Some novels are crafted so wonderfully that I want to read them more than once. Plainsong by Kent Haruf is one of these - the style is spare and lyrical at the same time. Plus, the way Haruf creates a strange little family from such an ill-assorted crew of characters is breath-taking. Jane Eyre is another, simply because I love Jane so much. Born plain and penniless, she is still one of the strongest women in fiction.
There are some books, however, that are incredible and wonderful and yet I will never reread them. These are the top three of that list:
1.The Road, by Cormac McCarthy - When I started reading this book, everything else disappeared. I got sucked into the story of the man and the boy traveling across the face of a strange, post Apocalyptic America with only a shopping cart, and I had to find out what happened to them. Of course, what does occur is dreadful - McCarthy offers no comfort in his work, as anyone who read No Country for Old Men knows. As the boy keeps saying, there are some things you can't unsee.
2. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini - I finished this novel at three in the morning because I just couldn't stop reading. Even though it was so late, I had to go and see my daughter and give her sleeping face a big kiss after reading Suns. I wouldn't call this a classic; it's not in the same category as The Road or Plainsong, but it's very good fiction nonetheless. Hosseini is famous for The Kite Runner - also addictive reading - but I much preferred this book. The dream scene where Laila buries her daughter alive is vivid and shocking. It's why I had to go and kiss that face.
3. My friend just lent me The God of Small Things, and I read it in a few days. After I finished it, I was in despair - hack writer that I am, I will never, ever, be able to write like that. Arundhati Roy reinvents the way a story can be told, turning it inside out like a Moebius strip, with beautifully reoccurring images (the time "ten to two" comes to mind) and an ending that breathes horror and beauty in one word. And it is dreadful, too - what the Orangedrink Lemondrink man does to little Estha is terrible - and then it gets far, far worse.
It takes courage, I think, to write books as terrible and wonderful as these - it's much easier to write simple, fun little stories like mine. My books might be pulp fiction (and I'm okay with that) but I can still appreciate works of pure artistry and genius, unsettling as they are.