Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Never go back

by Dietrich Kalteis

Pretending there are no time constraints, would you ever get the urge to sit down with your own published work and read?

I went on a trip last year to visit family and went through the reading material I brought along very early on. Being with family, naturally I found a couple of my novels on the bookshelf next to some vintage Reader’s Digests. So, I reread my first one, Ride the Lightning. It did cross my mind that I might find some error that slipped past me back when I wrote it. Happily, nothing glaring jumped out at me, and since the book came out in 2014 I was long-finished with writing it, and I was able to just sit back and kind of enjoy it.

Would I do it again? Since I know the outcome of my own stories, the thoughts and feelings of each character, their arcs, etc., what’s left? Time to move on, and to become inspired by somebody else’s writing. And there are more great books than the hours I have to read them. My own to-read list is pretty long, and the unread books I own could tower to the ceiling, So, why read my own? 

I do re-read novels I loved the first time around — classics mostly. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve read To Kill a Mockingbird, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, The Catcher in the Rye, Get Shorty and just about anything else Elmore Leonard wrote. It’s not so much about revisiting the stories, but hearing those great voices that I never tire of. 

I read a novel a week, sometimes more, and I like to take my time and really drink them in. Reading inspires me to write, and if it weren’t for time constraints, I’d read even more. I’m always interested in authors who write in the same genre and discovering voices I’ve never read before. Reading a great novel inspires me to write.

And I like to read novels in German from time to time. It’s my first language, and reading in German helps keep me fluent. And there are many talented contemporary writers as well as greats like G√ľnter Grass, Hermann Hesse, Erich Maria Remarque, Franz Kafka, Thomas Mann and Edgar Hilsenrath. And there’s something special about reading the books in the language in which they were written: Steppenwolf, Siddhartha, The Tin Drum, Death in Venice and All Quiet on the Western Front, The Reader, and more. And I’m thrilled that my second novel The Deadbeat Club will be released in German early next year by Suhrkamp. It will be called Shootout, and that’s one of my own stories that I am looking forward to re-reading.

If I wrote a series, I would likely go back and revisit my early work from time to time, just to keep things consistent. I’d be looking for new ways of growing the characters, revisiting their motivation, and checking that I was keeping to the general thread of the original story. 

On occasion, I’ve dusted off some of my old unpublished short stories to see if there are possibilities to bring them to life or expand on them. I have given a couple a new twist and finally seen them published. And a while ago, I dusted off a novel I had written many years before to see if I could revive it, but it was pretty terrible. Some things can’t be rescued and are best left to serve as a reminder of how far one’s come. 

5 comments:

Paul D. Marks said...

How great to be able to read those books in German, Dieter. And congratulations on Deadbeat Club coming out in German!

RM Greenaway said...

You make a good point about keeping the feel of a series consistent over time and maintaining the thread.
I second Paul's congratulations on the German edition, very cool!

RJ Harlick said...

I agree with you, Dieter, about reading being one of the inspriations behind your writing. It was that way for me too. Good post and congrats on your German edition.

Dietrich Kalteis said...

Thanks, everybody.

Dietrich Kalteis said...
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