I’ve spoken on this topic before if I am not mistaken, but for the life of me I am way too lazy to go find that post. Luckily you can hear my updated thoughts on it in this post which you are already reading *applauds*.
Last Monday when I was talking about my habits of reading in high school Frankie of insteadofgold fame posted a video discussing her own reading habit/philosophy. Frankie makes really great thoughtful book videos and is just a lovely person in general so if you have never seen her before, first watch her video about rereading because this post is a response to that and second subscribe to her and send her a whole bunch of love.
Frankie discusses how she is an avid rereader, not because she prioritizes rereading but because she has a theory that you cannot get everything a book has to offer on the first read. While I can agree that when one has the intent of looking at a novel critically multiple reads are often necessary. The classics are classics not only because their stories are still relevant to us even though they often take place during a time period completely other than our own but because there is something about the writing that is enthralling. The first time we read, Frankie postulates, we read mostly for the story. We are preoccupied with the plot. It is upon the second read that we are able to appreciate the craftsmanship of the writing.
This is true. I completely agree. This was something I realized when rereading One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest … still my favorite book of all time … for book club. I put so many sticky notes all over this book because I was trying to figure out if the things that Kesey was saying were always relevant. I was trying to piece together the story that Bromden tells us in pieces about his life and not focused on the immediate plot of R P McMurphy being a rambunctious asshat. I was able to get more out of the story in my second read.
However, I am not an avid rereader. I have never been an avid rereader. I was always that person who put a book down and picked up a new one. With only a handful of exceptions (I often found myself rereading my favorite passages from certain texts often). It wasn’t until I got to college and started my English degree, started thinking about books in a different way, that I wanted to go back and read some of the stories that I had read before.
The reason behind it was not always to see if their literary merit was up to snuff, but rather to see if I would still enjoy the story knowing what is going to happen or if I would be distracted or disinterested.
I started by rereading some of my favorite childhood stories and I still hold much rapture for them, despite being able to see their flaws. I was also able to see complexity in them that went over my head as a child. Some stories hit home much more powerfully reading them as an adult (Anne of Green Gables for instance) and other stories just seemed to open my eyes to how much they had an impact on me as a writer (if only for my dungeons and dragons campaign) and a reader today.
When rereading passages for class it was more so to make sure that I was able to get the whole picture. Reading Melville is no easy task on its own and he almost requires a second reading otherwise you are missing more than half of the story. Authors choose their words carefully. They do craft their stories.
The other half of the coin is that some books are read over and over again, not to gain insight but merely because you enjoy the story. This is where my constant revisiting of specific scenes comes into play. I grow bored reading the same stories over again, but the scenes that had me smiling, or laughing, or crying still hold that power over me when I read them again. When it comes to films however I am all for the rewatching for entertainment value. I’m not sure why I am able to rewatch actors play the same scene when I know what is happening without getting bored but cannot do the same when reading.
Perhaps it is the time commitment involved in each. Depending on how long a novel is it means committing from several hours to several days to go through the story where as a movie is usually no more than three hours long. I don’t feel guilty about spending that time doing something I enjoy where I might feel guilty reading something all the way through when I only really liked a handful of scenes from it.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was the first time I was rereading a novel that I fell wholeheartedly in love with; a novel that I feel is perfect in every element. While my second read was mostly focused on analysis of the subtext, I still enjoyed the story and characters for what they were. Perhaps my problem is that my heart is not easily given to books where as I have lists and lists of “favorite” films. I can tell you which books are my favorites I have to ask people to specify a genre or emotion when asked what my favorite film is.
What do you guys think?
Do you go back to certain media again and again?
Why do you think you do it?
Is it to get more out of the story like Frankie suggested or do you simply go along for the ride because it is an enjoyable ride to take?
Tomorrow the Bibliomancy for Beginners Book Club will be meeting to discuss John Dies at the End (my choice! so excited) and a reread for me coincidentally. Who is ready for horror/thriller/comedy book discussion? I most certainly am! I will tweet out the livestream link tomorrow, or you can wait until Wednesday to see my post of it HERE!
I hope you guys have a great week and I’ll talk to you again soon.