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Goats, gripes, and grasping for greatness
Desert Island books, go-to comfort reads, and other random thoughts 
7th-Feb-2010 11:08 pm
It's been a little over a year since my post Children's books that disturb me, and why that's a good thing. It came up again in a discussion about how one (two) of the attractions in science fiction is (are) the absurdity of the situations and how there are so many dangers that just don't happen in "real life." Those situations are more exciting and allow for reader escapism while also providing a chance for the reader to think/learn/contemplate.

I made a comment recently about how Dune was on one friend's "desert island" list (top 5 books you'd want if you were stranded somewhere for a long time with nothing else to read), and I got a long stare. The person - also a Dune fan - eventually admitted that he would not want to take Dune with him if he were going to be stuck re-reading it that often, because it would lose some of its magic.


Do books lose or gain magic in the re-reading? How many times can you re-read something before the story wears thin? Or does the meaning thicken each time for you? Do you read the story for its familiarity, or for its challenge?

Take one of my comfort reads, Beauty by Robin McKinley. It's a lovely retelling of Beauty and the Beast. It's not incredibly challenging either in thought or vocabulary. What it has is a beautiful unfolding of human nature as Honor (Beauty) grows up and finds herself. This book has challenges that most children don't face (discussed in general in my "disturbing" post), and a romance that is so different that it won't even register with a child, while a discerning adult might find it beautiful in its understatement. In short, it's been a go-to book of mine for nearly 20 years. ... And then McKinley brought out Sunshine, which, to me, has a modern version of the same voice. I heard Beauty's exasperated ponderings about birds and invisible servants when Sunshine was talking about being a baker who had been handed a vampire. So now I have two go-to books for comfort-reads, whose voices I enjoy and whose stories I can wrap around myself and sit by the fire...

Would I recommend them to other people? In a heartbeat. But would I use either of them for chronic re-reading if they were all I had? I don't know. Hellspark, Ender's Game, Curse of Chalion, same question. Could I, and they, stand up to obsessive re-reading? Could any of my favorite books? Is that a quality I need in a book for it to be a favorite?

Maybe Tale of the Five is one that I could read over and over again (duology of Door into Fire and Door into Shadow). There are a lot of little profound moments in that book which need some contemplations of their own.

I'm sure I was going somewhere with this post, but I'm headed for bed instead.

If you are still up, you should read Misfits, which is what I was going to do before I got sleepy-blinky.
8th-Feb-2010 04:19 am (UTC)
I think Dune would be on my desert island list. I mean, obviously, given my username and all. But I think that it can be read on so many levels-- the love story, the religious story, the political story, the ecological story, the tribal story-- that re-reading it multiple times only enhances it.
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8th-Feb-2010 01:47 pm (UTC)
I only buy books I read more than 5 times in a row

I'm not sure why this thought came to mind, but hey, I can share... Back when movie rentals first became common, Mom rented Dead Poet's Society and Dirty Dancing so many times that Dad finally pointed out that we could have purchased a new VCR for the amont of money she spent on rentals...
8th-Feb-2010 07:53 pm (UTC)
Oh god, I had forgotten Mom's cravings for certain DVDs. I wonder if she needs DPS in DVD form? Or will Top Gear trump DPS?

As for books, most of Patricia McKillip's novels are books I re-read both for comfort and to discover more dimensions to the stories. I also love the Curse of Chalion, Paladin of Souls, and I think I have re-read the Hallowed Hunt at least 8 times now for the same reasons. They just have so much layering to them. As much as I find Dune to be compelling, I can only bring myself to re-read it every once in a while...I couldn't be stranded anywhere with it.
9th-Feb-2010 02:22 am (UTC)
oops..I totally forgot to add Partners in Necessity. Houston lent it to a friend and I was bereft for the whole time it was gone.
8th-Feb-2010 11:34 pm (UTC)
Misfits: Oooh. A Liaden story I haven't read yet. Yippeee!! After finishing the eARC of the new Honor Harrington and the short story, I suspect that I'll end up paying up for the eARC for Saltation....
9th-Feb-2010 12:14 am (UTC)
Misfits isn't new. This is the story of Klamath, told from the Weatherman's point of view. They've since published it as one of their chapbooks.
9th-Feb-2010 12:18 am (UTC)
Yeah...realized that after I had sent it. The beginning of the story sounded familiar, but I thought I might have just read the snippit. Will still probably re-read...was a good story.
9th-Feb-2010 03:52 am (UTC)
You named my very favorite rereads. Beauty, Sunshine, Curse of Chalion... And... You named one I have never read -- Hellspark.

Thanks. I'm starting a new book this evening.
9th-Feb-2010 01:37 pm (UTC)
You have a copy of Hellspark? That's great! It's come into and gone out of print twice now.
17th-Feb-2010 03:54 am (UTC)
You or someone else must have recommended it to me a while back, because it was in my to-read stack. Not sure when or why it got added.

It was fun! I liked it. Thanks! I am not at all sure that it falls in the Sunshine category for me, but clearly a keeper.
17th-Feb-2010 01:43 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you enjoyed it. No, it's not quite up to Sunshine standards, but I do go back to it from time to time. Maggy's development and the subtleties of cultural interaction are new discoveries every time.
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