Life is too damn short! I need to move on to the next book, then the next, and on and on. To go back and reread something is almost against my religion, or life force. Unfortunately, since creating my Best Mysteries of All Time list, I’ve had to re-read bits and pieces, and almost all of some titles, simply to regain what I loved about them to begin with. And it makes me impatient, testy, curmudgeonly.
I can think of perhaps two titles I re-read voluntarily. For some reason I thought The Birthday Murder by Lange Lewis was splendiferous when first encountered. So years later, in need of a comfort read, or some such thing, I picked it up and read it again. And sadly, it disappointed the second time around. A couple hours out of my life-gone! The second book I remember was Mary Gordon’s Final Payments. I think at the time I identified with the protagonist. So, I suppose remembering a little of that feeling, I reread it. Not as nearly a good match as earlier, lol. I’ve been tempted to reread some outstanding books, such as: The Probable Future by Alice Hoffman; some short stories by Stephen Crane; Lady Oracle by Margaret Atwood; and any Cornell Woolrich.
I was blown away by The Probable Future. I loved the quirkiness of the setting. A house that looked like a wedding cake intrigued my imagination so when I found out there were real homes out there called wedding cake houses, naturally I needed to visit–and so I did–at least three of them. One in upper New York, one in Virginia, and the last in Massachusetts, the inspiration for Hoffman’s home. For that reason alone, rereading seems doable, plus the characters and magical atmosphere adhered itself to me, and I became part of the town in which the story takes place. However, because I’ve had less than positive second shots at books, I think I’d rather remember being awed by the book, then rereading and feeling flat.
The short stories of Crane were taught in high school, and one story has remained with me and I often mentally repeat a refrain–it may be paraphrased here–‘If I’m going to die, if I’m going to die, why in the name of the seven mad seas, was I allowed to come thus far to contemplate sand and trees?’ The trees part may be off too–but the point was, if you are at a place in life where you are about to go down- like the sailor who is struggling in the sea after a boat sinking–why are the means to survival placed in front of you, but out of reach? And the greater lesson from the story; if you literally ‘go with the flow’ you’ll survive, whereas the men who tried to swim, or fight the ocean, perished. The sailor who allowed the water to push him to the shore, lived. Worth re-reading just to get the quote correct.
I have vaguer reasons for Lady Oracle–one being I’ve kept the paperback I read in my teens with me all this time, so I must have liked something about it. Also, I think the protagonist is involved with gothic mysteries, which I read like candy back in the day. So I’m curious as to what compelled me to keep the book and what treasures may still lay within.
And Cornell Woolrich should be self explanatory. But just in case one hasn’t had the incredible experience of reading Woolrich’s dark, suspenseful, tumultuous novels, let me just say that the reader never knows if there will be a positive outcome for the characters until the last page, and that tenseness is reason enough to read again and again.
But I don’t. I don’t reread any Woolrich’s–there are still titles of his I haven’t cracked open yet. And the other books although intriguing, require time, and I simply don’t want to give it to them. I want to finish Miss Peregrine’s School for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs, I’m more than half way through. Then there’s the classic mystery novel people go bonkers over I’ve been meaning to read for decades–The List of Adrian Messenger, by Philip MacDonald –I’m slightly a quarter of the way in. And let’s not ignore the Dell Mapback, The Charred Witness, by George Harmon Coxe starring that intrepid newspaper photographer, Kent Murdock–I’ve no idea how far I’ve gotten in this one, I’m enjoying the 40s ambiance too much to care.
And what about the To Be Read piles? Are they to stay at the same height while I return to an earlier read? I’ve been dying to delve into The Carnival Murder for ages. And I had immediately bought the newly released A Red Herring without Mustard, a Flavia de Luce book by Alan Bradley, which is now not so new. And oh! Yes, I forgot I had begun a recommended book called The Red Leather Diary, by Lori Koppel and need to continue it.
So, you can see why picking up a long ago read, and perusing its pages again, is just out of the question.
I never read a book twice!
The Birthday Murder image at the top left is the first time I read it. The second time is the one on the right.