Friday, February 27, 2009


I've already let MitMoi know that I intended to steal the theme (and title, roughly) of her post for my own -- it's about re-reading books. Mit mentioned on her post that she's not one to re-read books, and posed the question to her readers: Do you re-read books? Why or why not?

I replied Yes, and tried to explain as best and quickly as I could (I was in between classes) why. I'll try to elaborate here, although I honestly don't think I'll do a better job.

For one thing, I'm a creature of habit. I don't only re-read my books, but I listen to the same CDs, watch the same movies and tv shows, and even return to the same websites over and over and over again. I don't know if it's the comfort of familiarity that keeps me engaged in this ritual, or if some fear of change is at work, or if these things simply bring me so much pleasure that I see no reason to stop. Maybe it's D, all of the above.

I suppose there's some nostalgia attached, too, in some cases. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, for example, makes me think of my college days because that's when I read it. Richard Russo's Straight Man always takes me back to Uncle Jon's cafe. But Straight Man is one of my favorites because it makes me laugh, and because of the familiarity not of the book, but of its people and places. My Name is Asher Lev is just painfully beautiful, and it always makes me want to take up painting again.

And do I need to gush on about The West Wing? Every year Mom and I watch what has become part of our Christmas ritual: "In Excelcious Deo," and "Noel." It's the same every time: as the show fades to black, I am left, hand on chest, sniffling back tears. And mom and I talk about it as if it's the first time we've ever seen it.

Sometimes I re-read because I want to re-experience it in a different time and place. For example, I just finished reading (it was an audiobook, actually) Animal Farm. I haven't read this book since junior high school, and it was one of the few books that I read in school that I actually liked. It was cool to listen to again, and I appreciated it even more, now. I got it w/out having to try to get it. I enjoyed the story of it. I enjoyed having it read to me. I can't think of a situation of reading a book from my past and not liking it years later (although that has been the case w/ certain shows and movies), but it would be fun to read someone like Judy Blume, for instance, 30 years later, and see what I now think of those books that had ushered me into puberty. Heck, I'd even like to re-read Hitchhiker's because it was one of my ex's favorite books and I wonder how much of an influence that had on my liking it.

Ultimately, it's about the words, I think. There is something about these texts that are simply symphonic in their style. They have rhythm and timber and harmony and melody and they mean something. I don't mean that in the "literary" sense, the way scholars talk about these texts and apply their theories of reading and criticism. I've said it before and I'll say it again -- I'm not a lit girl; I'm a rhet-comp girl. I'm a 21st century sophist. I like when words make compositions. I like word pictures. Most of all, I like stories, I think. I love the what-if.

But maybe I'm overstating for the sake of being meaningful here. Maybe I re-read 'em because I like 'em, period.

So, I'll open the question to my readers as well: Do you re-read books? Why or why not?


MitMoi said...

There seems to be a personality type that does like the "routine" aspect of reading/movie/TV watching. In another forum I got that answer a lot.

I'm wondering now, that I'm trying to figure out what "good writing" is and isn't, if rereading will allow me to concentrate on structure instead of story line.

I can't wait to see what your other readers say.

G Liz said...

I 'sometimes' re-read books...and like you, I watch the same danged movies over and over and over again. If I really like something, then I really like it...and I obsess a bit over it, I guess. :-)

Like Mit, I'm interested to hear what others have to say!

Elisa said...

I look forward to other responses too -- readers???