Friday, January 15, 2010

A Startling Revelation of Why I Don’t Wish to Re-read These Books I LOVE

When I love a book, I read it and re-read it until I think I understand how it was put together. Some books I read and re-read because I want to live in that world again. Not so for the books below.

1. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
I taught The Scarlet Letter three or four times per day for 12 Februaries in a row. I love the book’s organization, especially the use of the scaffold. I love the way the Transcendental philosophy is examined and flouted in Reverend Dimmesdale (he’s not a Christian pastor really because he thinks he can save himself), and I love, admire and esteem Hester Prynne. However, February is a dark month and Hawthorne does tend to go on a bit…

2. Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Oscar Wilde’s prose is a bit purple but it is also beautiful. It was fun to read and study and I am fascinated by the fact that the book’s plot and characterization resist the author’s proclaimed intent. However, I can’t read one more time that “Dorian flung himself on the sofa” and “cried hot tears.” Could you?

3. Two Bad Mice by Beatrix Potter
I love this story, but it’s for adults, not children and whenever I read it to a child, I feel stricken by conscience. The children are appalled by the temper that the mice display; they wreck the dollhouse – which is pretty awesome, but I don’t really want them to imitate this, do I?

4. The World According to Garp by John Irving
John Irving is a brilliant novelist and his books are almost as cohesive as Shakespeare’s plays, but the action of the plot in this one is so appalling, I can’t live through it again. NO WAY!

5. 1984 by George Orwell
One of the most beautiful and tragic books ever and teaching it was a wonderful experience. The perfectly executed, apt last line breaks the heart. Mine is broken. I’m not reading it again. Remembering is painful enough.

6. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
This book should be read by everyone at least once. Some people are prejudiced against it because the immoral preacher “leaves” Christianity (he wasn’t living as a Christian anyway so maybe he just got honest) to preach a socialist gospel. Also, there is cussing in the book. For these reasons, I was told I couldn’t continue to teach it. This was a loss to students and to those parents who only read some of it or only on a surface level. It’s a worthy book.

7. Fields of Fire by James Webb
This book shows a devastating understanding of the Vietnam War and reading it was an important experience for me. I think everyone should read it, but it is difficult to sleep for awhile after you understand the suffering.

8. Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry – Everyone in my family of origin loves and adores this book, so I’m jealous of it. I want them to love me instead.


  1. I agree with every one of these...especially the last.

  2. Likewise, I could not go back and reread either The Scarlet Letter or 1984.

  3. Is it alright to admit to you, after this many years, that I never read Grapes of Wrath as I was supposed to?

    However, since that time, I've read East of Eden and I love it.

  4. I haven't read all of these but of those I did, I can agree. Especially Grapes of Wrath and 1984.

  5. Grapes of Wrath was the first piece of Am Lit I loved. It's such a shame it's no longer taught.Where besides Beowulf can you find the idea so clearly drawn that humans cannot survive in this terminally marred world, but must continue to fight anyway?

    And I could reread Dorian every week if it wasn't for the fact that I'm busy with Chesterton.