A truly great book should be read in youth, again in maturity and once more in old age, as a fine building should be seen by morning light, at noon and by moonlight.”
― Robertson Davies
It has to do with books.
Rereading a book for the first time in decades is an entirely new and delightful experience. You remember your first reactions, and add new impressions from years of reading history and reviews.
I always have my nose in a book. From Virgil to Virginia Woolf, from Catullus to Colette, and from Gogol to Edward Gorey.
Below is a humorous image of Rory (Alexis Bedel) on The Gilmore Girls, with her nose in a book at the Harvard Library.
For a couple of decades after graduate school, I had little time to reread the classics. In my free time I reviewed contemporary fiction for newspapers and (now defunct) literary journals. I was remarkably well-informed on the trends of the 1980s: the minimalist stories of Ann Beattie, the gritty working-class fiction of Raymond Carver and Andre Dubus, John Updike’s suburban adulterers, the bizarre humor of T. C. Boyle (then known as T. Coraghessan Boyle), and the magic realism of Louise Erdrich.
The bad thing about reviewing is that you don’t get to choose the books.
The good thing about not reviewing is that there is no longer pressure to keep up with the latest books.
And so I have been free to reread the classics.
I have reread all of Austen’s novels several times. Emma is my favorite. But, yes, you can read too much Austen. I am on an Austen break at the moment. But never fear, I’ll be back.
Although her style is not as poetic or striking as that of Charlotte or Emily, I love The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Anne’s feminist novel about the perils of romantic love. The frame construction reminds me of Wuthering Heights. We get to know the heroine, Helen, through the narrator’s intense letters to a friend, and then through the diary she gives him to read, and then back to his letter. She marries an attractive man who turns out to be a dissolute drunk. She escapes with her son to live in the run-down Wildfell Hall.
I wish Anne had written more. I like Agnes Grey less than the intense Tenant.
Are you or aren’t you a rereader? What are your favorite books to reread?