Thursday, May 1, 2014

On Re-reading Multiple Times

I have several times written about re-reading certain books or authors, but have not written much more generally about the habit of re-reading fiction. My dear friend, the late C., kindly contributed a wonderful post about that topic here on 10/17/10. Lately I have been thinking a lot about my own re-reading of certain novels over the years. Re-reading favorite books offers great rewards and pleasures. Often the experience is a perfect combination of rediscovering the greatness of the book and finding new – to the reader – nuances and understandings. I have to admit that occasionally re-reading produces a feeling of disappointment and anticlimax, but much more often it is a rewarding and even exhilarating experience. With my greatest favorites, I have to ration myself not to re-read too often, for fear of wearing out my enthusiasm for the books (unlikely as that seems!). This latter point most applies in the case of my beloved Jane Austen’s six brilliant novels, the books I most often re-read. I love them so much that I dare not risk over-reading them. I have read each of them many times, perhaps as many as 15 to 20 times in the case of “Pride and Prejudice.” Other writers whose work I have re-read several times, and plan to continue to do so, include George Eliot (especially “Middlemarch”); Charlotte Bronte (especially “Jane Eyre”); Virginia Woolf (especially “Mrs. Dalloway,” “To the Lighthouse,” and “The Waves”); E. M. Forster (especially “Howards End,” “A Room with a View,” and “Passage to India,”); Edith Wharton (especially “The House of Mirth” and “The Age of Innocence”); Willa Cather (especially “My Antonia”); Barbara Pym (especially “Excellent Women”); and Carol Shields (especially “The Stone Diaries,” “Larry’s Party,” and “Unless”). Others whose novels and short stories I have re-read more often than once, but less often than the ones just listed, include Leo Tolstoy, Kate Chopin, Colette, Alice Munro, Anne Tyler, Margaret Atwood, and Penelope Lively, to name those that spring to mind.

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