Taking the time to balance my viewing habits, wilfing habits and blogging with reading these days. Halfway through Che Guevarra’s totally recommendable “Motorcycle Diaries” and have caught up on newsweek.com, because the recent Time magazine (UK) issue leaves much to be desired and because it seems to be extolling the virtues of liberal capitalism – a bit weird considering we are in a global financial crisis that is the direct result of liberal capitalism.
Came across yet another article on newsweek.com that rhapsodizes on the joys of re-reading your favorite books, entitled, “Now, Read it Again (the Joys of Rereading)“, by David Gates.
The author, among other things, extols the virtues of re-reading, rather than it being “comfort reading” or being the childish indulgence of “obsessive repetition”,re-reading your favorite books is a guilty pleasure and comfort that provides endless challenge, complexity, newness and I suspect, the many different levels of interpretation it provides for the maturing reader, who may find different meanings in the text as he/she grows older.
The author surmises that the most re-read authors are Dickens, Shakespeare and Austen precisely because of the reasons he has set above. He even admits that he has read Dickens more than he cares to admit. Apart from Dickens, he likes to re-read Hemingway, Nabokov and authors who write about sports. He reveals that one can tell a lot about one’s re-reading habits: in his case, being white and straight, he likes white and straight testosterone-fueled adventure stories that involve a bit of bro-mance (Mr. Pickwick and Sam, Frodo and Sam, Sherlock and Watson).
Made me think about my re-reading habits. I don’t generally re-read Dickens – but that is because I’ve been made to read it as a child, although since I am on a mission to read as much Victorian novels as my attention span can permit, I will still read the Dickens’ novels I have not read yet. Shakespeare not so much as well, and Austen’s novels have been adapted to the screen so much I just choose which Austen cinematic heroine I prefer (nothing Keira Knightley please, a bit of Emma Thompson and Sally Hawkins is alright), although I have read most of her books and do like Mansfield Park most of all.
I think about what Gates wrote, reflect on what he has said and am surprised that he may be right afterall: our re-reading habits do say a bit about us and what we believe in.
And so while I do not indulge in the white male heterosexual re-reading habits the author has, I am not-so surprised by my own. For some strange, inexplicable (well,not so inexplicable if you think about it) reason I like re-reading Nancy Garden’s young adult novel, Annie on my Mind. I came across it when I was in college, and I liked it. I have, since then, re-read it many times. I also like re-reading Sarah Water’s “Fingersmith”, which is a modern take on Victorian London with a lesbian twist. I like going over my Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8 comic books as well. I remember I used to re-read Ray Bradbury’s “Dandelion Wine” and I loved going over choice parts of Joyce Carol Oates’ novels, and there is a particular short story of hers that I love re-reading. Tillie Olsen, Kate Chopin, Amy Tan are favorite re-reads as well, along with short stories about dragons and vampires. There is a Fil-Am short story entitled “The Smell of Her Sleep”that I love to re-read as well from “Tibok”, a Filipino lesbian anthology. And there is Kahlil Gibran’s “The Prophet” and Rainer Maria Rilke’s “Letters to a Young Poet”.
Looking back at my favorite re-reads, I notice a pattern: short, easy to read (that is not to say, simple or simplistic, just straightforward writing), modern or contemporary, about women (straight or gay), dragons, vampires, a bit of the sci-fi, magical, poetic and philosopical. Which makes sense: for a person who is gay and is a woman, the gay re-reads are logical. For the interest in fantasy and sci-fi, it also makes sense: for a person who is perpetually, existentially the other, I would go for genres that discuss, explore and celebrate that otherness, and envision a more utopian world where otherness can be accepted rather than despised. Mere escapism, pure naivete, hopeless optimism? Who knows?
What about you? What kind of books do you like to re-read and what does that tell you about yourself?