Change of taste, change of heart

10:31 AM

The other day I was cleaning my book shelf, sorting through all the titles, cleaning the books, setting aside the ones that were too old and needed to be restored.

Three of the books that were falling apart called my attention: The Stranger and Madame Bovary

These copies were all worn out of all the many times I’ve read and re-read these stories. Many notes filled the small blank space on the bottom and the sides of their pages. That means these are my favorite books right? While I was holding them, I suddenly realized: I could give these books away and not care.

They were indeed favorite books, but now they don’t appear so appealing anymore. I actually haven’t re-read them lately.

I opened them, read a few lines and noticed how similar the three main characters are to each other, in the sense that they are people that suffer too much, while making others miserable as well. Most importantle what they all have in common is: they were all my past selves. I used to be Emma and Mersault. I'm not anymore - at least I don't want to be.

Two of them were discovered at the same age even: around 2007 I read both Madame Bovary and The Stranger and became quite obsessed over them. About the first I wrote papers in college, read critical books about it and kept saying to others that Madame Bovary, c’est moi.

In The Stranger there was Mersault whose cold detachment from others I envied. I didn’t consider him misanthropic or bad but blasé and cool. I kept quoting those infamous first lines with enormous excitement: Maman died today. Or maybe yesterday, I don’t really know.

However, I don't feel that connection now. I considered just giving the books away and not restoring them. On one hand, it's pretty sad to say goodbye to my old crowd. On the other, it's like I'm ready to befriend a completely different group of people - and that's exciting.

Images via 1, 2

Do you change tastes often? Is there a book you once loved and now you can't stand?

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  1. well, i'm 19 and when i read "Twilight" i kinda loved it. I tried to read the whole saga, but i couldn't get to the last book.
    I really liked Edward and how he is perfect. He can be whatever Bella needs him to be. He can be pacient or impacient, can be funny or serious, strong or sensible. He can be anything because he is perfect and most importante he's not real.
    Many of my friends at the time were in love with him too, and were arguing with their boyfriends because they wanted them to be edward. Well, it's really easy to fall in love with a character like Edward. That's why twilight is such a big hit. Because the readers fall in love with it's male characters.
    When i got to that conclusion, i noticed that the books are really boring, have no story and are bad written. After that i decided to read only classics, because best-sellers are really dull and have nothing to say. Their only after the money.

  2. I wonder if more readers of Twilight got disapointed with the saga like you. Perhaps with the movies, more and more people became fans.

    I also prefer sticking to classics because they have, at least, stood the test of time. However, many people consider Madame Bovary a classic, so...


    PS: I once read something so interesting about the t\Twilight phenomenon, but I probably don't have the link anymore. It was about how even older women identified with Bella, because she wasn't really a well developed character, but was something like a shell.

  3. It's fascinating to read about your erstwhile connection to Meursault--something I never felt, despite having a fairly phlegmatic temperament and life-long love for Camus's works. It makes me wonder about these significant links readers forge with characters. I remember a friend telling me Jean-Baptiste Clamence was "insufferable," and it felt, at that time, like he was telling me to my face that I was insufferable.

  4. How interesting - we can take criticism of characters and authors rather personally, can't we? And the opposite also happens. If somebody says they like a certain character we get excited and happy.

    I used to be like that and be very judgmental of people's tastes but now I see that people interpret and like characters in different ways. For example, so many girls like Mr. Darcy and I do too. But they see him as a completely different character than I do.

  5. I don't think there are any books that I used to love and now can't stand. My tastes haven't changed all that much. I have occasionally returned to books and been a bit disappointed, as they totally thrilled me when I was 15 and now leave me a little cold. (One that I can think of was The Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers - I had that experience. But now I wonder if I should return to it yet again as I'm quite interested in spy stories these days...) But usually I can understand why I used to love them so much.

    I think for me, nothing ever really exits the pattern. If a book really touched me and changed my life when I was younger, it still holds that special place, even if now I haven't read it for years and perhaps wouldn't react as strongly now. Sometimes you can feel like that about a book for some years but then finally return to it again, and it moves you again, but in a different way. I recently re-read Watership Down, which I hadn't for years, and which was an incredibly influential book for me from about age 10 to 20. I was really moved again - but it was partly my past child self reacting, and partly my current adult self, with all the experiences I've taken in since then.

  6. I looked The Riddle of the Sands up and it sounds pretty interesting! Maybe I'll watch the movie with Michael York to get a little taste of it. Spy stories are very thrilling (though stories about rabbits are the bomb as well).

    I really wish I could have a steadier taste like you. I feel this is happening with painters as well. I used to admire Francis Bacon so much and know I can't even look at his paintings. Luckily this hasn't happened to any poets yet. ;)

  7. So out of simple curiosity - did You finally decide to give these books aways or to did You keep them for Your personal library? :)

    I had this thought a while a go, that a simple moment of a day or life, place, atmosphere is a really crucial thing when reading, watching a movie or listening to the music... Of course there're always some pieces that are just unbeatable, winning over everyone's wall of stress, iron curtain of indifference...
    Maybe this was such a moment when You took that book again or read it for the first time...
    I've recently learned that I can't enjoy some movies and books I enjoyed so much working at sea, even if it was only couple of months ago... maybe that's because I associate them with a job I didn't really like, maybe these were perfect just for the moment... than again maybe these books will be great if I will try to read them after another while... :)
    No one can ever know ;)

    1. You know what, I actually gave them away. It seemed unlikely I was ever going to re-read them and they were falling apart anyway.

      It's funny, it seems like a thousand years since I gave those books away, which reinforces the idea I feel very distant from them.

      But you are right, it's difficult to know why this happens and I am yet to see if I go back to old preferences - you let me know if that happens with you!

  8. Sure thing my lady ;)

    Hm... did You try to read them in different languages perhaps? It sometimes can give a completely different effect. Amazingly I prefered some in original english version than in my native polition, others worked much better in translation...


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