I find it fascinating to re-read an old book.
My expectation is always that it will be like revisiting an old friend I haven’t seen in a while. We’ve both changed in the interim, but in general we know what to expect from each other.
After all, when I was a kid, that’s exactly what it was like re-reading my worn old companions.
These days, it’s totally different.
It’s probably due to the longer time between readings — but also in large part due to the changes in myself as a reader and the writing world as a whole.
I notice things that never used to bother me. Cliches. Misogyny. Tropes. Awkward wordings or weak plots.
Also, even in the relatively short time since becoming an avid reader, styles themselves have changed.
Books now demand a tighter plot with immediate action. Page One Line One had better grip the reader immediately, Or Else.
Passive characters used to be acceptable. Books that once were happily described as “The Adventures of So and So” are now laughably dated.
Change is Good
This isn’t a complaint, by the way.
These are all objectively improvements upon the older storytelling systems and I find I have little to no patience for stories that insist upon an antiquated system.
Not only do I not have time to read as much as I once did, I just … don’t enjoy it any more. Sure, every once in a while one is worth the effort of wading through but in general they end as muddy and unfocused as they begin.
The only “problem” lies in my inability to reread an old favorite and enjoy it the same way that I did when I was younger.
Young me didn’t just read those books. She LIVED them. Loved them. Cherished them.
These days, I hesitate to crack open those pages because I don’t want to tarnish that glowing, ruby-lensed memory of them.
A Book is an Experience
“How good the book is” is tangled up with memory and history and beribboned by that one moment in time.
Which means that the books I’m reading now? The ones I enjoy today? They’re only as good (or bad) as they are for ME right NOW.
A book isn’t just a story about a character.
It’s a story about the reader, too. And a time and a place.
And that, my good friends? That is true magic.