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celebrating a few beloved books

BD1234-001There’s something wonderful, both comfortable and exciting, about rereading a favorite novel. I know people who claim never to read a book (or watch a movie) more than once. I believe them, but I don’t understand them at all. It’s impossible to get all there is to get from a really good book after a single reading. You might as well say you’ve heard that piece of music before so you’re never going to listen to it again. That makes no sense.

I’ve read all of these books more than once. In the case of One Hundred Years of Solitude, I’ve lost count of the number of rereadings. (But I can remember some of the physical locations I was in when I read it.) The writing still entrances. The characters still live. The story still captures my attention.

Early November. It’s nine o’clock. The titmice are banging against the window. Sometimes they fly dizzily off after the impact, other times they fall and lie struggling in the new snow until they can take off again. I don’t know what they want that I have. I look out the window at the forest. There is a reddish light over the trees by the lake. It is starting to blow. I can see the shape of the wind on the water.

—Per Petterson, Out Stealing Horses

Birdsong strikes up and musters in the first soft press of dawn. Starlings, sparrows, magpies, meadowlarks, blackbirds. There is the flush and shuffle of feathers. Throat tunings. The hollowing chitter of beaks. Bursts of flight. Wrens, flycatchers, cowbirds, crows. Complaint. Exultation. They work the meadow grass, the cottonwoods along the creek, the open barnloft, alive in tilting sweeps of hand-size shadows. The raptors float silently a thousand feet above, turning, spiraling atop the early-morning thermals, hunting the edge of the ebbing night.

—Mark Spragg, The Fruit of Stone

The accused man, Kabuo Miyamoto, sat proudly upright with a rigid grace, his palms placed softly on the defendant’s table—the posture of a man who has detached himself insofar as this is possible at his own trial. Some in the gallery would later say that his stillness suggested a disdain for the proceedings; others felt certain it veiled a fear of the verdict that was to come. Whichever it was, Kabuo showed nothing—not even a flicker of the eyes. He was dressed in a white shirt worn buttoned to the throat and gray, neatly pressed trousers. His figure, especially the neck and shoulders, communicated the impression of irrefutable physical strength and of precise, even imperial bearing. Kabuo’s features were smooth and angular; his hair had been cropped close to his skull in a manner that made its musculature prominent. In the face of the charge that had been leveled against him he sat with his dark eyes trained straight ahead and did not appear moved at all.

—David Guterson, Snow Falling on Cedars

Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. At that time Macondo was a village of twenty adobe houses, built on the bank of a river of clear water that ran along a bed of polished stones, which were white and enormous, like prehistoric eggs. The world was so recent that many things lacked names, and in order to indicate them it was necessary to point. Every year during the month of March a family of ragged gypsies would set up their tents near the village, and with a great uproar of pipes and kettledrums they would display new inventions.

—Gabriel Garcia Marquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

May in Ayemenem is a hot, brooding month. The days are long and humid. The river shrinks and black crows gorge on bright mangoes in still, dustgreen trees. Red bananas ripen. Jackfruits burst. Dissolute bluebottles hum vacuously in the fruity air. Then they stun themselves against clear windowpanes and die, fatly baffled in the sun.

The nights are clear, but suffused with sloth and sullen expectation.

—Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things

In order to pay off an old debt that someone else had contracted, Austin King had said yes when he knew that he ought to have said no, and now at five o’clock of a July afternoon he saw the grinning face of trouble everywhere he turned. The house was full of strangers from Mississippi; within an hour the friends and neighbours he had invited to an evening party would begin ringing the doorbell; and his wife (whom he loved) was not speaking to him.

—William Maxwell, Time Will Darken It

Glorious! Now I just have to decide which one of these stories to delve into again next.

How do you feel about rereading books? Do you have favorites that you’ve reread more than once?

This post is part of April’s 30 Days of Celebration. To read more, click on the Celebration category link.

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3 thoughts on “celebrating a few beloved books

  1. Rich Jones on said:

    Favorite re-read for me remains Mikhail Bulgakov’s “The Master and Margarita,” followed by Alfred Bester’s “The Stars My Destination,” Fritz Leiber’s “A Specter Is Haunting Texas,” Stendhal’s “The Charterhouse of Parma” and Dashiell Hammett’s Continental Op novel “Red Harvest.”

    And on the anniversary of Lee’s Surrender to Grant, I always re-read Thurber’s short piece from “The Thurber Carnival,” “If Grant Had Been Drinking At Appomattox.” Back in the day, Pop and I would take turns reading it to each other, laughing until the teardrops flowed, typically at the point where Grant mistakes Lee for Robert Browning.

    I haven’t been hitting the above novels on an annual basis of late as my China obsession, for which I blame Barbara Tuchman’s “Stilwell And The American Experience In China,” has taken up a lot of reading time over the last few years, alternating between 20th century histories and period document collections put out by opposing sides in the “who lost China?” debate (like it was ours to lose,) and translations of the Four Great Classical Novels (which are long, multi-volume works.) As luck would have it, about a year or so ago, someone’s collection of books on China ended up at a monthly warehouse sale I attend for my book business here in Reno, I scored about a dozen books at one fell swoop, and kept at least eight of them (yeah, that’s no way to run a book business.)

    • Hey, Richard, good to hear from you. I was thinking about you the other day. Glad to see your reading tastes are eclectic as ever. I confess to not having red Charterhouse, although I considered including The Red and the Black in my post. Maybe that will be my next fiction read in between all the brain-y stuff. 🙂

  2. I can read my favorites more than once, sometimes one or twice a year! If a book causes me sadness bc the book or series is over, I know it is a definite re-read. Follow my blog at readwithmeromancenovels.wordpress.com also read my son’s blog at the same address. Let’s support our fellow readers, writers, and bloggers.

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