I don't often bounce off books, but over my life there have been a few that have defeated me, or that I have just discarded with contempt or incomprehension.
Over the last few years, I've made a conscious effort to retry and, thus far, have been rewarded by loving the damned things second time round. Whether this is down to greater maturity or age-related reduced higher brain function I leave as an exercise for the reader.
This post is prompted by having just … read, not re-read! … The Difference Engine. When it was first published, I think I got about a half dozen pages into it and no further; couldn't see the point, or engage with it at all. This time, I've romped through it with pleasure: a fine read with some surprising resonances to contemporary society and politics, only let down a little for me by the final lines of the coda.
I couldn't finish Shame when I first tried; just got bogged down and ground to a halt. Now, it's (perhaps) my favourite of all of Rushdie's books that I've read, right up there with Midnight's Children.
Doris Piserchia's Star Rider, that I tried whilst working through the first few chunks of Women's Press SF releases back in the early 80s? Unreadable. I was astonished that something written that badly could ever have been published at all, let alone re-published as an exemplar of women's SF. It's been sitting on my shelves ever since, until 2007 when I finally gathered the courage to try it again before disposal: either somebody slipped in and did a substitution without me seeing, or my perceptions have changed fundamentally; I loved it. In fact, it's about time I read it again.
The Glass Bead Game is probably next to retry, another early failure that I reckon I could at least evaluate now.
There are exceptions of course, books I feel no need to pollute my mind with. I tried Dianetics once in my youth, picking it off the library shelf in the mistaken impression it was science fiction. I suppose it is, by some definitions, but the clam-worshippers are welcome to that one. I don't think I'll bother with the Narnia books I hurled away in disgust as child either; my suspicion there is that my spleen wouldnae take it Capt'n. Not a problem with Lewis or his faith (I can read and enjoy the interplantary trilogy and Screwtape, with all their goddishness), just the vomit-inducing patronising Anne Atkinsness of his attempts at chidrens' writing will never again pollute my optic nerves.
This entry was originally posted at http://perlmonger.dreamwidth.org/161782.html.