Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Old friends, old wine and old books

When I got the delivery of my latest purchase this morning - Job: A
Comedy of Justice, by Robert A. Heinlein - it occurred to me that I seem
to be always buying the same books over and over again. Currently I am
re-reading 'Stranger in a Strange Land', Heinlein's Hugo award winner
novel. Before that I just finished re-reading Matt Helm's adventure 'The
Interlopers'. Trying to think 'when did I read a new book?' got me the
comforting answer that it was not too long ago that I read Heinlein's
masterpiece "Time Enough for Love". And I am actually looking forward to
receiving "Mathuselah's Children" which has the same hero - Lazarus
Long.

To believe Shakespeare, "Nothing is as tedious as a twice told tale.",
but I know for a fact that I am not the only one prone to the lure of
already-read books. There are many of us who want to pick up a book we
have already read and read it again. The question is why?

Why spend time, and often money, on a book you have already read, on a
story you already know , sometimes by heart?

To go into my own motivation I love those characters! My all time
favorite book by Heinlein is "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress". I have
recently re-read it and I still want to read it again but just
abstaining because I remember everything in too much detail right now.
I'd love to read it again after I have forgotten it a bit. The reason is
the characters, the people who live in that fantastic work of fiction,
are simply fabulous. The one-arm computer mechanic Manuel Garcia
O'Kelly, the lovable self-aware computer Mike (formal name: Mycroft
Holmes), lovely and active Gosphaza Wyoming, worldly-wise Professor, I
have come to love and admire these people. I will not go into details of
the merits of Heilein's writings in this post but the main attraction of
any story is the characters, not events. IMHO, events just bring out the
qualities of those characters. To take a non-Heinlein example, P. G.
Wodehouse's Galahead is a similarly lovable and admirable character.

Well, that's my reason, what's yours?

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