Between the Stacks

This ravenous reader has been notably absent from the stacks of late, and I apologize to any of you who may have stopped in, hoping  some morsel of bookish wisdom was being passed round on a silver tray along with a cup of herbal tea and some ginger cookies.

In truth, my reading life has taken a backseat to my recreational life these past few days, which I’ve been lucky enough to spend in Scottsdale, Arizona with my husband and two of our closest friends.  So a miniature bookstack went into my suitcase, and a small paperback was chosen to travel on the plane with me.  Although I picked it mostly for its ability to fit neatly into my carry-on tote bag, it turned out to be quite an engrossing companion, nicely diverting my attention from the longish plane ride late Tuesday evening.  

Places in the Dark, by Thomas Cook, was a compelling psychological mystery set in a small town in coastal Maine, its events turning around a strange young woman whose emotional (and physical) scars capture the hearts of two brothers, with disastrous results for both.  Cook’s writing was just as dark and ominous as Dora March herself, and urged me to keep reading in hopes that Dora’s secrets would be soon be revealed.

But I finished that book not long after arriving, so I’ve delved into the stack and drawn out another old favorite to reread- The Good Mother, by Sue Miller.   (Thank you, Litlove, for reminding me of this one.)  I’m now becoming reacquainted with Anna, a divorcee, and young mother, as she attempts to create a fulfilling life for herself as a single mother.  A custody battle is about to ensue, and I’m not looking forward to the nasty things that will happen, but happen they must in order to this story to come to its inevitable conclusion.  For no matter how much the reader might wish, the ending never changes, no matter how many times we read the book.

Lately, I’ve been in a re-reading mood – what with Men and Angels, and now The Good Mother.   Does it ever happen to you that someone mentions a book you read long ago and you immediately feel a craving for that book once again, an opportunity to revisit those characters and see how they’ve fared in your absence, thinking perhaps this time you might be able to save them from some of their most terrible mistakes,  secretly hoping they might have some newfound insight or words of wisdom you missed on the first go-round? 

There’s something comforting about re-reading, particularly if its been quite a long time since your last meeting.  You have some vague notion about what’s coming in the story, but it’s just amorphous enough to keep you from being bored.  So you continue along a familiar path until at last – aha! oh yes! – the moment of awareness dawns -of course that’s what happened! how could I have forgotten?

Now tell me, what was the last book you re-read?  And which are you more likely to do, re-read a book, or re-view a movie? 


20 thoughts on “Between the Stacks

  1. Interesting question. I’m more likely to re-view a movie, only because it takes less time. When I think about re-reading a book, I think about all the other books out there that I haven’t yet read and that I should really concentrate my efforts on those…I suppose it’s the difference between a passion and an interest. A passion you pursue much more aggressively. An interest is more passive in that it doesn’t matter if I see something again because I don’t really pursue the interest. So my passion in books makes me realize that there’s *so many* books I haven’t read, but my interest in movies makes me indifferent to whether I see something new or watch something I’ve already seen. But maybe I’m thinking to deep on this. 🙂

  2. Welcome back! Before blogging, I was probably equally as likely to re-view a movie as reread a book. But now, I’m like Trish-my TBR list is much, much longer than my “to be viewed” list. In fact, since I’m not part of any movie renting program at the moment, and I don’t ever buy new movies, I’m either watching movies I already owned or ones that seem interesting on Turner Classic Movies (in case you don’t get cable, it’s a commercial-free channel that shows old movies).

    The last book I reread was Persuasion, which I just love. One of my goals this year is to reread more books (last year I barely reread any, and I missed it). So far I’ve reread four: two fic, two nonfic. We’ll see how many more I get to!

  3. I’m a frequent re-reader, because I think a really good book offers you something new each time you read it. I started this year of by re-reading two old favourites, A Study in scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle and Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. In the near future, I’m looking forward to re-reading Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy and Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy.

  4. I just bookmooched The Good Mother and am looking forward to experiencing Sue Miller for the first time. Have heard such good things about her.

    Rereading is wonderful, I couldn’t agree more! Let’s see, the last thing I reread was Sophocles, Oedipus the King and it lovely to sit down with the play again and get into the tragedy. I hadn’t remembered how powerful some of the language really was.
    The next thing I’ll be re-reading will be Nadine Gordimer, July’s People and I can hardly wait. I remember this book so fondly, it will be great to spend some time with it again.

  5. “an opportunity to revisit those characters and see how they’ve fared in your absence”

    I’ve re-read books in mid-life that I read as a young woman, and found myself respecting traits in a character that I didn’t fully value before, and, likewise, judging a character for behavior that I previously had not found to be as objectionable. A book can turn out to be a very different experience depending on our own breadth of experience.

    I enjoy re-reading books and re-viewing movies, but I probably re-view movies more often.

    You always manage to provide food for thought.

  6. I am probably more likely to re-review a movie than a book, simply because I’m a film fan and I have my favorites — silly romantic movies that I call my guilty pleasures, delightful musicals that I see over and over, and great old classics I can’t resisit! But I do re-read. My favorite re-read is “Gifts from the Sea,” which is like a periodic wake-up call for me. Haven’t returned to a lot of novels in quite awhile, but I do have a list of them. And bios, too!

  7. I feel like I haven’t done any reading this week and I don’t even have a good excuse! 🙂
    I don’t usually re-read but I think being part of the book blogging community has me sort of changing my attitude about that. Like you said, when someone raves about a book you’ve read so long ago you want to revisit.

  8. Trish – I agree, I fell a sense of urgency about reading that I don’t have with films. And that’s an interesting premise you raise about the different responses to “interests” versus “passions.”

    Eva- The Turner Classic Movies are great, and I can almost always find something to watch there (if I can tear myself away from a book!) I just re-read Persuasion myself -it was better the second time round for me!

    Devoted Reader-I do find it most interesting, the way each re-read brings something new to the reader.

    Verbivore-I’m so impressed, re-reading Sophocles! I’ve never managed it once 🙂 I hope you enjoy the Miller book.

    Bella Rum – I’m currently having just the experience you describe with a character, i.e., “judging behavior I had not previously found objectionable.” Fascinating, isnt’ it?

    Jeanie -Gift From The Sea is one of my all time favorites – it has fed my soul at many different points in my life 🙂

    Iliana- I’ve seen your bookstack, and know you have quite a bit of first time reading lined up! It is fun to re-visit those old favorites.

  9. Since I started blogging I haven’t taken the time to do any rereading because I’ve been spending so much time getting new books from the library.

    However, I do love rereading books. My usual rereads are LOTR, Anne of Green Gables, and Pride and Prejudice.

  10. I also just reread Persuasion. I had forgotten so much of it. (not the important parts though) But in general I am not a rereader. This was only the second book I can remember actually rereading. The first was 1984, which I hated the first time and loved the second.

  11. So glad you are enjoying The Good Mother. I am waiting for my copy of the Mary Gordon to arrive! I hardly ever reread novels, but I adore re-watching films. In fact I’d rather watch a film the second time than the first as I like to be reassured about what’s going to happen!

  12. Kim – I love the Anne of Green Gables books and have re-read them several times over the (many!) years since the first time. We had a tv series for a while that originated in Canada – it was delightful!

    Petunia-1984 is a difficult book. I read it only once and was thoroughly frightened, which I’m sure Orwell intended!

    Litlove – I’m finding my perspective on The Good Mother quite different than the first time round. I’m excited for you to read Men and Angels – I hope you like it, and find it useful in your motherhood reading project.

  13. Welcome home. I was beginning to get worried about you. You should warn us when you’re not going to be around so panic doesn’t start to set in.

    I’ve been doing a tremendous amount of re-reading lately mainly because discussion groups I belong to have selected books I’ve already read. What I find particularly interesting about this is which books stand up to a re-read and which don’t. I’ve just finished L.P. Hartley’s ‘The Go-Between’ for the third time and have definitely got more out of it and appreciated the quality of the writing more on each occasion. Others loose their svaour completely.

  14. Ann- How nice to be missed 🙂 And of course, you’re quite correct when you say some books simply don’t “stand up” to a re-read, even if you’ve enjoyed them the first time round. I feel the same way about some pieces of music. There are some I never tire of playing, and others that simply beg to be put back in the file cabinet!

    And I realize I didn’t quite answer my own question regarding re-viewing movies~rarely do I watch movies more than once. I have a few true favorites that I own and have watched several times – The Hours is one, as is The Way We Were, and The Age of Innocence. Also, Something’s Gotta Give, a comedy that always makes me laugh.

  15. I often re-read my favorite books. In fact, all the ones I put in my personal library are books I feel I’d want to re-read at some point. I always discover new things reading a book again, as well as enjoy the familiarity. Although I’ve found that some don’t stand up to it, especially some juvenile books I loved when I was young. The last book I re-read was the Power of Oneby Bryce Courtenay.

  16. The last book I re-read was Great Expectations, and it was a fantastic experience. It’d been almost 15 years since I first read it, and I’d forgotten much more than I’d like to admit. Next up I’m planning to re-read The Time Traveler’s Wife. It hasn’t been more than 5 years since I first read it, but some recent Estella’s Revenge posts got me thinking about it.

  17. Jeane – I’m glad to know there’s another re-reader out there! I’ve been disappointed by some of my youthful favorites too – I guess our reading tastes change as we age (along with everything else!)

    Andi- I was simply captivated by the Time Traveler’s Wife…it definitely stands up to re-reading. As a matter of fact, I think I’ll add it to my own list 🙂

  18. I don’t know what took me so long, but I finally noticed that little “My New Blog” notation in your blogroll. I’ve just sent Places in the Dark to my cart at Amazon. Thanks to you and a few others, I have returned to reading fiction after many years of almost exclusively buying/reading non-fiction on subjects of interest. I have quite a reference library on many topics, but I’ve been missing out on all the adventures that take place in fictioin. I’ll be paying more attention to this blog in addition to the other one that I already enjoy.

  19. Places in the Dark was an intriguing book. It could have been longer and I would have still been captivated by it. I sensed long before it was revealed why Cal was really tracking Dora, but I never saw her true identity coming. I also felt let down once it was revealed and Cal went back to his normal life. Shouldn’t it have been time for Dora to finally escape her past? Had the fate of the brother’s been reversed, I don’t think it would have ended the same way. Billy would not have been satisfied to just accept it.

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