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Returns: About Rereading

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I checked in at the Booking Through Thursday blog, which is the host for a weekly book meme or blogging prompt. Here is this week’s prompt:

What book(s) do you find yourself going back to? Beloved children’s classics? Favorites from college? Something that touched you and just makes you long to visit?
(Because, doesn’t everybody have at least one book they would like to curl up with, even if they don’t make a habit of rereading books? Even if they maybe don’t even have the time to visit and just think back longingly?)

I find myself returning to books that sparkle with contemplative prose. Many stories have stayed with me over the years but certain books have really stuck with me because of how the stories were told. Without further ado, I give you my treasured list and urge to grab these reads:

CROSSING TO SAFETY by Wallace Steger. The intense narrative power of the quiet prose brings into life a friendship between two married couples. It’s really a love story, not in the sense that it explores romantic dialogues and actions, but in the sense that it explores private lives. In the guise of friendship, sustained through births, outdoor adventures, job losses, war, moving, unrealized dreams, and thwarted ambition, Stegner offers, with an uncanny sensitivity, a glimpse of the physical and emotional intimacy in marriage that go largely unspoken out of respect and loyalty.

THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald. A tragic love story that takes place in a society of which the values have gone awry. Gatsby is a man of desperate love who has been blinded by rotten values. He doesn’t know that while pursuing his dream, it’s already behind him and that Daisy will always be like that green light at the end of the dock in an unreachable distance. Fitzgerald’s language once again proves that his prose is unfilmmable, without the latest release of the film adaptation.

THE REMAINS OF THE DAY by Kazuo Ishiguro. Subtly plotted, this novel gives the impression that characters and scenes in the beautifully paced novel become no more than mouthpieces and backdrops for Ishiguro’s concern for the human condition: A desire to exceed one’s limitations. We are all obsessed with the upstairs-downstairs world as Downton Abbey has brought to life, but Stevens is, to me, the most capable butler in service. Not only is Stevens loyal to a fault, his former employer, Lord Darlington, however decent, honest, and well-meaning he was, was also playing a dangerous game by allowing himself to be used as a pawn in Hitler’s schemes.

THE MASTER AND MARGARITA by Mikhail Bulgakov. What good is good without evil? This novel gives you the best answer in the backdrop of Stalin Soviet Union. Despite the atmosphere of terror that deepened all through the years he was working on the novel, the book takes on a surprisingly light tone, one of multifaceted humor, without compromising its philosophical depth. It is Bulgakov’s embittered and sarcastic response (and indictment) to his era’s denial of imagination and its wish to strip the world of divine qualities.

THE NAME OF THE ROSE by Umberto Eco. This is the one book that hits me by this author. It deals with issues from an age of classics; so in other words, because it’s set in Medieval times, is written in Dark Age vernacular and includes historical details worthily accurate of the respected academe Eco is. It is not just an exciting DaVinci-Code-style historical thriller, but also a densely layered examination of stories about stories about stories, of symbols about symbols about symbols, of the meaning behind meaning behind meaning.

10 Responses

  1. It’s so rare to see a male book blogger! I’ve read Gatsby a few times, but I still don’t really like it. I couldn’t find anyone to sympathize with. The other books you listed sound interesting, though.

    • Hi Lindsay, yes, I’m one of the few male bloggers. My introduction of Gatsby was in high school, had to read it for American Literature. I thought the language was beautiful but didn’t get engaged in the story much. Over the years as I have re-read the book has gained stature. Out of the mini list, THE MASTER AND MARGARITA is most outlandish. It’s party historical and part paranormal, highly sarcastic of the Soviet Union under Stalin.

  2. I knew The Master and Margarita would be on there! I just recently re-read Gatsby in anticipation of the movie and it was much more enjoyable than it was when I was in high school. I just didn’t get it at that age. I rarely re-read books as a rule, but when I need an easy read, I turn to graphic novels and crime thrillers.

    • LOL You know me, I cannot help mentioning “the book.” A re-read is due since I didn’t get to do so last year. I agree that Gatsby’s possibilities don’t exhaust and some of its themes were not comprehensible to younger readers.

  3. From your ravings about The Name of a Rose and Master and Margarita, I have added them to the list of books to look for. And The Remains of the Day too.

    • THE NAME OF THE ROSE is a one-read wonder. THE REMAINS OF THE DAY is simply a literary feast. Now that I just finished THE GIFT OF RAIN by Tan Twang Eng, the writing really reminds me of Kazuo Ishiguro in THE REMAINS OF THE DAY. Even the idea of moral ambiguity is similar.

  4. The last two books on your list I’ve yet to read, but the first three are favorites of mine as well–could easily reread any of them (and have read The Great Gatsby at least three times!). Hope you’re well Matt! 🙂

    • You and I are pretty much on the same page as far as reading taste goes. So I highly recommend the last two. THE MASTER AND MARGARITA might be a bit hard-going at first but it’s very fun and sarcastic.

  5. haven’t read any of these.. though I watched ‘Remains of the Day’ and loved the movie.. and plan to read ‘The Great Gatsby’ soon….
    and the others sound interesting too so am adding them to my TBR..am guessing will be adding many other books from your blog to my TBR.

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