Monday, June 1, 2009

On Rereading

A recent New York Times' article on rereading ("Some Thoughts on the Pleasures of Being a Re-Reader," Verlyn Klinkenborg, 5/30/09) had me considering my own "personal philosophy" when it comes to reading a book for a second time.

I suppose, like many people, I've been rather anti-rereading most of my life. What was the point if I already knew the ending? Teaching was probably the first time I actively reread, mostly so I could ensure I was more well-versed in the text than my students (although I still fail in this regards, sometimes). However, as Klinkenborg points out, even for good readers much is lost over time. Although I read Jane Eyre in high school, I could barely remember enough to fully appreciate The Eyre Affair. My students have been peppering me with questions about A Prayer for Owen Meany, The Color Purple, and Big Fish, but I scarcely remember enough to have a discussion with them (even though I read Big Fish only 8-9 months ago).

This past month I've gradually began rereading favorites or classics. Of the eight books I read in May, four I had read before.

Klinkenborg argues that one of the perks of rereading is the ability to be less concerned with the plot and more focused on the book itself, whether that be its style, language, description, dialogue, characterization, etc. When I reread Great Gatsby, I was much more focused on the tone and environment created in the reader, even though I didn't like it any better the second time around. Curious Incident was much funnier and ironic than I remembered.

And, of course, one of the most interesting aspects of rereading is the fact that we, as people, are dynamic while the novel itself is static. The Secret Garden is no different, but I am certainly not the same young girl who first read it. How does my opinion change when I'm reading for pleasure versus when I'm reading for an assignment? Reading as a teacher versus reading as a student?

I've been immensely satisfied with my recent rereadings, and I intend to continue to do so frequently in the future. I brought home a number of old books from my parents’ house recently, so I think I may start with a favorite of mine, Brave New World. I’ve read it at least three times now (always for class), but I think a pleasure reading will have to reveal new insight.

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