Re: [mythsoc] Digest Number 1727
- I'm a lot more like Wendell these days, but as I child, I may have been
more like Berni. I remember there were some books that between about
4th grade and high school I tried to read every year. These included
_The Hobbit_, which I think I've read about a dozen times (or more),
Margot Benary-Isbert's _The Wicked Enchantment_--which on rereading to
my daughter aloud a few years back (well, maybe 10 years back, now) I
discovered that I still loved and admired--which I always read during
Holy Week--and _The Secret Garden_ by Frances Hodgson Burnett (I think
I've misspelled her name). I also reread a lot of other books more
indiscriminately, the Narnia books, the Edward Eager books, a few of E.
Nesbit's, some of Andre Norton's books, the Heinlein juveniles, the
books of Tove Jansson, Walter R. Brooks' Freddy Books, some of the Dr.
Doolittle books and the Oz books, some of the Bobbsey Twins books, and
Tom Swift, Jr. and the Adventure series by Enid Blyton, Lucy Boston's
books, _Tal and His Marvelous Adventures with Noom-Zor-Noom_ about
which I can remember very little), and so on. As an adult, the main
books I've reread were for class, I've read _Frankenstein_ at least 5
times for class, and never thought all that much of it, and likewise
_Alice In Wonderland_, which I actually like, now, but didn't as a
child. (I admire a lot about _Frankenstein_, and appreciate what I
think is a significant artistic achievement, but it's badly flawed in
many ways and I really don't like it). The other place I've reread
books is in Mythopoeic Society and other fan-related activities.
It's my experience that rereading a book that disturbs me or which
leaves me unquiet can be a most rewarding experience because I often
change my perception of the book. For instance, Peg Kerr's _The Wild
Swans_ took at least two readings to really be sure that this was an
outstanding and good book, and that was true for one of my all-time
favorite books, John Fowles' _The Ebony Tower_, I also found that my
appreciation of C.S. Lewis's _Till We Have Faces_ was significantly
increased on the second reading, also true of such books as Eleanor
Arnason's masterpiece, _Ring of Swords_, Ursula K. Le Guin's _The Lathe
of Heaven_, which seemed trite and unoriginal to me on first reading.
Sometimes the writing of papers about books have forced me to reread
them, and with the spur of expressing objections to aspects I've come
to reread and newly understand them. This has been true both for books
that I initially disliked (like Charles Williams's _The Place of the
Lion_, or Tim Powers' _Declare_) and for books that I liked but came to
understand much better (Charles Williams's _The Greater Trumps_, the
middle-English poem, _Sir Orfeo_, Barfield's _Orpheus_, Tennyson's _In
Memoriam_, bits of Milton and Shakespeare's _The Tempest_, and on and
One of the best reasons for rereading is when someone tells you
something you obviously missed on first reading, and this happens all
the time in the Mythopoeic Society. I often talk about the great
pleasure I've found in Moorcock's "Dancers at the End of Time" which
had totally eluded me until Rivendellers Bruce Blake and Lesa von
Munkwitz-Smith raved about the books and made me go back and read the
second and third volumes in the original trilogy, forcing me to revisit
and revalue _An Alien Heat_. Lesa did the same thing for me after I
"misread" Le Guin's _The Tombs of Atuan_. Similarly, it was a couple of
articles I read for the MSA committee that revealed the value of some
of William Morris's romances, especially _The Water of the Wondrous
Isles_ and _The Defence of Guenevere_. And David Bratman and Sherwood
Smith and Alexei Kondratiev and Berni Phillips and Ellie Farrell and
Mary Stolzenbach and Pat Wynne and Matt Fisher and Laura Krentz and
Ruth Berman and Grace Funk and Jane Yolen and others are constantly
amazing me with their insights and different but enlightening
approaches to texts that I had missed or failed to consider. For this
reason, although I can see why David B. thinks rereading is a great
>I also find that much that I might want to label as "trash" actually
> I much prefer re-reading novels to reading new ones, for the simple
> that when I re-read a book, I already know it will be good, an
> very hard to come by with new fantasy. I used to find it worthwhile to
> shovel through the trash looking for the good stuff, but not any more.
> And the books I find good will very much withstand, and even invite,
> David Bratman
will yield some treasure if I read it carefully and sympathetically.
Especially if someone has given me a hint as to something that I might
want to look for.
One way that I've reread a lot of books since 1990 is in connection
with my daughter's reading/listening to stories. Many of the books
that I loved as a child I've given to her or read to her, and found
that many more stand up to my fondest memories than fail the test of
rereading. (No, Enid Blyton does not stand the test--neither, to my
surprise, did Lawson's _Rabbit Hill_ or Lindgren's _Mio, My Son_, while
both books were good, neither was as good as my childhood memories from
multiple rereadings). I suppose I'm agreeing with Mari Dole here, and I
also wanted to acknowledge Dan's point that while there's lots to catch
on a rereading, if a book seems a total waste of time by the mid-point,
don't keep on ploughing on. It might be that a rereading at a later
time might yield something, but absent some other reader's
recommendation or other reason for reattempting it, you'd probably be
better off trying something else.
- At 07:41 PM 11/21/2004 -0600, David Lenander wrote:
>I also find that much that I might want to label as "trash" actuallyWhen I do read it, that's what I get: trash with some interesting points.
>will yield some treasure if I read it carefully and sympathetically.
There's a huge gap between that and great work that has flaws. I used to
think it was sometimes worth the trouble to find those interesting points,
but I've long since given up.
I hope it's clear that I'm not using "trash" as a synonym for "light
reading" or anything like that. Light reading can be fun. I mean just
plain lousy books, most of which are very heavy reading indeed.