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Goats, gripes, and grasping for greatness
Thoughts on books 
5th-Mar-2014 01:33 pm
There is an interesting and thought provoking essay on the pleasures and possible benefits of re-reading over on BBC Culture. The assuredly non-scientific (no complete citations or statistics) essay has some food for thought, especially in how the book being re-read gains context depending on the complete experiences of a person, including books read in the meantime.

But even without the aid of marginalia, these texts can carry us back to a time and place, and remind us of the kind of person that we were then.

We’re changed not only by lived experience but also by read experience – by the books that we’ve discovered since last reading the one in our hand.
6th-Mar-2014 02:23 pm (UTC)
I've been questioned for years over why I re-read. I've never before considered it a guilty pleasure, and don't agree with the idea. I'm a fast reader tho, so its not as much of a time investment to me. On the first read, I'm dying to know 'What happens next?!' The more often I read it, like she says, the more I can dig into the characters and their emotions, ponder situations and concepts the author presents (such as this too bad no one bothered replying! ) or my own reactions. Like, I just got done reading a novel about Hemingway's first wife. I don't know how the author did it, but she wrote/presented Hadley's insecurities so vividly that I started to feel more insecure as I read. I was aware enough of it to not pester Mike into reassuring me, but it was... somewhere between amazing and disturbing. Sorry, I can't think of an accurate word for it! Maybe it was because I have many of the same issues, but I'm looking forward to talking to my mom (who loaned me it) and seeing what she thought of it. And perhaps after another read and time to digest, maybe I'll better understand myself and my reactions.
I also like the mention of books as an emotional yardstick or growth chart. I loved Catcher in the Rye when I first read it at 16. I read it a few more times as a teen, and then came back to it around 23. I had just been diagnosed with MS, and was rolling with the 'security blanket re-read', and was shocked to find that I despised Holden, just wanted to slap some sense into this arrogant little shit. Maybe staring down a lifetime of disability put his/my self-induced problems in a different light, and put me on the path of "My body will not control me, MS will not define me". I was slightly ashamed to realize how self centered we both were, but I grew and learned, and Catcher was the catalyst for that. Harlan Ellison's short stories are a great yardstick for me as well. I love coming back again and again, because I find something new every time. I've got copies I stole from my Dad at 14 that are now duct-taped together, but there's always a revelation with him. ;-)
My ultimate security blanket read is A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I read it for the first time around 9-10 and grew up with Francie. I've yet to read it and find myself dissatisfied. Which reminds me, its been awhile so I know what I'll be reading tonight!
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