Tuesday, October 11, 2016

the Right Time to Read

I recently finished reading the Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera. This is actually the second time I’ve read it; I first read it about five years ago.

That may not sound surprising to people, that I’m reading a book for a second time.

But actually, I didn’t really like it at all the first time I read it.

The writing is incredible. Stylistically, Kundera is a first-class writer, all the way. But I wasn’t wild about the plot – or the characters – at all.

And yet here I am, just having finished reading it again.

There is actually a very specific reason I pulled it out of the box it was buried in to give it another shot. That reason doesn’t really matter right now; I’d like to get at a different point for now.

This time around, I liked it quite a bit more than the first time. I’m still not too thrilled with some of the plot points and character quirks, but I found them much more forgivable this time. Originally, I’d have given it a 2/5. Now, it’s probably more of a 3.5/5 or so. It’s still not perfect, but there are a lot of things to admire about it.

This is actually the second time I’ve done this, though – re-read a book that I didn’t like the first time around.

I also did this with Till We Have Faces by C. S. Lewis. I first read it many years ago (probably about 10 years ago or so). It wasn’t bad, I guess…but it was terribly boring. Or so I thought.

When I had occasion to read it again (like Unbearable, there was a very specific reason I revisited Faces), I realized that Till We Have Faces is actually INCREDIBLE. Very possibly in my top 10 favorite books now.

Why would I dislike a book so much the first time around, and yet grow so fond of it the next time?

Considering these two little tidbits, I can imagine this means that perhaps there is a “right” time to read a book, so to speak. I wonder if, when I first approached Unbearable or Faces, I had simply come to them at the wrong time – too early, in these cases.
If this is true, I can’t help but wonder: What makes it the “right” time or the “wrong” time to read a book?

Obviously the books themselves don’t change. It can only be something in me that has changed in between readings. But what was the thing that changed in me?

Am I more mature now than I was then? (hopefully, yes)

Am I wiser? (again, I hope so)

Do I pay more attention to the words? (meh – it’s hard to say)

Am I looking for different things in books now from what I looked for then? …

…actually, there might be something to that last question.

The first time I read each book, it was just a book I had recently picked up that I thought sounded interesting. There was really nothing more to it than that. And I didn’t like them.

When I returned to each of the books some years later, I had a very specific reason to read them. And now I like them.

I wonder, then, if our motives for reading a certain book actually affect how we feel about the book as a whole.

This sounds like a reasonable assumption. In fact, I see no reason not to assume this is the case.

That said, though, here are the next questions:

What other books could get the same treatment as Unbearable and Faces?

How many books have I read (just once) and liked, that maybe I would not like now?

How many books have I read (just once) for a reason and liked, which I may not have liked in a different circumstance?

And, most importantly of all:

What specific reasons for reading a particular book would make me like that book more? And what specific reasons for reading a particular book would make me like that book less?

There’s really no way to know the answer to these questions, of course. But they’re fun to think about.


Emily Searle said...

I do this with music all the time

Jill C said...

You make a very good point here, and I agree with it. I think it does matter our motivation for experiencing anything. Thanks for sharing:)

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