Sunday, November 18, 2012


I'm sure it won't surprise any of you to know that I read a lot. And I mean a lot. I spend much of my free time with my nose stuck in a book. What might surprise you is that I don't reread. Ever. I can list on one hand the number of books that I've read a second time or more. Siddhartha by Herman Hesse gets reread every couple of years. I think of that book as a re-grounding. I read it to refresh myself. Pride and Prejudice has been read at least four times. Charlotte's Web gets pulled off the shelf occasionally, and yes I still cry no matter how many times I read it. I've reread two others for a book club I'm in. Other than that, nothing gets reread.

I once started a book only to find within the first three chapters that I had read the book in high school. The whole plot flashed back to me and I put the book down and moved on to something else. Something new. But this weekend I started a book that I was pretty sure I'd read before. It's a memoir about reading called So Many Books, So Little Time by Sara Nelson. I was sure I had read it years ago and every once and a while I would get flashbacks of chapters. But it never came back to me fully. I read her discussions of books and had the odd sense of deja vu that comes with rereading but even up until the end, I never remembered the book enough to put it down. And it wasn't in my LibraryThing (I'm CatB if you're interested). So I read the book for perhaps the second time and enjoyed it.

The moment I put it down I grabbed another, and this one I knew I had read. I picked up Russell Hoban's The Mouse and His Child. I read this book as a child and it had the biggest impact on me. Here was a book that was on the surface about a wind-up mouse and his child, trying to find some friends and evade an enemy. But even as a child I recognized that the book was so much more than that. It was an allegory. I saw the discussions of infinity and trying to define Being and cause and effect and the book intrigued me, even at a young age. So when I found out that the book had been reprinted with illustrations from David Small, one of my all-time favorite illustrators, I made it a point to find a copy. I had glanced through the book after buying it but didn't plan to reread. After all, it was the illustrations I was looking for. But today, after finishing one potential rereading, I purposefully picked up the book and read.

And the book lived up to its memory. I loved it for a second time. The story was familiar, but I was amazed at how much I had forgotten. There were characters that I hadn't remembered at all. There were subplots that hadn't meant anything to me as a child and were therefore forgotten. And the ending surprised me. I'm not sure how I had forgotten it. Although the characters were the same I read this like a brand-new book. And it got me thinking. I wonder how many of my childhood favorites would be worth going back to reread? How many stories have I forgotten enough of that they would be worth revisiting? I might have to go through my shelves. And create a stack to reread. After all, if it hadn't been for the illustrations, I would never have picked up this wonderful tale again.

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