Introduction

Melissa Proffitt Melissa at Proffitt.com
Thu May 4 19:02:49 EDT 2000


On Thu, 04 May 2000 12:04:17 -0400, Courtney M Eckhardt wrote:

>>This happens to me a lot, but my reaction depends on what book it is.  In
>>many cases, I *want* to regress.  I think I've said before that a lot of
>>things go into my reading experience...things associated with the first time
>>I read the book, smells or sounds or the color of the light, I suppose...and
>>sometimes that's what I want to regain.  I think it's like trying to hold on
>>to part of my youth.  If I analyzed those books, I'd lose something even as
>>I gained that new perspective.  The difficulty for me is in determining
>>which is more valuable.
>
>That's a good point- there are definately books for me where part of the
>point of rereading them is going to back to where and when I first read
>them.
>
>I must beg to differ on the point about analysis causing you to lose
>something... and now I will nobly refrain from giving a lecture on
>art-vs.-science and why you needed some of your parreciation for something
>because you analyzed it. :P

How noble of you.  :)

I figure there are three possible outcomes when I re-read as an adult a book
I loved as a child.  The first is that it's exactly as I remember it--that I
don't get anything new out of it, that my memory is faithful.  The second is
that I get *more* out of it--either through my changed perspective, or an
increased understanding, or whatever.  The third is that the book is shallow
and less interesting to my adult self.  It's this third possibility that I
count as a loss.  While I like being an adult reader, I don't want to deny
the reading experiences I had when I was younger--the fact that I have
"grown up" shouldn't be reason for me to sniff disparagingly at my younger
self.

Analysis *in itself* doesn't make me lose anything--in fact, I prefer it and
I enjoy it more than just shallowly skimming through a book.  But when it
comes to books that have worn a groove in my brain like those childhood
favorites, I can usually choose whether or not I'm going to slip back into
that groove or take a more active approach.  And when it comes to that third
type of book--the one that seemed Really Deep when I was a kid and now is
just...bland--the act of analysis ALWAYS makes me lose the sense of wonder I
first had.  If the book is shallow enough, it's not worth the trade; I would
rather retain that sense of wonder than gain an in-depth analysis of a
crappy book.

The example I keep coming back to lately is Tamora Pierce's Alanna series.
It's not crappy at all, of course, but it's one of those things that doesn't
hold the same pleasure for me now as it did when I was twelve.  The main
reason for this is that it was one of the first "feminist" series I'd ever
read, and it was just incredible.  Now, it hasn't changed at all, but (in
the course of fifteen more years of feminist reading) *I* have.  And if I
get to looking too closely at it (because I do reread it on occasion) I can
feel little bits of that memory disappearing and being replaced with
criticism--"I can't BELIEVE she wrote it that way, that's so cliched!" or
"Come ON, there is no such thing as identical boy-girl twins!"

It's possible--and probably healthier--to look at this as a trade rather
than a loss; it all balances out in the end.  And I think I could use that
memory to come up with a really good analytical review for young readers.
It's only a loss to me, personally, as a reader.  Those few years when I was
just hitting puberty, and everything seemed so intense and vivid...it was
probably all hormonal, because I've never had that happen since with any
book; books still affect me deeply, but in a totally different way.  So in a
way, everything I read during that time is part of a closed universe,
nonreplenishable, unchanging--unless I trip that balance.  On the whole, I'd
prefer not to.
>
>>The books that I try not to read this way are (as Mary Ann said) books I was
>>way too young for, and didn't fully understand the first time.  But in those
>>cases, it's like my mind isn't in quite so much of a rut--probably because I
>>didn't get it and the book didn't make a huge impression on me.  It's a lot
>>easier to read those as the adult I've become.
>
>Wow, that's a lot different from me- I know that I read *at least*
>Archer's Goon, Howl's Moving Castle, and Fire and Hemlock when I was far
>too young for them.  (In fact, if anyone's interested, I can tell a rather
>spine-tingling story about the first time I actually made it through all
>of Fire and Hemlock.)  (There were also other, non-DWJ books that I read
>or tried to read much too young- part of me suspects Ivanhoe suffered
>terribly from being read by a naieve 11 or 12-year-old, and the rest of me
>suspects that it can't have been that good anyway. :P )

I'm *positive* _Ivanhoe_ was one of mine.  And all of Dickens.  But
_Treasure Island_ was just awful.  Lots of classics, oddly enough...and I
was so embarrassed at not liking them; after all, it's the mark of being an
educated person, right?  So frivolous of me to prefer young adult fantasy
instead.

>Because these books have so many layers to them, I read things on a very
>superficial level and loved them (Archer's Goon and HMC, anyway), and went
>on reading and rereading them.  In fact, I read them on such superficial
>levels that the endings confused me.  And every time I reread them, I
>would try to get more out of them, but it was difficult because my
>brain was "stuck in a groove", as it were.  In fact, until I joined this
>list, I didn't realize how much I was missing, I was that stuck!  (This
>means I owe you all a great Debt of Gratitude. :)

I accept cash donations.  :)

> The trouble is that, at
>least for me, it takes both *knowing * that I'm stuck viewing something as
>the child-that-was *and* a large effort to enable me to get myself out of
>that rut.  

I see your point.  I'm an adult reader of DWJ, of course, so my confusion
over endings is pure stupidity on my part.  :)  But I class all her books as
ones that are so multi-layered that (well, okay, maybe just for me) losing
that superficial-only reading for a more complex one is always and only a
bonus.  It's when there *isn't* anything more to a book than the superficial
that "going deeper" might not be entirely pleasant, I think.

>Now all I need to do is acquire a copy of Fire and Hemlock (ha! easier
>said than done, in this fiction-forskaen land where "My Story" by M.
>Lewinsky was a bestseller), and then I can try it again, too.  And maybe
>add something to previous discussions on it here.

I think you've already added a lot.  :)  I'll keep an eye out for a copy for
you--I see them occasionally.  (And speaking of hard-to-find books, that
reminds me that I should probably steal my in-laws' copy of _Sorcery and
Cecilia_ before it completely disintegrates.  They are complete Philistines
when it comes to taking care of books.)

Melissa Proffitt
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