Rereading books

I often reread books. Some of them fair better the second time around, some not so well, and others, simply put, never fade. What happens when we reread books?

“To be sure, it’s possible to reread because you remain puzzled by a text and obliged to tackle it again in order to figure it out. Most rereading, though, is undertaken for reasons other than exegesis, and it doesn’t involve conscious, purposeful work.”

“Willingness to yield oneself to the text in a way impossible the first time through is, I think, the crucial element in rereading.… The rereader customarily feels less pressure. She can allow herself a state of suspended attention comparable to Keats’s ‘negative capability,’ a condition of receptivity devoid, as the poet says, of irritable reaching after fact and reason — of irritable reaching after anything at all.”

“A book remains the same through time, but the context and personality of the reader don’t. Whether the consequence is nostalgia or embarrassment can be the luck of the draw.”

Reader finds “the bewilderment that can occur upon revisiting a once-beloved work and … the thrill is gone …  trying to understand the changes in the world and in herself that made them disappointing, or worse, after the passage of decades.”

“With frequent rereading, a work “comes to inhabit the deep reaches of the brain.” This seems allied to something that the late John Leonard said: “The books we love, love us back.”

More: http://www.insidehighered.com/views/2011/12/21/essay-rereading-patricia-meyer-spacks

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