I remember reading Brave New World by Aldous Huxley when I was in my early twenties. I remember reading it on the bus coming home to my parent’s house. I remember that I liked it. Unfortunately, I didn’t remember anything else about the book. I recently reread it this year and was astonished by how much of the book I had forgotten. I didn’t even remember that part of it took place in New Mexico. That’s why I love rereading books.
To me, rereading is part of reading. I get more out of reading some books a second time. In an earlier blog post, I wrote about how I had a different perspective reading Catcher in the Rye in my 50s than I did when I was a teen. I reread The Great Gatsby right before the Leonardo DiCaprio film came out and wound up hating Daisy Buchanan even more than the first time. Other books I reread in the last couple of years include Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. and The Pearl by John Steinbeck, which we had to read in high school.
There a couple of category of books that I want to read again. The first is what I call my “Brave New World syndrome”. These are books that I remember reading but forgot about the plot. I’m 57, so I might forget the details of the books I read as a teen. When I blogged about The Good Earth by Pearl S Buck, I was shocked, when doing research on it, that I mostly forgot about the everything except the locusts. Other books that have fell victim to my memory loss includes Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes, Ship of Fools by Katherine Anne Porter, The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles and Grendel by John Gardner.
The second group are books I didn’t understand the first time around. Maybe I was too young when I read Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. I don’t think I understood parts of it. I have since read The Hours by Michael Cunningham which is both a meditation and homage to Mrs. Dalloway and have also seen the film with Meryl Streep and hope that will help me understand the Woolf book better. I remember having a hard time reading William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom and maybe I would have a better grasp of the book if I read it now. I remember reading Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse and didn’t care for it. I thought it was too “avant-garde” for me. This from the guy who loved the paintings of Salvador Dali. I have since read Narcissus and Goldman and Siddhartha, both wonderful novels and maybe I should try Steppenwolf again.
The last category are favorites of mind that I just want to revisit. I am one of those people who will replay certain songs from an album over and over again. I feel like these books are old friends that I want to revisit. They include Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates, My Antonia by Willa Cather, Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh, Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte and Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut.
I want to believe that I am a better reader in my late 50s than I was as a teen or in my 20s. I remember that I used to mainly concentrate on the plot and characters and now I also think about the themes of a book. I am interested in what symbolism there might be in a certain passage. I also wonder why some authors structure their books in a certain way and even why they chose one character to be the narrator and if are they a reliable narrator or not. I think it’s my interest in digging deeper in certain books a second time that gives me more pleasure then when I read it the first time.