Re-reading

I’ve had a draft of a post sitting in my dashboard for two days now. It’s not getting anywhere, because I can’t seem to turn it into something that makes sense. For all that I hold back very little when it comes to this blog, there are some things that are just too private or too delicate to talk about openly. I have also been sick for the past few days, and that’s not helping either my clarity or my motivation. I think I’m going to find it very difficult to get back to work on the research project when I’m feeling better. Only 35 days to go, and I can’t wait.

So instead of writing, I read.

My re-reading of Night Train to Lisbon hasn’t been going very well. I think I read it twice before, and it moved me on both occasions, but this time I’m finding the translation extremely clunky and the story doesn’t grab me. I always find it interesting how books change when I re-read them. It has only been in the last year or two that I’ve found the experience to be disappointing. It’s a particularly devastating experience, actually, to pick up a book you think you loved the first time, only to find that it falls flat.

The Finkler Question was one such book for me. I had read it once, over a year ago, when I was doing some work experience in a music archive in town. I absolutely loved it the first time I read it – it was laugh-out-loud funny, moving, and the characters seemed real. But when I re-read it about a year later, I found it only amusing, and only some of the characters convincing, and it trailed off in the end, for me, in a disappointing manner. The political issues seemed now to cloud it, rather than acting as a sturdy foundation.

It could be that I’m becoming more critical as I get older. Or maybe the humour I’m in seriously affects how I read things. I definitely find that with The Time Traveller’s Wife – every time I read that book, it means something completely different to me. I can move from finding it uplifting, to utterly devastating. And I think it all depends on how I’m feeling at that time about love, about life, about fate and accident.

I used to re-read things in order to revisit a certain experience, but now I re-read things in order to see how they will change.

Sometimes I think life is too short to be reading the same books over and over – there are so, so many books out there to be read, it overwhelms me. Every time I talk to someone about literature, they mention about 10 more books I absolutely have to read, some of which I have never even heard of.

And yet. I continue to pick up the same books again and again. The ones that have remained the same over the years – The History of Love by Nicole Kraus, as a perfect example – are like a comfort blanket, a safety net. I know how they will make me feel. I know that they are well-written, and that they will make me want to live, want to write. So I suppose I re-read in the hopes that it will become one of these precious books, an integral part of my life, part of a collection of parallel universes I live my life alongside.

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