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shewhomust

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Serial fidelity [Mar. 20th, 2015|10:24 pm]
shewhomust
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Half listening to Chain Reaction on the radio while I was cooking, earlier this week, I heard one of the participants say: "When I finish reading a book, I want a break before I start another - otherwise I feel as if I'm being unfaithful..." Context is all, and I wasn't paying enough attention to know how far this was intended as a joke. I don't know how much I agree with it, either. On the one hand, while I rarely close one book and pick up the next (light one book from the stub of the previous one?), I'd feel uneasy if I was nearing the end of a book without knowing where the next one was coming from - and have been known to take a spare to bed with me, just in case.

But the remark chimed with something I've been thinking about reading series of books, which is that sometimes I have precisely that feeling of not wanting to rush into the next in the series, and sometimes the opposite, I'm impatient for more.

As it happens, I seem to be in a phase of reading books that are part of series. First, as I said earlier, I have started reading Kate Atkinson's Jackson Brodie books. As a result of a special offer, I had bought several of them before I had read even one, so there was nothing to stop me reading four in sequence, if I wanted to. But I didn't want to, and it wasn't because I hadn't enjoyed Case Histories - I just wanted a pause to digest it. I picked a random book from the pile, read that, and only then picked up One Good Turn. Also good: I didn't have the pleasure that I had found in Case Histories of not having any idea where she was going with this, how this book was going to work, because I had, after all, read Case Histories. But there's a different pleasure in revisiting a character and watching him develop, watching his life change and wondering what happens next.

Perhaps it was that thought that caused me, instead of reading another standalone and then returning to Jackson Brodie, to pick up Patrick O'Brian's Post Captain. It's a while since I read Master and Commander, so I can't be as complately hooked as some of my friends seem to be. But I enjoyed it, and, without quite committing to all twenty volumes, have been looking out for the next few books in the sequence, and finally scored a couple. I would probably have gone straight on to HMS Surprise, too -

Then Terry Pratchett died, and of course I went instead straight to Discworld. I would have read Mort, but inexplicably, I didn't seem to have a copy. Tiffany Aching, then: I've been wanting to re-read those, and I started with The Wee Free Men. It's a curious hybrid: the first time I read it I wasn't even certain that it was set on Discworld, right up to the point where the witches appear, because the Chalk is so very much its own place. Tiffany's a wonderful character, and if she is in part a device for demonstrating theories about witchcraft that has been evolving through many previous books, never mind, they are good theories. Nonetheless, there was something niggling at me while I was reading it, and I finally worked out what it was: I wanted to know what Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin were up to.

This is not a criticism of O'Brian: but in the course of reading HMS Surprise I wondered whether the reason I find the Aubrey/Maturin books so moreish is that they are not structured as individual novels. Bear in mind that this is based only on the first three of the series, but there seems to be an overall story - the career of Jack Aubrey - and a large number of incidents, but not much in the way of plot at the individual novel level. These are long, solid books, but reading one is like reading an individual issue of a comic; stopping between volumes feels like stopping in mid-story.

But stop I must, because I have run out (not quite true: I bought a copy of The Commodore at a book sale last week, because it was there, and because I wanted to contribute to the fundraising venture, and because it was a bargain - but I've no intention of reading it out of sequence). Fortunately, I called in to the Amnesty bookshop when I was in Newcastle on Tuesday, and bought a copy of Mort. It's an elderly hardback: in fact, as far as I can see, it's a first edition, which is a nice thing to have - a well-read, rather worn first edition with no dust jacket, but I don't want to collect it, I just want to read it.

In fact, I think I'll go and do that now.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: desperance
2015-03-20 10:46 pm (UTC)
Heh. As it happens, I have just laid down The Commodore on the sofa through there, in order to come through here to read this.
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[User Picture]From: shewhomust
2015-03-21 10:07 am (UTC)
Heh indeed. And have you been re-reading from the start?

Writing this made me suspect that I have a butterfly mind, compared to those who read and re-read long series end to end: it's a very ponderous butterfly, and I'm not comfortable having more than one book on the go at a time, but more than one series is apparently acceptable.
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[User Picture]From: desperance
2015-03-21 03:16 pm (UTC)
Certainly from the start. Your mind may be lepidopterous, but mine is testudinal, drearily linear: I have no notion of anything except the course, the whole course and nothing but the course. I set another book aside five-sixths of the way through, when I started this re-read. I thought I could work them in parallel, but apparently not.
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[User Picture]From: sam_t
2015-03-23 02:46 pm (UTC)
If that's a butterfly, I'm not sure how you'd characterise my reading habits. I generally have at least two fiction books and one non-fiction book on the go at once. There will often be several fiction books: one each of several formats (where 'format' can mean, e.g. 'paperback', 'hardback','e-book on Kindle', 'e-book borrowed from library and thus only readable on my phone', 'book next to the bed', 'small paperback suitable for handbags' or 'oh help crisis comfort reading'). I am more monogamous with non-fiction, for some reason, although things like The Collected Dorothy Parker get picked up and put down rather randomly.

I don't think I often deliberately leave a gap between books, although I think I did the first time I read The Lord of the Rings, but by the time I get to the end of a book there's usually something else I was supposed to be doing anyway...
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[User Picture]From: shewhomust
2015-03-25 09:37 am (UTC)
That's a good point. I don't regard myself as inclined to read several books at once, but there might well be a book by the bed, and a large comics volume by the sofa, and sometimes something small and portable to carry when I'm likely to have five minutes here and there.

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