It so happened last night as I watched Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince that I sat there wondering all the time why I already knew what was going to happen next. It took me 75 minutes (yeah, I’m slow at times) to find out that I had read the book - I just couldn’t remember.
It so happened this morning when I started on Kitty and the Silver Bullet that the story seemed so familiar... it took me 30 pages to find out that I’d already read the book. But it’s a good read, so I’ll keep on reading it.
The books I read for leisure are either ‘good entertainment’ or ‘bad narrative’ in the end. The books I had to read for my studies weren’t just ‘good’ or ‘bad’, there was something more to them. In the end, to me they were either ‘brilliantly good’ or ‘brilliantly bad’, but never ‘badly written’. Still, I didn’t read them more than once.
All but one: Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire. I had to read it about 25 times. It’s a brilliantly bad book, emphasis on ‘brilliant’, like, I suppose, all of Nabokov’s novels. I wrote a thesis on it, you see, that’s why I had to read it so many times.
In his essay ‘Good Readers and Good Writers’, Vladimir Nabokov (1980:3f) stated:
[O]ne cannot read a book: one can only re-read it. A good reader, a major reader, an active and creative reader is a re-reader. And I shall tell you why. When we read a book for the first time the very process of laboriously moving our eyes from left to right, line after line, page after page, this complicated physical work upon the book, the very process of learning in terms of space and time what the book is about, this stands between us and artistic appreciation. [...] We have no physical organ (as we have the eye in regard to a painting) that takes in the whole picture and then can enjoy its details. But at a second, or third, or fourth reading we do, in a sense, behave towards a book as we do towards a painting. [...] [A] book of fiction appeals first of all to the mind. The mind, the brain, the top of the tingling spine, is, or should be, the only instrument used upon a book.Does this mean I’m a bad reader? Probably. But I think I’m just a greedy reader. I want to read as much as I can in as little time as possible. I gobble up one book and start on the next, like a book-maniac or something. I guess the correct term would be ‘bookworm’.
(Nabokov in Bowers, F. Vladimir Nabokov: Lectures on Literature. San Diego, New York, London: Harcourt Inc. 1980.)
Now movies are something totally different. If it’s a good film, I can watch it a hundred times and never tire of it even if it’s one of those movies that make me cry like a baby.
Now that I think of it, there were times I have been tempted to read a book again. Maybe I should take up the habit of creating another pile of books and label it ‘for re-reading’.
Are there books you love to read again and again?