Tuesday, August 09, 2005

In search of literary thrills past ...

Henry Miller writes somewhere -- I think it may in The Books in My Life -- that when, as a young man, he read Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain, he was enthralled, but that, when he tried to read it again years later, he couldn't get into it and wondered what about it had ever appealed to him.
Re-reading a book that had an especially strong impact at a particular time in one's life may be a dangerous proposition. I'll find out in October, when I'm taking a week off, and plan on re-reading Alain-Fournier's The Wanderer (Le grand Meaulnes). It's a book that has for years occupied a magical spot in my memory, but my wife read it while we were on vacation recently and was, shall we say, underwhelmed. She found it charming, but too vague and misty for her tastes.
I think it's a book likely to appeal to a man rather than a woman -- and a youth rather than an adult -- and a romantic, dreamy youth at that.
At any rate, I am going to from time to time revisit books that meant much to me in times past and report in my column on the results. Perhaps I will simply rid myself of the few illusions I have left.


  1. Were a "romantic, dreamy youth," Frank?

  2. I fear it may have been so. At least the dreamy part.

  3. There's an out of print book I once said was my favorite... _The Unoriginal Sinner and the Ice Cream God_ I've always wondered if I'd like it again. It had the unusual device of a mechanic as guru who would pretend to write the main characters letter as God. Sometimes very pithy.

    I think you're right.. they often don't stand up the test of time.

  4. Whatever you do, don't loose your illusions. Books read in your youth shouldn't stand the test of time. If they do, you haven't grown.