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Like a (Book) Virgin

Ta-Nehisi Coates is reading the SUPERB AND PERFECT The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman, for the very first time, which causes me to wriggle with envy. I would love to read it again for the first time, with any of these fabulous covers. For whatever reason, it’s always sci-fi I feel this way about: Nova, or The Left Hand of Darkness, or Dangerous Visions.

Roger Ebert once said that he had a college professor who said he would give anything to read Romeo and Juliet again for the first time. Which struck me as a little odd, because, not to be a jerk, but Romeo and Juliet over King Lear? Or Twelfth Thing? But that’s not it, is it? Sometimes it’s where you were and who you were when you read it, that’s what you’re chasing. A huge stack of decaying, luridly-illustrated sci-fi paperbacks stuffed under your bed. A copy of Matilda from a sympathetic supply teacher (Donald Sturrock’s Storyteller: The Authorized Biography of Roald Dahl, which is, ugh, MANDATORY READING FOR EVERYONE, reveals that Dahl’s original draft portrayed Matilda as a vicious, “born bad” type, who used her powers to rob people. Which might have been…kind of great, in a different world.)

Which book would you read again for the first time, if you could? It’s not necessarily the same as your favourite book, or even your most formative book. It might be, though, for you?

While we’re out of the desert of the real, is there a book you wish you’d never read? Not flippantly, because you just didn’t care for it and wish you’d invested the time elsewhere, but really, honestly, because you don’t like what it did to your life? Or because you saw the universe in a certain way afterwards, and you’d rather not? I almost feel that way about Jeanette Winterson’s Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?, even though it is truly wonderful, because I wanted Winterson to have had a better childhood. Winterson probably does too, come to think of it.

So, then. What are we reading again for the very first time, and what are we Eternal Sunshining out of our minds?


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