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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Reflections on readerly first impressions

"A couple of months ago, I became depressed by the realization that I'd forgotten pretty much everything I've ever read" Nick Hornby

I feel like Nick sometimes. Sometimes I wonder if it's not because I've read so much, for so long, that it's understandable if my bookish memories have linted together in my brain. I'm not much for remembering quotes either. Some people just have that capacity, to pull out an erudite quote when the perfect moment calls.

So I'm sitting here writing this, I'm battling to prove that I've not pretty much forgotten everything...

...I do remember as a child pouring over our quartet of Golden Books fairy-tales, wishing desperately to be one of the Dancing Princesses (the irony...) or Rose-Red, or Rapunzel.

...I remember reading Cynthia Voigt's Homecoming at least twice when I was in early grade school, and even then I saw the respect in the librarian's eyes when I carried that tome (well, it's not a short read) around.

...I remember reading Madeline D'engle's A Wrinkle in Time and being unsettled by the experience, and I have been thus 'unsettled' by time-based writing ever since (which may explain my irrational aversion to science-fiction, even the good stuff).

...I also remember reading The Name of the Rose at an impossibly early age and only, barely, managed to grasp onto the narrative in between the almighty tracts of philosophy and history. I remember shutting it, once the 'whodunnit' aspect had been solved and thinking, "Dammit, I have NO IDEA what that was about, but boy I bet that fellow's clever. One day I'd like a crack at it."

What do you think about Hornby's quote. Do you agree?

Comments on "Reflections on readerly first impressions"


Blogger Miss Eagle said ... (8:41 am) : 

Dear Misc Mum,
I think remembering and being impacted by your reading depends on either or both of two things: the quality of what is being read and the the personality - whether the person is willing to be impacted upon by what is being read or willing to be caught up in the story.

For myself, I give as an example my relationship with Dr Zhivago - the book not the movie. I read it at 17. I had many false starts. I found it difficult to get into - but when I did it was the most rewarding experience. I fell in love with Boris Pasternak. I am never without the a copy of Dr Z on my bookshelf - the first one fell to bits. I don't re-read the novel - but I do read the poems and that is the main reason I keep the book. I have also kept an old, old copy of The Bulletin (it has travelled Australia with me) which has a poem by Geoffrey Dutton which he wrote on his visit to Pasternak's grave in Peredelkino. If you ever saw the movie, The Russia House, starring Sean Connery & Michelle Pfeiffer and based on John Le Carre's novel, Connery's character has a Sunday lunch at a literary commune at Peredelkino and afterwards strolls to Pasternak's grave. But, I did want to tell you what I remember from my 17 year old reading of the novel - and (nearly half a century later) I remember quite a lot. The first thing that springs to mind is the openeing segment - the boy on his mother's grave. I remembered so vividly the description of Lara's flat that I was so stunned when I saw the movie: Pasternak's description/depiction of the flat had been painstakingly brought to life. A rare sticking to the story in a film!

So, some stuff impacts me, some doesn't. The most recent impacting novel has been Barbara Kingsolver's The Prodigal Summer. She is quite a favourite of mine.

Blessings and bliss and all success


Blogger Jaycee said ... (10:09 am) : 

There is a flip side to being depressed about forgetting everything you ever read. I don't forget everything but I do reborrow books I've read not realising it at the time. When I start reading the book and it's familiar I know I've read it but I've forgotten what the outcome was so I can read it again. Same applies for the books in my library at home.

So, if I remembered everything I wouldn't be able to reread and I'm a prolific reader.


Anonymous Shelly said ... (2:03 pm) : 

i disagree with his quote. I think you just forget the truly forgettable pieces of literature. I know some books that I studied in High School that I couldn't remember one single thing about now (Pigman, The Outsiders, The Cay, Island of the Blue Dolphins- typical high school choices) yet there are books I read in primary school that stuck with me forever- like Bridge to Terabithia and, like miscmum, I also read a wrinkle in time but the only thing I remember about it is that the women had funny names- whatsit? who? witch? Am I remembering correctly?
If Hornby can't remember anything he's read then he mustnt've enjoyed what it was he was reading.


Anonymous Jebus said ... (5:06 pm) : 

I wish I could forget some books just so I can go and read them again and discover their brilliance for the first time all over again! Who wouldn't want to read "Taronga" again? Or be fascinated by Mara of the Acoma and the sacrifices she makes for her family and country?


Blogger Miscellaneous-Mum said ... (5:57 pm) : 

miss eagle - that's a great story. So many people love Dr Z- incl my parents!
jacyee - I do the same!
shelly - we went to the same high school and I didn't read any of those! (except outsiders_
jebus - oh, how I have missed you. I surprsed you haven't mentioned a certain Dr Suess book ;)


Blogger Tracey said ... (9:44 pm) : 

I remember that I read and loved A Wrinkle in Time, but I can't for the life of me remember what it was about! I'm not a bit 'rereader' of books, but I probably should, seeing that I don't tend to remember much about them.
I never had literary inclinations to have read anything that would have been considered 'beyond my years'.
Talking about A Wrinkle in Time has made me think that maybe I should start re-reading all my childhood books that I managed to save for my children. I even finally got shelf space so they could come out of boxes. They are not interested in reading any of them, which kind of saddens me.


Blogger mcewen said ... (1:35 am) : 

I am Nick Hornby's number one fan and he is completely correct.[as always, oh great one]

The cause of this phenomenon is linked to age and brain capacity. There is a direct correlation between the two. If you are foolish enough to read a great deal during your youth then you will pay dearly for it as you age.

Your brain has a finite capacity, hence when children appear and you need to acquire a wide variety of teeny tiny facts, pretty soon your brain is full. Additional children put additional strain on your brain. The brain has no other option than to bale all the old stuff on a first in first out basis.

This is why mummy's have leaky ears as our brains drip out 'old' facts.


Blogger Elizabeth said ... (4:01 am) : 

Why get depressed, you can always revisit the book and discover it feels familiar.

To me it's case of putting pressure where none is due.

I tend to remember feelings,rather than details and I'm still smiling.


Blogger Jean-Luc Picard said ... (5:28 am) : 

If one forgets everything they read, they would have great joy in reading things for the second time.


Anonymous Shelly said ... (8:55 am) : 

miscmum- be glad you didn't read them. They were awful. There was another one from year 7 as well- a boy under a building sucking out the venom from a snakebite he had received- did you read that- and if so, what was it called??? Something to do with TV...


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