It’s a dreary, dreary Saturday afternoon and I would much rather drink my rose tea and read The Tea Rose (I did that on purpose – not the rose part, but the tea) than read about management or contribute to class discussions. I would really like to bake something. Read and bake and drink tea all at once.
Julia left a comment on an earlier post of mine about how, since she doesn’t have access to an English-language library, she does a lot of rereading of the books she owns. Which started me thinking about reading vs rereading and the benefits of each. In a weird way, it’s almost appealing to think of being forced to reread. My take is, if a book is good, it’s worth reading at least twice. Sometimes I finish things and want to pick them right up again. I don’t, though, because there are so many new things to read, and because time is limited, and because I have this silly idea that reading something fresh is better – more worthy of my time – than rereading. But it’s not. Of course, ideally, one has a lovely balance between the two things. If only people would stop writing new books. But some of those are bound to be ones that are worth rereading. Oh, the agony.
When I reread, I notice a whole new set of things about the book. The structure, or the character development, or the setting, or the way tension builds, or the way the story jumps around in time, or the sentence structure, or the vocabulary, or the thing that really made me love it in the first place. For me, plot ceases to be so important, and it’s all the little things that end up mattering. The first time I read The Wednesday Wars, I loved it. I liked the story and the characters and the tone. But the second time, I LOVED it. I loved the way Holling talks to the reader, and the fact that we never know Doug Swieteck’s brother’s name, just that he’s Doug Swieteck’s brother, and the way the first line of Lieutenant Baker’s telegram tells you everything you need to know, and the way Holling’s father doesn’t change – he’s still the man who thinks of architecture as a blood sport and doesn’t understand his son.
AND, when you reread something later, even just a year or two later, you respond to the book in an entirely new way. I loved Anne of the Island in middle school and high school – I have no idea how many times I read the whole series – but when I read Anne right after I graduated from college, I reread it and thought yes, some things never change. Even though they didn’t allow male callers most nights of the week, and had a woman to keep house for them, the essence of living with a group of your best friends in college was unchanged from Anne’s day to mine. Something that I wouldn’t have known before then, and something I might not pick up on now, a few years later. Who’s to say what I’ll get out of Anne next time I pick her up? Or Elizabeth Bennett, or Dorothea Brooks, or Ruby Lennox?