The saying goes that one can never step into the same river twice. I believe the same to be true of reading. Memorable books from my childhood are particularly worthwhile re-reads, because if they were good enough then for me to recall them now (I don’t own many of my original volumes due to numerous purges and moves), chances are, I’ll find something that resonates in my adulthood. Books that deal with personal identity are always fascinating to revisit, to see if – and hopefully how – I’ve grown since the last reading. And of course, there are some classics that can show us how very simple it can be to escape any number of frustrations, distractions, and seemingly insurmountable obstacles. An example from each group, if I may…
Anastasia’s Chosen Career, Lois Lowry. I adored Anastasia as a child, and now I see that she and I are truly one and the same in many ways, even if I didn’t see that at the time. I’ve since discovered The Giver, which I absolutely loved, and which made Lowry even more of a literary hero of mine. I’ve purchased, but have not yet read, Gathering Blue and Messenger.
Stone Butch Blues, Leslie Feinberg. Each time I read this book, some new aspect of the community gets my attention. The first time through, I was obsessed with the femmes – I existed on some level, in print! There’s even a word for women like me! – and was enamored of Jess/e. The second time, I paid closer attention to the relationships the butches had, with the femmes, and with each other. The ways they connected, and, more importantly, the ways they couldn’t. The most recent read was for school, and I saw the book through straight people’s eyes for the first time. I’m actually getting really emotional just thinking about the comments that were presented in the class discussion; I felt so… “Other,” and alienated, and despairing, even though this should have been my night, dammit. I’ll never forget that session, though I wish I could… Except that it serves as a reminder of how far we have yet to go. I’ll be reading it again for class this semester, and honestly don’t know what to expect. I don’t want to put up walls… But some things are just too fragile.
The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupery. I’ve owned this book in French since my freshman year of high school. I was never fluent enough to read it, and so it wasn’t until I picked up a used copy at Modern Times earlier this year that I finally experienced this amazing little story. The first read was simply an engrossed and awed solid hour of page-turning. I was sobbing far before the end, and went back to several parts once I’d finished to read them again for the simple beauty of the premises set forth. The second read was the night before I flew home to Maine, and I was bringing this now-treasured volume with me to share with someone. It had been a very trying few days leading up to my departure, and I was feeling more anxious than excited about my trip. It served to calm me in a way… Not solving any of what was gnawing at me, but permitting me to release it to the universe. I’m looking forward to reading it regularly to see how the decisions I’ve made in my life influence my perception of the story.
So, enough out of me – do you re-read? If so, what? Is it simply for the fun of revisiting a favorite story (which I also do, alllll the time!)? Is it to recover a lost bit of childhood? To see how far you’ve come since last you read the particular book?