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Little Willow [userpic]

Reader Resonance

September 29th, 2008 (05:38 pm)
thoughtful

Current Mood: thoughtful
Current Song: Gone by Matt Nathanson

What is reader resonance?

It's relative, I think.

I think of reader resonance in terms of the story and its characters sticking with the reader. I also factor in the probability of the book being re-read. In other words, while appeal is more applicable at the onset - Will people want to read this? Will it sound interesting to them? - reader resonance is the reaction after completing the book - Does the story stay with the readers? Do the characters stay with the readers?

It's easy to say that a book is GREAT! immediately after reaching the satisfying conclusion. It's right then, right there, in the moment of completion, so it might feel like it's the best book ever. But do you still exclaim a week, a month, a year after you've read it?

It's been years since THE ALISON RULES by Catherine Clark was published, and I still think about it. I still 'know' those characters. I still tell people about that book. The same with SWOLLEN by Melissa Lion, THE TRUTH ABOUT FOREVER by Sarah Dessen, and other titles. Some are bestsellers, some aren't. Some (THE GREAT GATSBY, ALICE'S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND, ANNE OF GREEN GABLES) are classics, some are contemporary. Some were originally published in a language I don't speak, making me thankful for translators (THE NEVERENDING STORY), and some have been translated in twenty different languages. Some can be found in most big-name bookstores and some are out-of-print.

Their publication dates don't matter to me. Their fame doesn't matter to me. Their covers don't matter to me. Other people's reviews of these books have no bearing on my opinion of these books. These books are here with me because, for one reason or other, they echo. Whether they whisper or scream, old or new, they are here with me for good.

Comments

Posted by: Sarah Prineas (sarah_prineas)
Posted at: January 13th, 2008 03:19 am (UTC)

A weird resonance thing happened to me recently. I read a book and set it aside because I didn't like it. But it stayed with me, and I think I need to go check it out from the library again and finish it.

Some books that I've really enjoyed just evaporate after a day or two--Neil Gaiman's books are like that for me. Both Neverwhere and Stardust were full of cool stuff, but it's just gone, poof.

Posted by: Little Willow (slayground)
Posted at: January 13th, 2008 03:27 am (UTC)

It'll be interesting to see if you like it once you finish it!

I enjoy Gaiman's novels.

(Deleted comment)
Posted by: Little Willow (slayground)
Posted at: January 13th, 2008 06:35 am (UTC)
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Two of those are on my list of favorites as well - but you already knew that! :)

Posted by: bookish_ness (bookish_ness)
Posted at: January 13th, 2008 06:39 am (UTC)
pages

For me, it's been: Twilight by Stephenie Meyer (the whole series), The Nature of Jade by Deb Caletti, Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, and basically everything by Sarah Dessen. There are several classics that will always remain in my heart: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, and Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom.

I always remember all the characters from books that I have read, because it feels like meeting real people, and I talk about them as if they are real too.

I have re-read books that I didn't like at first, when I stopped and said "This is it. I just can't read this anymore". But when I read it a second time,I gained a bigger understanding and appreciation of it, and made those books memorable to me even if I didn't like them. (But I ended up liking them anyways...). I always try to give books a chance, no matter what. =]

Posted by: Little Willow (slayground)
Posted at: January 13th, 2008 06:40 am (UTC)

Great books, all.

The Nature of Jade by Deb Caletti has a special place in my heart too.

Posted by: My characters kick your ass dot com (elfstar18)
Posted at: January 13th, 2008 04:05 pm (UTC)

If a book follows a character through most of their life rather than for one important period of time in their life, it is very likely to stick with me forever. The message that life goes on for much longer than we might think it will, and that all of the good things and bad things that happen will shape us, but that all of the things that feel 'huge' will be tempered by time and experience is one that really, as you say, resonates with me. I like books that show the impact of a major life event through the lens of an entire lifetime.

(I think I also find it very satisfying to know what happens to a character, all the way to end!)

Books that I consider to be in this category, and that really affect me, include The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri (her short story, The Third and Final Continent is a good example too), The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende, and The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver.

Posted by: Little Willow (slayground)
Posted at: January 13th, 2008 09:58 pm (UTC)

Life stories can be impressive. Hard to maintain, but if done well, remarkable.

I wasn't a fan of The House of the Spirits. We read junior year it right after One Hundred Years of Solitude. (Our teacher repeatedly claimed that House was a "rip-off" and "poor knockoff" of Solitude. We were expected to agree if we wanted to get a good grade.)

Posted by: My characters kick your ass dot com (elfstar18)
Posted at: January 13th, 2008 10:18 pm (UTC)

I've yet to read One Hundred Years of Solitude, but it's on my list for this year. I really connected with the characters in The House of the Spirits, especially Alba and Jaime, but it's the only one of Allende's books that really resonates with me.

Oftentimes I think that her characters are overly loaded with talent and privilege; her female characters often posses a knowledge of how to function in high society AND they know a lot of folk-wisdom and so can pass among the lower classes AND they're really sexy AND they have a great talent of some sort... It is hard to figure out why they need *you* to root for them. I saw Allende speak though, and she was very engaging and thought provoking.

If One Hundred Years of Solitude does turn out to be like-House-of-the-Spirits-only-better then now I am really looking forward to reading it :)

Posted by: Little Willow (slayground)
Posted at: January 13th, 2008 11:24 pm (UTC)

House is the only Allende I've read so far. Same for Solitude, for Marquez. I have friends and co-workers who love one or both of those authors, and I appreciate that, but know they aren't for me.

Posted by: Julie M. Prince (jmprince)
Posted at: January 13th, 2008 04:54 pm (UTC)

I love this post, thanks!

Posted by: Little Willow (slayground)
Posted at: January 13th, 2008 09:49 pm (UTC)

You're welcome! Thanks!

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: January 17th, 2008 06:32 am (UTC)

From a. fortis - Great post! I never quite resonated with One Hundred Years of Solitude--I read it for a graduate class and just had to force myself to finish. Reader resonance, though...for the same class I read The English Patient and there are scenes in that novel I haven't been able to stop thinking about years later! (That's why it's in my TBR pile again this year.)

The first time I read The Dark is Rising series was like that. In fact, it stayed with me so much I couldn't sleep! Too scary! :)

Posted by: Little Willow (slayground)
Posted at: January 17th, 2008 07:10 am (UTC)

Thank you!

At least I'm not the only one who didn't love SOLITUDE.

Have a good night's sleep.

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