Friday, November 9, 2007

Wait, so, Darcy and Elizabeth hook up?

I know people who don’t reread books (indeed I am related to one of them) and I don’t understand their attitude because rereading books is one of the great pleasures of reading at all.

There are plenty of books I doubt I will ever reread because I didn’t enjoy them all that much on the first run through and hold out no great hope for changing my mind after a second crack (no, Life of Pi, I will never understand your reputed charms, I’m sorry) but there are many more I have thumbed through, either in their entirety or to linger over favourite passages, two, three or (in a few mildly shameful cases) dozens of times.

Oh sure on the second time around you know that know Elizabeth and Darcy will end up together, Sebastian will crash and burn or that things aren’t going to end all that well for Gatsby but that knowledge doesn’t diminish the pleasure. At least not for me. Instead it just makes the experience different, filling every page of, for instance, The Great Gatsby with foreboding for what’s to come and fuelling your hatred for the cunt Tom. Of course a reread also allows you to focus on the language, a lot of the prettiness of which - as a reader with a bad habit of skim reading when I get excited - I tend to miss out on in a first read when I’m desperate to find out what happens in the end.

Of course rereading one book means you’re spending time on familiar passages when you could be discovering something new. I assume that’s pretty much the argument of non rereaders (and the more I type reread and rereaders the more wrong it looks, and Microsoft Word appears to agree with me).

But I suppose the whole thing turns on what you think the point of reading is. If it’s to cross off titles on a long list of ‘classics’ or to absorb the latest water-cooler (and, as an aside, can’t somebody please come up with a replacement for that sucked dry phrase?) book so you can bore people at parties then, okay, you’re wasting your time rereading anything and you should just keep right on moving. (Of course if that’s your attitude then you’re probably a dull wankhead too so perhaps you should tie a copy of In Search of Lost Time around your neck and jump off a bridge of some kind while you’re at it.)

But if the reason you read is to enjoy the writing, to watch a story unfold and, maybe, to take a wild and purely hypothetical example, to escape the very unliterary and rarely beautiful world of business reporting, then there’s nothing better than cracking open an old favourite.

I could go on but a)my right hand is tired (what? too much?) and b) I’ve already completely ripped off the Nicholas Lezard column this post was actually intended to link to. Forget everything you’ve just read and read that instead

8 comments:

observer said...

I'm not a rereader. I've read a few old favourites a couple of times and I suppose, yeah, it's nice to come home. But the second time is always a skim-read and it seems kind of cheap. Like I wanted to watch the movie instead. Like a story I forgot why I liked in the first place.

However, I often think while I'm reading a book that I must reread it immediately after I've finished, if not sooner. When the awe of a particular sentence or phrase is upon me. But there's that mourning period after you finish a good one and it seems awfully disrespectful to just turn around and do it all again. So I never do. But I suppose eventually when I'm old and my memory is going around in circles I'll go back to my old friends.

PS I doubt there's anything by Austen that is worth a reread. But I'm not a fan. Something about women doing embroidery waiting for a husband that turns me off.

my name is kate said...

I know what you mean, observer, but it's a bit like what NL says in his column - not rereading is like not listening to a piece of music more than once. I feel the same pull every so often so listen to, say, Love Will Tear Us Apart or I'm a Cuckoo that I do to reread certain books that have had an impact. I know the bit when the drums are going to kick in but the anticipation only heightens the pleasure, or at least keeps me hooked.

And I'm not actually a huge JA fan but I know several people who are big rereaders of her stuff, PandP in particular. That one I've read more than once but the rest I could barely retain interest in. Yet disturbingly I have seen 'Clueless' (based on Emma as I'm sure everyone knows probably 6 times. And I know that's not such a great thing and yet: a young Paul Rudd? Hand me a spoon. Oh wait I seem to have wandered off topic.

Bolton said...

Re-reading is like the ultimate guilty pleasure. You know it is going to be good and you can't resist it. It's like book cocaine. Okay, I'm totally going too far. But hey, there are some books I own two copies of: A paperback edition to read and thumb though regularly at leisure and a hardcover which has never been opened but is on the shelf in pristine condition... so I can look at how pretty it is.

observer said...

Bolton, I love you and all but that's kinda weird. I do buy a second copy of my favourites when they fall apart though. Which they invariably do eventually. I'm not a rereader in that I don't read the whole thing over and over, but when I get a passage that I love I've got to have it again and again. Some are actually bookmarked. So eventually it'll be that page that falls out because that's my luck.

Dave said...

Re-reading is fantastic. I love discovering things I hadn't noticed before (like Kate, I am a bad skim-reader, particularly when I get close to the end) and finding new meanings or interpretations of the story.

It definitely has to be a book I loved though.
PS Kate, are you receiving a fee of any kind for this whole Nicholas Lezard cross-promotion thing? Hey, I'm just asking... :)

my name is kate said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
my name is kate said...

Actually Johnsy I had good reason to link to this one as I'm the person mentioned at the end of his column doling out valium. Gosh I am sometimes quite nice. Or, you know, sort of a drug pusher.

Dave said...

haha classic