The Joys (and the Dangers?) of Re-Reading

One of the glorious paradoxes of The Reading Life is the fact that as much pleasure can be gained from re-reading a book as from reading something new to you.

Last week, in The Guardian, several well-known British writers weighed in with their reflections about the role of re-reading in their lives.

Here’s just one of these compelling mini-essays, written by Booker award-winner John Banville:

The more often we reread a favourite classic the more of its secrets it gives up: each time we revisit it we see more clearly the cogs and flywheels of the writer’s technique behind what at first had been its opaque and burnished surface. Inevitably this brings on a certain disenchantment. The only book I know of that successfully resists this process is The Great Gatsby. Fitzgerald’s novel is not “great” in the way that War and Peace or Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony are great – and is all the better for it. Fitzgerald was forever the inspired amateur, and Gatsby has all the tremulousness and delicacy of a masterpiece made against the odds. He managed it once and never again – but what an achievement it is, a kind of miracle, ever fresh, ever new, no matter how many times one ventures back into its sad, soiled and enchanted world.

As columnist Tom Lamont writes in an accompanying article:

“Rereading is therapy, despite the accompanying dash of guilt, and I find it strange that not everybody does it. Why wouldn’t you go back to something good? I return to these novels for the same reason I return to beer, or blankets or best friends.”

Found via Book Riot

Postscript. Having read The Guardian article, The Millions blogger Brian Ted Jones canvassed serveral American writers and readers about their own favorite re-reads, with this result.

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One Response to The Joys (and the Dangers?) of Re-Reading

  1. An added delight is my poor memory. I would retain a sense, a feeling of how a book is over time, but rarely more. To carry my current humour to the shelves and see what book seems to fit the mood most rarely goes wrong. I enjoy the surprises the book first brought again, as well as a sense of meeting a lost friend. You would think this would make reading economical, however I am somewhat compelled to acquire. It is however good to put our weaknesses to work.

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