The “Dead dames” series has made me think of the subject of re-reads. The problem with being a keen reader is how to keep up with the tide of newly-published books. The short answer – it’s just not possible. The problem is compounded by the desire to re-read books that we have loved in the past, or to re-attempt those literary Mount Everests that have previously defeated us.
In this latter category I would place those heavyweight classics that we feel we should read, but are just too hard. How many times have I attempted War and Peace or Remembrance of things past and not got past the first 20 pages? Now that winter is upon us it’s a good time to re-attempt the dizzy heights of reading difficulty. I think you really need to be snowed into a mountain cabin with nothing else to read but Henry James or James Joyce to get to grips with them properly. I think you need a lot of time and nothing else to do. (Trouble is, the typical reading in mountain cabins tends to be of the Sven Hassell/Wayne D. Overholser kind).
The other kind of re-read is the comfort re-read, a pastime that the winter season lends itself to. Those “old shoes” that we love so much we re-read them every year, especially in winter, when they become the readerly equivalents of chocolate fudge pudding. My favourite winter comfort reads are Love in a cold climate, Wind in the willows (especially the part where Rat and Mole find Badger’s house after being lost in the Wild Wood), Room with a view and the complete works of Jane Austen. Nothing controversial, nothing challenging.
So, gentle readers, which books are your mashed potatoes, your chicken soup?