In Steinbeck's THE RED PONY, there's a grandfather who tells the same stories over and over. When it's pointed out to him, quite rudely, he says something like, "I don't know why I do it; I only know how I want people to feel when I do." Revisiting stories is about how they make us feel.

I seldom read books a second or third time, but I know people who do. Why? They know what to expect and how it will make them feel. When life is unpredictable or too tragically predictable, books become hiding places, and favorite books are the safest of all. We can stand the pathos of Oliver Twist's life because we know the end. We can laugh with Lady Noggs, cry with Pony Boy, adventure with Quartermain, because we've been there before, and it made us feel good. Even lesser authors, lesser books, can bring the response we seek, the satisfaction of happily-ever-after or the creepiness of "what if that had been real?"

The second time through you're not tearing along to find out what happens, so you can bask in the moment: good writing, clever foreshadowing, intriguing situations. Lately I've grown tired of second-rate thrillers, silly mysteries, and info-dump historicals. I think it may be time to re-visit someone I love, someone like Thomas Hardy's Jude or maybe Tess. I don't know how authors like Hardy do it, but I know and anticipate how their stories make me feel.

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