Friday, January 8, 2010

On The Joys Of Re-Reading

First things first -- Operation New Year of the New Sun proceeds at breakneck pace! Mordicai (the aforementioned MAN IN THE TRENCHES) has already kicked off the discussion, and a heady list of participants, over at his blog. Follow the link. It's like the Oprah Book Club with actual geniuses. Well, she did do Anna Karenina that one time...

With that out of the way, the topic of today's post is only tenuously connected to that great and noble undertaking of speculative fiction unearthing. As a gentleman with an interest in the written word, usually all that I can do is keep the number of books that I've read on my bookshelf and the number of books waiting to be read even. If I can keep fresh acquisitions from overwhelming me, it's a job well done. So, it's no surprise that I very seldom re-read a book once I'm finished. I read it, I ruminate over it for a little bit; maybe I yell about it. Gene Wolfe said, as I mentioned in my previous post, that "good" literature is literature that can be read and re-read with increasing enjoyment, and it's a thought that's always bugged me. Why, you could by that logic keep yourself occupied by going over Moby Dick until the end of your days, while every day new books are published and an unfathomable sea of works you haven't even heard of wait to be read.

Re-reading a well-loved book has turned me on to the virtues of doing so -- especially since New Sun is kind of a tangle. And it's not just that sort of... heightened attention to critical thinking. You know, the part of your brain that says "oh, I guess this whole thing is a weird Purgatory allegory." Now that I've untangled the knot of a plot and laid out neatly in my head, there's sort of a new pleasure. The bits of my gray matter that were responsible for collating plot points and tidbits of world-building are freed up. Like a 16th century rich dude, I am freed from the toils of labor to pursue fancy things.

Also fun is reverse-engineering what is now an indecipherable codex of sticky-notes and study tabs. I suppose it probably didn't make much sense when I put it together, either.

So, I put the question to you: What are the books that you find merit and enjoyment in re-reading? What are the books you come back to more than once, or many more times than once?

1 comment:

mordicai said...

Time Cycles. I think that is the answer. To everything.