Now books of unusual depth certainly bear re-reading. I have read Moby Dick at least twice, Bleak House at least twice, Gravity's Rainbow three times, Ulysses three times, Tom Jones at least twice, and so on. But these are books that obviously have many depths and layers to them. Well, maybe not Tom Jones. It's just the most fun I've ever had reading a novel.
(It's odd. I don't usually like humorous novels much. In general, whether it's film, theatre, what have you, I avoid comedy. But in the 18th-century English novel, I much prefer the funny ones like Fielding and Sterne to the serious ones like Richardson.)
Anyway, I do like reading crime novels, science fiction and fantasy, and other light genre stuff in between and around the classics. I also enjoy reading recent novels from time to time. I'm quite taken with David Mitchell, and I greatly enjoyed The Goldfinch.
I have little time to read. I work 8:00 AM to 6:00 or even 7:00 PM.. I have notes, letters, reports, etc to do. I try to make some time to spend with my wife (usually watching television, actually), and I try to get in some exercise. This leaves me an hour or two before bed for reading. I don't feel that I have the time to re-read. I'd rather have a superficial knowledge of a broad range of books that a deep knowledge of a narrow range. I haven't time to do both. I admire your dedication, though, Joffre. You've always enjoyed the analytics of literature. (I suppose that's why you can stomach James Wood, who can drain the joy out of a book faster than anyone I've seen since I was an undergraduate.) I have very little interest in deep criticism. At heart I'm still the kid who used to say, "Tell me a story, dad. Please!"
: I really believe what Nabokov said about reading.
: “Curiously enough, one cannot read a book; one can
: only reread it. A good reader, a major reader, and
: active and creative reader is a rereader.” Of course,
: it's not necessary that Nabokov approve of anyone as a
: reader, but I do feel that what he says is true in
: some ways. I think, more especially with modern
: literature, it's necessary to be familiar with the
: whole so that you can fully appreciate the parts. I
: also believe that one's perception of the details and
: their significance grows with each reading. In my
: first semester at university I had a charismatic
: professor for analysis of literature who asked us to
: read each text at least three times before writing
: about it and said that he was being generous with our
: time, that the average reader needed at least five
: readings to appreciate a text.
: I think about my relationship with a book. If I've
: read a book once, I feel I'm only acquainted with it.
: And then as I read it again and again, I get to know
: it better. I wouldn't say that I'm truly intimate with
: any book. I've read nothing more than five times, and
: as best I can recall, I've only read Wuthering Heights
: and Notes from the Underground so many times. Of
: course, nobody would read a book they really disliked
: so many times. And yet, it took me four times to
: appreciate Persuasion. I wouldn't have read it so many
: times if I hadn't enjoyed Austen's other novels so
: much. And I have sometimes enjoyed a book much more on
: the second reading than the first. It happened to me
: with Mdm Bovary and Catch 22. I think I probably just
: read them too fast the first time. And sometimes the
: circumstances of one's life are too much of a
: distraction or concentration is bad for some reason,
: at least with me.
: I have a sneaking suspicion that Nabokov meant
: immediate rereading, which I've rarely done. I do
: think it would be better, but I'm usually just not
: willing. I also admire people who read some book every
: year, and yet, I don't do that either. Normally, I
: would say that at least five years and more likely 8
: to 10 pass between my readings of books. I last read
: Villette around 2000. Little as I'm enjoying Tomcat
: Murr, I think about reading it again soon, reading
: each part separately, but I probably won't do it.
: Most people just don't have the time to reread, I
: guess. I am rather fiercely protective of my reading
: time. I still wish I had more, but I manage pretty
: well. I'm helped by my reluctance to read contemporary
: books. Some of them must be great, but how can I know
: for fifty years or so. I run a great risk of wasting
: reading time on books of the moment if I read them
: now. But I have reached a point at which I'm more open
: to them.
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