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« Philosophy : It's Not Just For the Mind | Main | No Laughing Matter (Dean) »

March 15, 2007


Inspiring, thoughtful remarks about a traditional (as opposed to a 2.0) medium. My wife, a children's librarian, will shortly be referred to the Singh post. Meanwhile, my two cents. I started, but never finished, Catch-22 during high school. It was all swagger and clever humor, and therefore tedious, as far as I was concerned, and I don't think I'll ever be able to get over that initial impression. More recently, I had the same response to Don Delillo's Underworld. There will likely be no second glances for me at either of these.

Then there is a writer whose works I won't read twice, but not because I don't enjoy them. I adore the novels of Anita Brookner, precisely because they are rather predictable. If you've read one, you need only wait for the next year's title to get a second glance at her understated, sometimes blissfully uneventful musings on mind, emotion, and the burdens and benefits of social engagement. Her protagonist is typically a single woman of a certain age, who responds to a perceived crisis in her life (a crisis that may consist of there being no crisis adequate to her expectations) by reflection and impulse.

Now you have touched of a chord. Any talk of books and/or reading habits triggers off mental drooling.

From your extensive list the only ones I have reread are: Catch-22 (twice), Agatha Christie, Doyle, Wodehouse & Bengali children's lit (multiple times).

Catch-22 - read it in high school and then again in college - loved it both times. Perhaps I should have another go at it now.

Doyle - Sherlock Holmes mysteries in abridged versions were actually one of my earliest reads. Since then, have read the originals several times as well (and Bengali translations too!).

Christie - Still like reading some of her books, even when I know who did it! In my later years, was struck by the rather caricatured portrayal of foreigners (bordering on racism) in her books.

Wodehouse - No need to add anything here !

Bengali Children's Lit: You hit the nail on this one.
Oh, the joys of reading, re-reading to the n-th time those gems till some of the cheap binding would fall off !
My favorite is Ray, but closely followed by Shirshendu, Sunil Ganguly, Ashapurna Devi, Lila Majumadar, Samaresh Basu, Premen Mitra etc. It is amazing that such prominent and insightful authors of 'adult' fiction could effortlessly create an engaging wonderland for younger readers.

Some other books I keep re-reading: Douglas Adam's Hitchhikers Guide, Jerome K Jerome's Three Men in a Boat (to say nothing of the dog) and Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow (both are like Wodehouse, good anti-dotes for blues), Asimov short stories, Calvin & Hobbes and Far Side strips.

Sorry about the rather long comment - could not help it (and am inspired to write my own post on books!).

Dean & Bongo:
Thanks for weighing in with your own views. I wonder if movies too are subject to this kind of revision.

Bongo, being in the habit of commenting loquaciously at other people's blogs, I am not impatient with long comments by readers. In fact, when a comment sheds relevant light on the subject at hand, short or long, it is very welcome.

Thanks also for seconding my claims about Bengali children's lit. I often feel that by sheer accident of birth, Bengali children are handed a key to a secret pleasure garden. Whether they choose to use it any more, I don't know. Most of my close friends in school were non-Bengali. Some of them understood Bengali but couldn't read it. I remember spending many idle hours in school and in the school bus, reading aloud to them my favorite Bengali stories - both young and adult works.

Right now when I read books that I very much enjoy (most recently, David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas, perhaps the single best book I've ever read), I have no desire to reread them -- probably because I feel like there's so much to read that I haven't yet read.

But I do have one addition to this list: the Tolkien "trilogy plus" (i.e. The Hobbit and the LOTR trilogy). I read those when I was probably ten years old -- and maybe again a couple times shortly thereafter -- before picking them up again after many years of collecting dust a winter ago. First time: wow, this is a fun story! Second time: this guy sure can write; he created a vastly more complex world than I'd realized; interesting to see literature built largely out of the Beowulf tradition (by an outstanding Anglo-Saxonist).

All I have to offer is this -- Anything that is sufficiently bad must also be sufficiently good. And vice-versa. :)

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