So, something I tend to do around New Year's each year is begin a long or complicated book I've been meaning to get to for some time -- only to have my reading of it peter out. Books I've attempted in this way include Ezra Pound's THE CANTOS, THE BOOK OF THE DEAD (specifically, the Papyrus of Ani's version of THE BOOK OF GOING FORTH BY DAY), Ovid's METAMORPHOSES, and Confucius's ANALECTS.
So this year I decided on something new. Instead of trying to get myself to tackle a difficult work I've been putting off, I re-read a favorite instead. I used to reread more often than I do now, and there are books I really love that I haven't read in a decade or more.
The book I decided to start this new tradition off with is THE FACE IN THE FROST by John Bellairs -- a book I discovered from a passage quoted in my friend Franklin Chestnut's overview of modern fantasy a few months before, just after leaving Fayetteville. I found, bought, and read a copy the first week I was in Milwaukee, from one of the now-vanished bookstores along Wisconsin Avenue (probably B. Dalton or Waldenbooks, but possibly from Harry B. Schwartz back when they were still at 5th street). I remember that having started it I cdn't stop and stayed up late reading it. It's one of those rare books that, having reached the end, I immediately starting over again at the beginning, reading it twice in succession.* I'd not only rank it one of the ten best fantasy novels ever written but one of my all-time favorite books.
Sometimes rereading a book after a gap of years is a disappointment; sometimes it's a delight. This time was a delight: so many favorite passages, so many evocative scenes. It tends to give me nightmares, but it's worth it.
So, a new tradition, off to a good start.
current reading: John Bellairs (autographed copy!)
*THE LORD OF THE RINGS is another
inside Edmund Wilson
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