Yet again I find myself reading Maurice by E.M. Forster, an old favourite which I seem never to grow tired of. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve read it now, and yet the emotionally charged plot still never fails to resonate with me. Reading this old favourite once more got me thinking about other books I thought I’d never fall out of love with, but maybe I have. So here is my list of old favourites which I think that I may never revisit and reread for various reasons.
The Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger
This is a weird one to choose as an old favourite because I’ve only ever read it once whereas many of my other favourite books I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve read and re-read them. It’s also the only book cover that I have an poster of. My reading of this book coincided with the time in my life where I wanted to assert my aesthetic identity fully, through the clothes I choose and the way I decorated my bedroom. Plus the art work is iconic and beautiful even detached from the contents of the book itself. The Catcher in the Rye is a unique book because I believe it has to be read within a very specific era of your life, the era in your teenaged years where you think that you’re the only person in the whole world who has it all figured out. Holden Caulfield (the protagonist) appeals to that specific teenaged feeling of angst and alienation. I feel like if I returned to this book now I’d just not understand it or relate to it in the same way, it belongs to an period in my head where I though The Smiths were the greatest thing to happen to music and I ironically unironically collected the ugliest jumpers I could.
The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Great Gatsby was a difficult one to put on this list because I love it so deeply. Before I started Sixth Form we were set an summer assignment to create a presentation on a book of our choice and this is the one that I chose. It also happened to be one of the books on the course for ALevel. I studied it in great, but I now realise, superficial detail never quite getting past the obvious symbols of the green light, the pink suit, and the yellow car. I’ve watched the film of The Great Gatsby multiple times, seen it at a interactive theatre experience, written essays on it at ALevel and University, highlighted and notated multiple paperback copies, and realised that however hard I may try all the characters in this book are terrible people. That doesn’t make it a bad book, it just makes it a difficult book to revisit.
On the Road – Jack Kerouac
When I first read this book, I just thought it was the absolute ‘coolest’, it was like a window into some awesome adventure. It was only later that I came to learn what ‘based on true events’ really means. When I studied the Beat Generation, and Jack Kerouac specifically, in depth to write my dissertation, I found a highly troubled man whose life was entrenched in addiction and regret, a far cry from the romanticised version of himself presented in the character of Sal Paradise. They say never meet your heroes, and in a way that’s what I did in studying Kerouac’s life in such detail, I saw the tragedy behind the adventure and that rather took the shine off it all.
Frankenstein – Mary Shelley
I didn’t want to make this whole list books that I killed by studying them but there had to be one. I actually came to this book through studying it at ALevel, hated it on the first read through, understood it on the second read through, loved it on the third read through, and knew it back to back by the forth read through. It got my through my ALevel Gothic exam and my Uni 2nd year Romanticism exam and because of this Frankenstein is so deeply academic in my head that I can’t see myself enjoying it on any other level. The characters aren’t good people, nor or they complex people. The plot is something I know back to front. The writing style shows glimpses of brilliance but all too soon drops back into long-windedness. This is a book I never would have loved had it not been for academia, but it is also I book I never would have fallen out of love with had it not been for academia which is a paradox I know. Maybe some parallels can be drawn to the plot of the book itself – in studying the book, as Victor studies the human body, I created something I could no longer love, as he detest the monster he creates.