (which I also do, alllll the time!)? Is it to recover a lost bit of childhood? To see how far you’ve come since last you read the particular book?

Because it works, that’s why

Monday, October 19th, 2009

This weekend I realized something about myself that makes me, perhaps, different from many book bloggers or other “critics” of the arts: I am not offended, bored, or annoyed by formulaic books, television, or movies. Matter of fact, I find myself suckered by them more often than not. And that, folks, is why the formulas exist – they work. Sure, it’s exhilarating to read a story that’s written from the perspective of an inanimate object, for example, and of course we love walking out of a movie theater and talking animatedly with our friends about how we sure didn’t see that coming. However, offerings from those who have perfected the tried-and-true will always succeed, because that is where so many of us find comfort, satisfaction, and happiness – in the familiar.

I picked up a copy of Reading the Romance by Janice Radway and – surprise, surprise – haven’t gotten around to it yet, but I’m intrigued by the severe breakdown of exactly how bodice-rippers must be written in order to pass muster for publishing: so many pages before the main characters meet, so many more before they first touch, so many more before they’re torn asunder, so many more before they first have sex – it would seem a wonder than anyone would need to read more than two, right? And yet…

Sunday, I watched The Mighty Ducks. I’ve loved that movie since it first came out, even though it’s just like any number of other underdog sports team themed flicks. But every one of them has a heartfelt pep talk, a discovery of fair play, a rewarding of hard work, that is touching, despite its triteness. Not such a big shocker, really, that I got teary-eyed a few times.

More interesting to me, however, was the book-related revelation on this theme. I picked up a John Grisham book for the first time in probably five years this weekend; I read the first chapters in moments, recognizing his prose easily, remembering some ten other books of his that could have had these chapters wedged in and it would have been completely unnoticeable.  I saw the first twist coming from a mile away, but instead of rolling my eyes when it was revealed, I felt validated – maybe as a writer? or a reader? – for having “figured it out.”

How do you feel about prolific authors whose books all tend to be variations on a theme? Do you avoid them like the plague, gobble up every single book they publish, read a few and then are over it?

Edited to add – Have I mentioned that flu shots make me woozy and somewhat incomprehensible? This is a hilariously disjointed post, and half of what I’d intended to write didn’t make it to the screen, but for the life of me I can’t remember what’s missing. *sigh*

But I don’t wanna!

Friday, October 16th, 2009

I’m trying. I really am. I know my professor wouldn’t have chosen this book if she didn’t feel that it qualified as “literature” and conveyed something of vital importance to our understanding of queer culture.

But I kinda wanna gouge out my eyes with a grapefruit spoon rather than read it.

What do you do with a book you *have* to read, but really, truly dislike? Do you try to get it over with and sit through it all at once? Put it off and read a bit at a time to try and make the whole more palatable? Skim like crazy and hope you’ve gotten enough of the gist for whatever obligates you to read it?