kiyoko99% of fiction, I’ll read once and never consider going back to. William S Burroughs, I can reread, mostly down to the gorgeous ‘poetry’ of his prose. I am, after all, a schemie. The urban poor. I object to poetry. It undermines my manhood.
When I got my first e-reader, back in 2011, practically housebound with Post Viral Fatigue Syndrome, the first thing I did was reread a fairly random fistful of novels I’d read back in the day. Oddly (and again, fighting off this PVFS) I’m rereading some of my favourite fiction authors. Hubert Selby jr, Irvine Welsh and Jean Genet being the first three to hand.
The Selby novels I’ve long meant to return to – and on the second serving, everything I remember is there. The plotting, the sheer stark inarticulacy (or directness) – it’s like speed-reading Ramones lyrics. Being thirty years older, I’m spotting completely different things than I did the last time I read these.
I had a similar experience, rereading Mishima’s ‘Seas of Fertility’ quartet a few years ago. Reading it at seventeen/eighteen, I identified with Kiyoake (and his various incarnations) after all, I was that age, weak and sickly as he was at the end of ‘Spring snow’ and stubborn and principled as Isao from ‘Runaway horses’ and the others…
Returning to the work at forty-nine/fifty, it was Honda I immediately recognised myself in. A financially comfortable, but slowly decaying old perve, almost but not quite able to touch life.
The Welsh books are actually a lot different to how I remember them. ‘The acid house’, in particular, reads a lot better now I’m twenty years older. I always remembered it as quite jagged, thrown together like a band trying to cram everything into their debut LP. Half of it read like exercises from his writing group – and the other fifty percent was brilliant.
I just went back to ‘The thief’s journal’ this afternoon and already, I’m re-hooked on the fragility of Genet’s writing. I haven’t read a lot of his work since I was maybe nineteen, twenty. Although ‘Funeral rites’, I didn’t get around to til about twenty-four, twenty-five.
There’s rarely time to revisit great fiction, so when I do, it’s often like falling back into somewhere familiar-ish, but this time, with better hearing and eyesight, ironically enough.

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