Monday, April 18, 2011

On Second Reads

Do you read a story/novel more than once?

I'm a chronic re-reader. Some books, like Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis, I've read three or more times. Of course others, Of Mice and Men, I've taught for ten years or more. I almost have that poor little book memorized.

Sometimes the re-read doesn't carry the same impact as the first time. I couldn't sleep last Friday night, and so pulled one of my H.P. Lovecraft collections off the shelf and tackled "The Rats in the Walls" for the third time. It is a brilliant story, wonderfully set up and paced. But--and here's the spoiler alert--upon my second and third reads, when the protagonist and his compatriots open the secret staircase and descend into the "grotto of twilit horrors" it didn't have the same effect as it did upon first reading.

I felt a tad sad. The first time I read "The Rats in the Walls" I felt a sense of discovery and revulsion upon making the discovery. Knowing "what was coming" softened the blow. The overwhelming sense of dread and terror just wasn't there.

Are there types of stories which fair better upon re-reading? How so?

15 comments:

Tony said...

A lot of things in life lose that special glimmer they hold the first time around. It is sad.

I don't always re-read, but for my favorites I do. I've read Cat's Cradle upwards of six or seven times.

Other times I re-read because I remembered liking a book, but that's *all* I remember.

Milo James Fowler said...

Till We Have Faces -- one of my all-time faves, and his best work as far as I'm concerned. I've also read Ender's Game and King's The Gunslinger more than once. I've found that some emotional tales can lose their punch the second or third time around, but stories taut with tension pull me in all over again.

And hey, I received my EDF3 proof today. Honored to share a ToC with you, sir!

Aaron Polson said...

Tony - I'm not sure I remember liking any books about which I can't remember any details. But then would I know if I couldn't remember? (wow...my head hurts after that)

Milo - The feeling is mutual about EDF. Congrats!

Barry Napier said...

I seem t enjoy The lord of the Flies a little bit more each and every time i read it.

Katey said...

You're absolutely right about "The Rats In The Walls". It'll always be my favorite because that first time sticks with me, but it's not the same now!

Some books get better as I get older. I read a lot of things before I had enough life experience to really feel them properly. I'm sure some of the things I think I get now, I will only get later. Steinbeck does that to me--I always loved him, but I couldn't really understand some of it in high school--just thought of him cuz you mentioned him.

Alan W. Davidson said...

I can only recall three books that I've read more than once. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, The Stand and Somerset Maugham's The Razors Edge. None of those lost their magic upon second reading, however there were many years between the readings...

Natalie L. Sin said...

I don't reread many books, mostly because I think of all my unread books. I can reread Stephen King's early anthologies over and over again, however. The stories are to rich, it doesn't matter that I know what's coming : )

S. Williams said...

Only a childhood fav "My side of the mountin" is the only book I have read a few times.

Marcel Admiraal said...

I also thought anything by Anthony Horowitz is well worth re-reading. I re-read his children's books when I was older and it still makes me laugh. Some of the stuff I had already forgotten!

He's a great writer for both adults and children.

Marcel

Aaron Polson said...

Barry - I always enjoy teaching that one.

Katey - Could you explain the end of The Grapes of Wrath to me? Still in therapy...

Alan - The Razor's Edge is a beautiful book.

Natalie - Vintage King has a special place in my heart, too.

S. - Does it still hold up after years between readings?

Marcel - I've never read Horowitz--now on my TBR pile. ;)

Daniel W. Powell said...

Rereading Joe Lansdale's The Nightrunners, and Ann Rule's The I-5 Killer, made me feel pretty terrible about the prospects of humanity.

Then I read a little pick-me-up called The Road, by ol' C-Mac, and I knew that everything was okie-dokie...

Daniel W. Powell said...

re-read, I should say (three times on that novel--it never becomes less perfect)...

Cate Gardner said...

I used to (especially as a kid), but not so much now that I'm growing an impressive to read pile.

Simon Kewin said...

I rarely reread, if I'm honest, unless it's a stone-cold classic. Or unless I'm reading to the children in which case reading the same books again and again is the norm!

Aaron Polson said...

Daniel - The Road was a tad bleak, wasn't it? Amazing, though.

Cate - Yes: the ever-growing TBR pile.

Simon - Children's books have run my reading time for the past seven years...love 'em, but c'mon!