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Trying to reread books you loved when you were younger

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This week's New Yorker has an article on the novelist Philip Dick, written by Adam Gopnik.

Gopnik comments:

As an adult reader coming back to Dick, you start off in a state of renewed wonder and then find yourelf thumbing ahead to see how much farther you are going to have to go.
I haven't read Dick, but Gornik's experience certainly rang a bell.

One that comes to mind is Tolkien, the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I read this when it fist came out and was so absorbed that I'm sure I read every sentence. I lived for a while in Tolkien's alternative world and on some days had a hard time returning to reality.

Coming back to it long afterwards, I .... well, I did just what Gopnik describes. The moral psychology remained pwerful and relevant. But I found myself more interested in minor and even tangential characters than in the heroes and villains. And I did a lot of skipping -- including most of Frodo's final journey to Mount Doom. The return to normality -- with that lovely, comforting last sentence, "Well, I'm back" -- was just as satisfying (if implausible) as before.

As anyone else had similar experiences when revisiting one of your serious favorites from long ago? And how did you handle it? OR did you love the book as much or better than before?

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As anyone else had similar experiences when revisiting one of your serious favorites from long ago? And how did you handle it? OR did you love the book as much or better than before?

Kurt Vonnegut--I just can't even open his books anymore.

Thomas Mann--I love reading him more, mostly because the new translations are better than those I read originally.

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Thomas Mann--I love reading him more, mostly because the new translations are better than those I read originally.

Are these the Woods translations?

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Thomas Mann--I love reading him more, mostly because the new translations are better than those I read originally.

Are these the Woods translations?

Yes.

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i was wrapped up in jane eyre for years. re-reading it in my adulthood i was taken aback (and turned away) from the following phrases at the very end, in a summary of what happened to the main characters after the events in the book.

"As she grew up, a sound English education corrected in a great measure her French defects; and when she left school, I found in her a pleasing and obliging companion: docile, good-tempered, and well-principled."

i know, it's probably still a good book and this was the attitude, etc., etc., but i still can't read it anymore.

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Has anyone else had similar experiences when revisiting one of your serious favorites from long ago? And how did you handle it? OR did you love the book as much or better than before?

Great topic, bart!

Recently i went back to 2 of my adolescense favorites and these are the results:

"White Nights', a tasteful and beautiful short novel by Fiodor Dostoiewsky. I enjoyed it and loved it as if i was still a romantic teenager... :clapping:

"On the Suffering of the World" by Arthur Schopenhauer . Oh, God,. what was i thinking...?!?! :thumbsup:

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Thomas Mann--I love reading him more, mostly because the new translations are better than those I read originally.

Are these the Woods translations?

Yes.

Many thanks! I just ordered two from amazon.com. It's more than time for me to re-read Thomas Mann :thumbsup:

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Thomas Mann--I love reading him more, mostly because the new translations are better than those I read originally.

Are these the Woods translations?

Yes.

Many thanks! I just ordered two from amazon.com. It's more than time for me to re-read Thomas Mann :thumbsup:

Yes, the H.T. Lowe-Porter translations are shockingly bad--dispells any illusions about the past being the "good old days" of literature!

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Too bad Buddenbrooks doesn't seem to be one of the newly translated.

Translations seem to be a separate issue. Gopnik acknowledges this:

[ ... ] Dick's reputation as a serious writer, like Poe's, has alway been higher in France, where the sentences aren't read as they were written.
It works in the opposite direction in English-speaking countries for many writers who are frequently encountered only in fusty, long-winded late-Victorian or Edwardian translations: Mann is one, but Proust, Tolstoy, Balzac, Dostoevsky, etc., are in the same unfortunate company. With Proust and Balzac, when you read the older translations you are reading someone who definitely is NOT Proust or Balzac.

I reread Proust (the books in the series In Search of Lost Time) earlier this summer in the new series of translations put out by Penguin. Each was a definite improvement over the original and re-worked Scott-Moncrieffes. But I blush :thumbsup: to admit that -- even though I had been looking forward to spending long hours slowly unwinding Proust's sentences (for 7 volumes!)-- I skipped extesnsively between those sections (long arias, actually) that were exactly the ones I had enjoyed before.

Meanwhile -- back at the Topic :clapping: -- are there any other long-time favorite books that you've come back to recently (with either positive or negative results)??? Tolkien? Dick? Vonnegut? Schopenhauer? There must be more.

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Yes, the H.T. Lowe-Porter translations are shockingly bad--dispells any illusions about the past being the "good old days" of literature!

Rereading Mann in an improved translation is a great idea, but first I have to finish Moby Dick again. Just last week I reread King Lear alongside two alternating productions on video. Two favorite novelists from way back are Saul Bellow and Walker Percy, both known for lovably half-cocked, existentially searching protagonists. I went back to Bellow's "Herzog" last year and found the character tiresome, but I can reread Percy year after year. The opening half-dozen pages of "Love in the Ruins" always make me laugh out loud.

:thumbsup: Checking my copies of Mann's books to confirm that they are H.T. Lowe-Porter translations, I found a ticket stub for the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood -- a honeymoon souvenir!

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Thank you for starting the topic, bart - great idea. I can't contribute that much to the discussion, myself, because I don't do that much re-reading -- there's too much out there I haven't gotten to yet. On those occasions when I have, I don't find my opinions have changed much, although I pick up on things as an adult that I didn't in high school, obviously. I liked James in high school and I still like him now -- but I appreciate different things.

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Too bad Buddenbrooks doesn't seem to be one of the newly translated.

Ah, but it is--Woods's translation came out in 1994 and it's excellent. He's tackled almost all of them at this point, even Joseph and His Brothers and Dr Faustus. Busy guy!

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Oh, how could I forget. Henry Miller. I thought he was the bee’s knees in high school, and I went back to Sexus years later and couldn’t believe my eyes. Tropic of Capricorn is still okay, though. And he was most educational at the time.

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Talk of Henry Miller made me think of Lawrence Durrell, whom he admired greatly. I read 'Justine' in high school and part of 'Balthazar' as well. They seemed very difficult at the time, more difficult than Faulkner. Two years ago I began at the beginning of 'Balthazar' and then read 'Mountolive' and 'Clea'. I think it is a wonderful work, romantic, sensuous and sensual--and you get a vision of an exotic city that you wouldn't have otherwise, because Durrell's Alexandria has been barely there at all for decades by now, the Europeans and Jews expelled largely after the 1952 Egyptian Revolution and during the Suez Crisis of 1956.

Like dirac, I don't do too much rereading, usually it will be something difficult like Faulkner's 'The Sound and the Fury', which I did do, and hope to schedule a rereading of Joyce's 'Ulysses', especially because I find 'Sirens' the most beautiful section, and also the most difficult. I also reread Capote's 'Other Voices, Other Rooms', which made him famous and which he never, in my opinion, quite equalled, although 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' is very special too--and anybody who loves the movie ought to read the story to understand who the real Holly Golightly was. Somehow, the movie works wonders anyway and is full of incredible magic, but the ending is a well-known enormous compromise. The film of 'Other Voices, Other Rooms' is simply unspeakably bad, though, easily one of the worst films ever made.

Edited to add: I just remembered I also read about half of John O'Hara's Hollywood novel 'The Big Laugh' in high school as well, and got around to going all the way through it in 2005 as well. You don't hear too much about him these days, but I think he's one of the fine American novelists.

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This might be a bit TOO young (but I'm only a first year in college :tiphat: ) but I recently got a copy of Heidi, one of my favorite books when I was younger. I thought it would be childish and boring, but, somehow, I fell in love with it all over again!

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This might be a bit TOO young (but I'm only a first year in college :) ) but I recently got a copy of Heidi, one of my favorite books when I was younger. I thought it would be childish and boring, but, somehow, I fell in love with it all over again!

Hello. Thanks for chiming in! Going back to books you loved as a child can be tricky. Some of them still make wonderful reading, but other times you may wish you’d just preserved your beautiful memory – I wish I had done the latter with “Little Women.”

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Some of them still make wonderful reading,

Like when i recently went back to my all time adolescence favorite: Emily Bronte's "Wuthering Heights". It was as delightful and tasteful as i had remembered it, so i fell in love all over again... :)

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I have to agree about Vonnegut! I used to love him long ago, and remember once sitting up all night reading Slaughterhouse Five cover to cover. I re-read that book last year and--well, I just don't get it anymore. On the other hand, a sadistic eight-grade teacher gave us Moby Dick as summer reading, believe it or not. Probably shut down any interest in literature in hundreds of young minds. Many years later I gave it another try, and of course as an adult it's a completely different experience, overwhelming in the good way.

When it comes to books translated into English, I still find myself re-reading the version I know already rather than try a new, probably better, one, especially if it's a book I remember from when I was very young. Pure sentimentality, of course, but that's part of the pleasure for me.

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I meant to add--comparing Lowe-Porter and Woods as translators of Mann, they both have their good and bad points. Woods had a much better overall style and is more readable, and his Buddenbrooks in particular is superb; Lowe-Porter, less literal, is however sometimes better at translating dialects (a tricky business), for instance. (The Woods translation of Dr. Faustus, on the other hand, is a disaster.)

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I think the most eye-opening were the Little House on the Prairie books. I loved them when I was a kid but now the isolationist, anti-Native American tone bothers me. I still appreciate the books as a nice window into frontier life, but I'm more disturbed by the other aspects of the book, and I find Ma Ingalls narrow-minded.

The Jane Austen books remain as fresh, witty, and lovable as I remember them, but now I appreciate the humor and humanity even more. Ditto Great Expectations. I'm not nearly as hard on Pip as I was when I was a teenager.

As for Jane Eyre, I loved it as a kid, because I thought it was so romantic, but now I find the book tedious. A very very long romance novel, with a large dose of self-righteous religious fervor.

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I think the most eye-opening were the Little House on the Prairie books.

That made me think of something else that is not exactly on this re-reading topic--or rather, it is not only on that, but also--but is not far off and does include. I read several of the Little House books, but started with 'On the Banks of Plum Creek'. I had no idea these were celebrated children's books. And although 'On the Banks of Plum Creek' is the only one I didn't finish, it's also the only one that transported me into a singular world which exists nowhere else. And this leads to not wanting to re-read things or re-see certain things if you can't get that same exact feeling again. This by no means always applies, but sometimes I feel that if I re-experience a work a second time, it will ruin my memory of it, because that has indeed happened. It's just like going back to some places that transformed your whole worldview, and when you return they aren't the same place, and you're disappointed.

Other oddities are having read 'kidnapped' and 'treasure island' when I was 7, but just reading them straight through and paying no attention to what they were about, just to show off I could read 'hard books' for my age (I found out later this was no great feat.) These I think I will reread to see if I remember even a single image from them.

Another phenomenon was trying to read 'Vanity Fair' several times and never finishing it as a teen-ager. I still haven't finished it. I got rid of all this feebleness as an adult and took 3 1/2 years to get through 'Tristram Shandy', which I found maddening, but thrilling.

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As for Jane Eyre, I loved it as a kid, because I thought it was so romantic, but now I find the book tedious. A very very long romance novel, with a large dose of self-righteous religious fervor.

As a kid I found it romantic, too, but returning to it many years later I was struck by the S&M overtones of the affair between Jane and Rochester, although I guess it’s tidied up by having Jane marry him when he’s a blinded, burnt-out wreck......

This by no means always applies, but sometimes I feel that if I re-experience a work a second time, it will ruin my memory of it, because that has indeed happened. It's just like going back to some places that transformed your whole worldview, and when you return they aren't the same place, and you're disappointed.

Exactly.

When it comes to books translated into English, I still find myself re-reading the version I know already rather than try a new, probably better, one, especially if it's a book I remember from when I was very young. Pure sentimentality, of course, but that's part of the pleasure for me.

That’s also true for me. I love my old Constance Garnett translations of the Russians.

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The Jane Austen books remain as fresh, witty, and lovable as I remember them, but now I appreciate the humor and humanity even more.
Yes. The so-called "small" world she writes about -- but observes so acutely -- seems to reveal new insights each time I return to it. It must be the tiny, precise brush-strokes. How is it possible for novels of manners written 200 years ago to be so psychologically acute in our own time?
And this leads to not wanting to re-read things or re-see certain things if you can't get that same exact feeling again.
I know the feeling. Over the past decade I've acquired several of books that once meant a great deal to me. I've sought out the same editions I read before. I love having them on my shelves. But I have to admit that I haven't read a couple of them all the way through. And one or two have been sitting there for years, waiting that perfect summer afternoon. :tiphat:

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Reading this obituary for Madeleine L’Engle reminded me that I had occasion a few years ago to re-read “A Wrinkle in Time” and it held up remarkably well.

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It took me a bit to get to this thread -- I was re-re-reading something...

I am a monster re-reader, of significant works and trivial ones. One of the pleasures of being a parent is reading the stuff you loved as a child to your own child. This summer it was Steinbeck's "Travels with Charley," which held up better than I thought it might, and "To Kill a Mockingbird" which was even better than the last couple times I read it. Part of the thrill was reading it aloud -- it sounds dead on.

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