Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Art & Literature Through Our Ages

A truly great book should be read in youth, again in maturity and once more in old age, as a fine building should be seen by morning light, at noon and by moonlight.  --Robertson Davies

I'm going to tell a little story about art and then I want to ask you a question about books. Both of which flow from the idea expressed in the quote above. Simply put; we see, feel, sense, appreciate art and literature differently at the various stages of our life. We bring different experiences to the works and take away quite different lessons and visions.
In 1968 I was studying in Germany. I spent Easter weekend in Paris with some fellow American students. Late on Sunday afternoon we were to catch our train back to Muenster but I just had to see one more museum. The treasure of impressionist art, now residing in Musee d'Orsay, was in a different space back then and was my last stop in Paris. Fortunately, I took a friend with me because in the final room I visited were five of Monet's Cathedral Rouen paintings. He painted more than thirty of these works done at different times of day and year to catch the cathedral in different lights.
I was transfixed. To get me to leave, it took Steve actually stepping between me and the paintings, literally blocking my view and then moving me out of the room with his hands on my shoulders. We not only would have missed our train, I might still be standing there.
Some art is just that powerful. 


So to my question: What books have you or will you read in your youth, maturity and old age. I myself am not a big re-reader of books and have often times regretted taking up an old favorite that did not age well (or perhaps it is I who was showing the signs of age) but in any case. Which books do you return to?

My own list:
Lord of the Rings (3 times, every 12 years)
Catch-22 (3 times, but long ago)
Red Mars, Green Mars, Blue Mars (2.5 times, reading now)
Burmese Supernaturalism (twice)
The Heart Sutra (five or more, but it's short and available in several translations)


You? The comment section is open.

3 comments:

cherie said...

Some old - some new, but books I always want to read again and again.

The Little Prince - Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Moby Dick - Herman Melville

The Diary of Anais Nin Vol 1 - Anais Nin

Luka and The Fire of Life - Salman Rushdie

Frank Zweegers said...

Looks great!

Anonymous said...

I re-read almost every book I read.

LOTR - Full set 3 times, but "2nd" and "3rd" books more, to check against features of the movies.

By far the book I've read the most times is Polar Star. It's the sequel to Gorky Park. I've probably read Polar Star close to 20 times. One of the last times I read it I realized that I'd missed something previously - a particular passage was exciting and there was some key information, and a sentance following was one I had previously skimmed over, given I was mentally processing the key info while continuing to read.

Some books I've read 4-5 times, and others 7-10 times. Catch-22, Nobody's Fool fall into the late range, something like High Fidelity, the earlier (which reminds me, it's about time I re-read it).

matt g