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The Absolute Right Mood And Time

A photograph of a copy of Helen Oyeyemi's What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours facing forwards against a shelf of books, and with a rose lying in front of it

Yesterday was a particularly strong example of a reading phenomenon that I don’t think has a name.

At some point in the last two years, I bought Helen Oyeyemi’s short story collection, What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours and a little while later I attempted to read it. I want to say that these events happened in the last year – it feels like that’s the situation and it would make yesterday’s reading more interesting – but I have the hardback which was published in March 2016, so it can’t have been much longer than that date.

On trying to read the book I found I couldn’t get into it. I remember thinking the writing was lovely, but that it was too heavy a subject and needed a lot of attention. I considered what I’d surely considered before I’d bought it, that Boy, Snow, Bird had proved to be nice but a bit of a mess, and that buying the new book had been a bit of a silly idea.

I left it and left it and didn’t really have even a vague notion of returning it to for a very long time.

Well, in comes yesterday, I was wanting to read something on my shelves and as I was heading over to the books I received last Christmas that I still haven’t read, my eyes fell on the Oyeyemi and I thought I’d give it a go. I didn’t expect much.

It’s now Monday morning and it’s off the currently reading list already. I started it just before lunchtime and spent the rest of the day reading. I absolutely loved it; it was everything I look for in a book. Granted it was completely bizarre and didn’t always make complete sense, but those two things were more a positive feature than a drawback.

Being in the right mood to read a book is often discussed. So too is timing. And I think both of those ideas may have applied to me, but usually you get a sense that you’re reading the wrong book. That first time with the Oyeyemi felt, on the face of it, perfect, but, particularly in yesterday’s case, as I read the pages I’d read before it seemed to be a completely different book.

Perhaps it was because I was wary then, of reading another Oyeyemi, whereas since that time I’ve read interviews with her and have come to understand that the bizarre is a long-used feature. Maybe this time because I was resigned to the idea that I might end up shelving it again – I went in with the thought to take a quick peek and certainly didn’t envisage spending the rest of my day on it – it worked for me. I don’t know. But I think I should pay more attention than I do to that feeling of it being the wrong mood, wrong time, even when I’m otherwise raring to go.

Interestingly this doesn’t tend to happen with review copies. It does sometimes but generally not. Perhaps in those cases I’ve spent long enough beforehand contemplating them.

What books have you put aside with indifference only to return later and love them to pieces?

 
 

Jennifer

November 13, 2017, 11:30 am

How lovely. She is one of those authors who have been on my must get to but haven’t yet list for a while. Mood really can make such a difference- Find me by Laura VanDenBerg is one I returned to recently and liked much better on revisiting. (Several books I am still waiting for the right moment to come :D)

Jeanne

November 13, 2017, 3:41 pm

I’ve done that with a lot of books, had to find the right place and time to get into them and then found I loved them. The one that took the longest was Woolf’s To the Lighthouse when I was 22. I had to read it because it was on a list for my PhD comprehensive exam, but I kept losing interest. Finally one day in July I took it to the pool at my apartment complex, and that was where I finally discovered that I loved it.

jessicabookworm

November 13, 2017, 7:41 pm

It took me ages to get into My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier, however when I was in just the right mood I loved it!

Tracy Terry

November 14, 2017, 4:15 pm

Alas I’m not one for putting books aside, once stared I have to finish them. that said, I have often picked a book up only to read the synopsis and decide its not one for me at that time. Take for example Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. Recommended by I don’t know how many bloggers and yet I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve picked it off my TBR mountain only to put it back again.

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