A Second First Time? May 21, 2009
What book would you love to be able to read again for the first time?
(Interestingly, I thought that I had thought this one up myself, but when I started scrolling through the Suggestions, found that Rebecca had suggested almost exactly this question a couple months ago. So, we both get credit!)
I love this question! My sister struck up a conversation with Phillip Pullman on this topic, when she had the chance to meet him in New York prior to the release of the film version of The Golden Compass. She wanted to read a Dickens novel for the first time, I'm guessing The Old Curiousity Shop specifically. (That's one of her favorites).
But as for me? It's interesting, some books change over time and others don't. I remember that much was made of this before the last Harry Potter book came out -- that you'd never be able to read them again without knowing where it was all going. It made me wonder what the initial reaction was to other famous works. I imagined the stunned silence in the Globe Theater when Romeo and Juliet failed to work it out after all, for example. And I enjoy imagining the first audience's reaction to Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, when the chorus came out. So perfect! So obvious! Why hadn't everyone been doing it, all along?
I guess the books I'd enjoy re-reading for the first time are more humble, though, and primarily suspense-driven. Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None, also known as Ten Little Indians is still creepy and suspenseful even though I've known all of its secrets for nearly fifteen years, but when I re-read it, it doesn't haunt my dreams or keep me up nights anymore. In fact, the last time I read it was when I had trouble falling asleep one night. I read it cover to cover, and dropped off almost immediately.
The Secret History, by Donna Tarrt, is another one that has a different dimension when you don't know exactly where it's going. You know from the first page that they murder their classmate and friend, Bunny. You don't exactly know what the consequences will be, or what led them to it. All of Jasper Fforde's books are incredibly clever and witty. I haven't re-read any of them, but they may seem slightly less so, now that I know all the jokes.
But most of my books seem to get better with each read. Every time I re-read On the Road, I notice something new. The Great Gatsby never fails to stir emotion. Nobody's Fool is still funny. And Confederates in the Attic remains a fascinating and thought-provoking ride.