Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Book fidelity

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Having “fidelity” in mind because of the current shaving experiment (sticking with same razor and brand of blade for a month or more), I became aware of book fidelity—or, more generally, author fidelity.

This is the practice of sticking with a particular book or author, rereading the work(s) in preference to going on to read a succession of books.

The practice came to mind in reading a rather peculiar yet intriguing mystery/thriller, The Echelon Vendetta, by ‘David Stone’, the pseudonym of a person we are to believe has worked in the various intelligence services. It’s a first novel, so he hasn’t yet ironed out little difficulties like maintaining appropriate tone, etc., but it’s the more interesting for that.

At any rate, one of the characters reads Joseph Conrad. When asked why, he replies, “There’s always something interesting in Conrad.” And in The English Patient, the eponymous character reads Herodotus—over and over. We know or can readily imagine people who prefer reading Jane Austen’s novels, or Shakespeare’s plays, or Dostoevski, or Tolstoi to moving on to a new mystery, thriller, or novel.

One of my tutors at St. John’s told of a highly successful CEO who had time each year to read only one novel, and every year he read Don Quixote again. (The Edith Grossman translation at the link has received very good reviews.)

So perhaps something is to be said for returning to the same book or author repeatedly—provided it’s a good book or author. I wouldn’t want to try this with one of, say, Harlan Coben’s books. But take, say, Morte d’Urban, by J.F. Powers. When I read it for the second time, it was as if a completely new novel had come to inhabit the pages. Or A New Life, by Bernard Malamud: the knowledge you gain from the first reading totally transforms the second reading.

So it’s probably good to find your book or author and return for a rereading every year or two, so you can open the depths of the book.

Written by Leisureguy

14 September 2007 at 8:55 am

Posted in Books, Daily life

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