Guided Reading

January 15th, 2007

It’s not like I don’t have a lot of books on my “to be read” pile. But sometimes I find myself reading out of sequence, or reading books I’ve read before, and when it goes on for long enoughI figure there’s a purpose to it that my brain (inconsiderate object) has not communicated to my conscious mind. There are always books I re-read on some sort of repeating loop: Jane Eyre and Jane Austen, Wild Seed and Red Sky at Morning and Dorothy Sayers and, recently, Laurie R. King’s Holmes/Russell books, in all of which I find new stuff and old comforts. But sometimes I go on a bender that seems to have a purpose to it.

Right now I’m plowing through the collected ouevre of Dick Francis, the British jockey-turned-columnist-turned mystery writer. Francis writes clean, entertaining, well thought out mysteries, often set on or around the British racing world (it says something that while I’ve never had any inclination to go to the race track in the US, I’d love to go to the races in England some day. Francis has well over two dozen novels to his credit, and in the last week I’ve read five of them. I don’t generally ask why when I take down a book from the shelf–sometimes it’s just because I want something familiar, or (if I’m going to take the dog to the dog park or the kids somewhere where I know I will be interrupted off and on) I want sometime that won’t require that fierce involvement of a first-time read. But if I read a string of five books in a week that I’ve already read before, I know there’s a reason.

In this case? I’ve gone back to Sarah Tolerance Book 3, which has something wrong with it–a mechanical part of the mystery plot. I’m not one for brainstorming with other people, since usually trying to explain a plot which makes sense to me as I build it has me feeling, once I’ve stopped talking, like I’m stupid and the plot is useless. So when I have a technical problem, I often find that I’m reading to find an answer.

What’s the answer? Not sure yet. I’m not even certain what the question is. But my mind, that pesky creature, seems to feel that guidance will be found in the pages of Decider and Banker and Proof and Nerve. And my mind has a way of being right about these things in the long run.

Anyone else find they do this?

7 Responses to “Guided Reading”

  1. Sherwood Smithon 15 Jan 2007 at 9:52 pm

    I just discovered Dick Francis, too!

  2. kateelliotton 16 Jan 2007 at 2:54 am

    I think you’re right that your mind is working on something, and that the subconscious process is guiding you to the right work. I don’t know if I’ve done that specifically, but I do know that certain reading patterns emerge when my brain is churning along, at parallel, perpendicular, rotations, or converging points – whatever, some weird geometry of inter-relationship.

  3. LauraJMixonon 17 Jan 2007 at 1:14 pm

    Steve does this all the time. (We both love Dick Francis, btw. Yum. And Carl Hiassen, for that matter. And Jane Austen…and, and… OK, I’ll stop now….)

  4. LauraJMixonon 17 Jan 2007 at 1:15 pm

    (oops, make that Hiaasen)

  5. Carol Bergon 17 Jan 2007 at 2:17 pm

    Dick Francis has been one of my favorites for years. He is a master sketch artist–creating a great character with a few brushstrokes–and a tight, clean plot that pulls you right through. I was delighted to see that he’s come back to writing again after his wife’s death. And with Sid Halley to boot – one of my favorite of his heroes.

    For years I didn’t read him because I was totally uninterested in horses or horseracing – which is a great object lesson in itself!


  6. Madeleine Robinson 18 Jan 2007 at 12:40 pm

    I read my first Dick Francis in a Reader’s Digest compilation we had lying around the house. I think I was eleven. The rest, as they say, is history.

  7. Carol Bergon 19 Jan 2007 at 12:43 am

    Looking back here, I realize that in my enthusiasm for DF, I totally did not respond to the question.

    And the answer is yes, though I don’t know that I could ever explain what drove me to it beyond “I needed to go back to the well of lyrical prose” or “I needed to remind myself of how a master/mistress evokes a living, breathing person on a page of words.”


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