If you were asked to identify one, what variable would you pick as most likely to have a significant impact on your receptivity to a book? Though this has changed a few times over my reading life, of late I'd pick timing.
I recall little about the first time I finished "Goodbye Columbus" by Philip Roth. However, I am certain my first go round didn't pack the wallop my recent reading did. I'm nearly as certain that timing explains my enhanced receptivity to this early Roth collection. In addition to reading more of his work over the last few years and my unqualified love for "The Human Stain", I really enjoyed "Unmasked" the new PBS documentary about Roth. The film was actually the catalyst for me grabbing "Goodbye Columbus" again.
Lately, I've also noticed timing can cut the other way. Reading the entries in my book journal about the novels I finished immediately following "A Visit From The Goon Squad" (Jennifer Egan) and "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" (Junot Diaz) brought this home. Both Goon Squad and Oscar Wao knocked me out so much, whatever I read after each was bound to let me down. I've been trying to remember the last time I was really knocked out by back-to-back books. Timing?
And what about the books that gave me (or you) trouble the first time out - timing? Even if conquering "Ulysses" is not in my future, recognizing the significance of timing is still a little victory to assist me in my reading odyssey.