Monday, May 21, 2007

Books now read in ’07: 46
Title: Rereadings
Author: Anne Fadiman, editor
Genre: Books on Books
Date Completed: 5-21
Pages: 238

One of the delicious pleasures of reading is rereading a cherished book. As its title so aptly suggests, that’s the focus of Rereadings. Edited by Anne Fadiman, Rereadings is a collection of essays from The American Scholar. There’s Jamie James on Joseph Conrad, Diana Kappel Smith on Roger Tory Peterson and Phillip Lopate on Stendahl.

The essays are uniformly enjoyable even if you’re not familiar with the books or authors in question. Katherine Ashenburg writes about the Sue Barton Books by Helen Dore Boylston. I have been fairly indiscriminate (actually I prefer eclectic) in my reading, but I have never read the adventures of Sue Barton Neighborhood Nurse. Still, I can appreciate Ashenburg’s childhood enjoyment in the series and her return to them as an adult. I was rather fond of the Rick Brant science-adventure stories myself.

The result of Rereadings is two-fold: it prompts you to recall books you’ve reread and whether you found those books enjoyable or a disappointment and it also spurs you to consider other titles that demand rereading. I have returned through the years to Willa Cather’s My Antonia. It remains among my favorite books, although I was not introduced to it until I was in my 30s. I’ve also returned to Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence as well as numerous titles by Charles Dickens.

In the first two months of 2005 I did nothing but reread well-loved books including Slaughterhouse Five, Morgan’s Passing by Anne Tyler, The Book of the Dun Cow by Walter Wangerin Jr., The Wind in the Willows, Elmore Leonard’s Get Shorty, The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, Sophie’s Choice by William Styron, Cannery Row and The Pickwick Papers. Styron’s books was the only one that disappointed me upon rereading.

Here’s Allegra Goodman near the end of her essay on Jane Austen:

“I think unfolding is what rereading is about. Like pleated fabric, the text reveals different parts of its pattern at different times. And yet every time the text unfolds, in the library, or in bed, or upon the grass, the reader adds new wrinkles. Memory and experience press themselves into each reading so that each encounter informs the next.”

Well said.

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