Winton Pawprints 

Winton (c.1995-2012) was our beloved shop cat and still has the last word every month in her regular column.

August 2016

Gleebooks Bookshop - Wednesday, August 10, 2016
Stephen Romei had a nice couple of Pair of Ragged Claws columns in the Saturday Australian recently about rereading which had me (an inveterate re-reader) thinking about the pleasures of the second, third, fourth (in the case of Lord of the Rings I’m embarrassed to say I’ve lost count) read through a favourite book, or author. I’ve read through all of Jane Austen (occasionally skipping Northanger Abbey, and always leaving my personal favourite, Persuasion, til last) more than thrice. Basically, these days when my fiction shelves start gasping for a cull it’s the books I know I’m not going to read again that I send to the second hand shop. Those ‘life-changing’ books read in one’s callow youth can lose their lustre slightly as one gets older (there seemed to be lot of disappointment in the Romei column when it came to a second look at that perennial teen eye-opener Catch-22)—but a good book just seems to get richer with each reading. There’s almost an autobiographical aspect to the experience—looking back on the person you were and the understanding you had twenty years previous. I’d have a terrible time choosing which ten books I’d take to a desert island, but besides an Austen, Middlemarch would be one, and there’d have to be a Dickens, plus that perfect ‘modern’ Dickensian novel, The Quincunx by Charles Palliser. And there would also have to be a Jane Smiley. Her take on King Lear, the Pulitzer winner, A Thousand Acres, or her joyous exercise in hippophilia, Horse Heaven, or her ‘revisioning’ of The Decameron, Ten Days in the Hills (a lesser work, but still eminently re-readable)—or her most recent foray, the three volume family saga, Last Hundred Years—Some Luck, Early Warning and The Golden Age.

     
 

I always buy the US hardcovers of a new Smiley, and these have been sitting unread on the shelf for a year or so. Actually, I’m pleased I’ve taken my time in getting to them, because once engaged they are completely addictive—and now I don’t have to wait for the new volumes to appear—I can just keep roaring through the years and watching the Langdon progeny go forth from their Iowa farm into the 20th century and beyond. It’s a good thing there’s a family tree in the front pages of each book because the names and relationships branching out from the Cheeks and Chicks, the Vogels and Augsbergers can get a bit hard to hold onto at times. The books cover 100 years from 1920 to 2019, with a short chapter per year. I’m in 1966 at the moment. Tim, son of Lillian, fifth daughter of Walter and Rosanna Langdon has just been killed in Vietnam. As with Annie Proulx’s Barkskins (a book I’m already rereading) death comes with a brutal unexpectedness—and before you have time to catch your breath the years just flow on. This inexorable passage of time, ‘creeping in its petty pace’, years turning over chapter by short chapter, makes for an affect both frantic—what happens next, and soothing—all things must and will pass. Highly recommended. Winton

 
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