Thursday, May 25, 2006

BOOKS: Read It Again... for the Very First Time

I generally try not to think about growing old, but when I do I usually reassure myself with some pap about how it'll be okay because I'll be wise and I'll have great memories and I'll be able to say obnoxious things without having to apologize. But it only recently occurred to me that aging could have some very tangible benefits to my reading career.

My friend SueB was telling me about her grandmother, whose memory is not what it used to be. As a consequence, her grandma is the most content person in the world, watching
On Golden Pond and reading the same four James Herriott books over and over.

Did you catch that last bit? I know! Ding-ding-ding-ding!

I got to making a mental list of books I'm going to be THRILLED to re-read once my memory has more holes than... hm, I was going to come up with a simile that involved old underpants, but then I thought better of it... well, once my memory goes:
I'd try to make this list longer, but don't you see? I don't need to. Ha-HA!

These are all books I absolutely adore, but I've read them almost to death. It's a bad sign that I've done this before I've even reached (optimistically) middle age. Now they sit on my shelves, beckoning me to pick them up, but I'm afraid to because I fear that this time will be the last time... that I will have officially overexposed myself to a novel and therefore can never read it again. Fortunately, I now realize that I have senility to look forward to, with the opportunity to discover these books afresh... over and over.

Does anyone understand what I'm talking about, or have I accidentally been ingesting crazy pills again? They sit in my medicine cabinet right next to the sanity pills, so it's easy to make a mistake.

16 comments:

Jagosaurus said...

I understand exactly, which, when you think about it, may not be all that comforting to you. I could make a similar list of books on the spot as well. I even have a couple of favortes always readily available for those times I want to read but don't want to do the mental/emotional work involved in reading a new book.

Smurfette said...

Yeah, I know exactly what you mean. Sometimes I want to read a book that I know is good, that is famiilar and comforting. Of course, that means I read Robert Heinlein and Georgette Heyer (together at last!) until the books fall apart, and I always worry I'll get sick of them and will loose some of my favorite books.

Sarah said...

I am almost afraid to say this for fear it will happen, but I don't think I've ever gotten sick of any of my favorite books! I could always read them over and over. Some I've probably read a hundred times. Not the whole thing from start to finish, necessarily - but it's like finding an old favorite friend - you just pick up in the middle and catch up!

RandomRanter said...

This reminds me of a conversation I had with my dad about my grandpa who was suffering ST memry issues. My dad bought him James Michener's Chesapeake, reasoning that Grandpa would have already read Hawaii. Now leaving aside the issue of giving a tome like that to a person with minimal ST memory, I pointed out that it wouldn't matter if he had already read it, becuase he wouldn't - you know - remember.

Rachel said...

I almost always have to read a book at least twice before I can decide if I like it or not.

However, I have read Gone With The Wind more than 200 times since I got it for my 8th birthday, and I'm only 31. Maybe I've been senile all this time? If that's the case, what do I have to look forward to when I'm 90?

subjectiv said...

I can't wait until I can read Pride & Prejudice again. I overread it about 2 summers ago and I'm not capable of picking it up again yet. Also on my list, the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

--Deb said...

I can't imagine getting sick of some of my favorite books, although the frequency of the re-reads has slown down exactly because of the over-exposure issue. I know I'd love a chance to read them again for the FIRST time, but don't know that suffering memory loss is really the way I want to do that . . . I'd rather just catch them next lifetime around, assuming that reincarnation thing is real. Although, that makes for an interesting thought--I wonder how many times I've REALLY read Pride & Prejudice, if you count in possible earlier lives . . .

Kristin said...

Holy shit. I never even thought of that. My terror of aging has been transformed into fond anticipation of the time when I will be able to undergo the slow process of realising that S. Morgenstern doesn't exist, again.

(In my defense, I first read 'The Princess Bride' when I was seven or so. Satiric subtleties tend to go over your head at that age.)

Renee said...

I'm only 21, never done drugs, never been hit on the head, have maybe two drinks a week, and I can already do this. My memory for stories is just crap. Stylistic choices and interesting turns of phrase disappear after a day or two. Minor character names, a week or two. Major character names and plotlines last about a month, but after that, it varies by book. I usually remember the overall plot forever, but twists, turns, and subplots go quickly.

Hop said...

Oh, this is a fantastic thought. I re-read all my favorites to pieces as it is, and it feels like spending time with old friends. But getting to meet them again for the very first time? Ooh. Butterflies.

Prat said...

somehow could never re-read tender is the night post year 16. kinda seemed bubble gummy. but yeah, re-reading is like taking the cork off a fav bottle of full bodied wine.
or better.

Lazy cow said...

Fantastic. I'll be able to pick up The Accidental tourist and Heartburn again. I can't look at them anymore as I've read them about 20 times, each.

Paul said...

Getting old is merely a matter of being creative with each passing day !

Anonymous said...

Oh, I've been terrified of my memory going, but this is fantastic! I still remember how envious my mother was when I got to read The Saint series for the first time -- I was home sick, and I think I read every book in the series before I went back to school. They're still fun, but re-reading them is nowhere near as much fun as discovering them.

Bear said...

That short list of 5...
Hey! I feel left out! They're all "chick books".

And as for F. Scott...all I can say is that I'm so glad I'm out of college so I don't have to suffer through his crap!

Geez! Pick some good ones, will ya?

k2 said...

I just need to go on record that Harriet the Spy just might be the best book ever written. Ever.