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I have read "The Tin Drum" by Gunter Grass about seven times in my life now. I also return to "The Waves" by Virginia Woolf once every few years. Both are books I discovered when I was in my late teens. I suspect that connecting strongly to a work of literature is something that is more likely to happen during those years than any other time. Something to do with the way the brain is finalizing its wiring (we don't really stop growing our brains until age 21 or so). When I revisit those books, it is like my brain is still open and alive (as opposed to middle-aged and joyless — I kid, I kid, but only slightly).

I haven't reread "The Tin Drum" since the scandal about Gunter Grass' service in the Waffen-SS broke. I wonder if this knowledge changes the experience of reading the book. I'm guessing it will. "The Tin Drum" showed me that you could use fantastical elements in a story, and still make it meaningful and real and literary at the same time. What we call "magical realism" today, I guess, though I had never heard that term (and am not sure if I've ever heard it used in relation to this book).

As for the Virginia Woolf, most people prefer "To the Lighthouse" or "Mrs. Dalloway" to "The Waves." Those other books have more plot. "The Waves" was my first experience of reading words and seeing, instead, pictures — of having the words disappear behind the imagery they represented. It still does that for me. People in college taught me that that was a bad thing, or an impossible thing. I believed them for a little while, but I don't anymore.

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