Visiting Old Friends

I’m re-reading books quite a bit currently, old favorites. I suppose that’s how you know they are old favorites; you revisit them more than once. Some books you decide to pick up again don’t gain status as favorites. Revisiting those only recalls your initial impression and you don’t read them again. That impression might not be negative, but it doesn’t incline you to a third go-round.

I am also reading new material. New to me, that is: the copyright date on my lunch book is 1939. But with new material you are gambling with your time. Will you be entertained, informed, enriched? You don’t know. You pays your dime you takes your chances. With old favorites you know exactly what you are going to get.

Sometimes you get more. Fletcher Pratt’s The Well of the Unicorn is revealing depths I had previously pass over. My 49-year old self is getting more out of the novel than did my 14-year old self or twenty-something Ken. In Well Pratt subverted character archetypes and flouted narrative conventions in ways I hadn’t appreciated in previous readings. He was plumbing individual differences and considering political and group interactions when young Ken was merely enjoying an adventure of war and magic.

Some people do not read a book again. Why bother? You’ve already consumed it once. You could be using that time to read something different. I understand the argument. But in my experience you often are reading something different. Reading a book from fresh perspective can provide a novel experience.

And even if re-reading doesn’t provide a new experience, the old experience remains pleasurable. An old favorite is like a worn-in pair of jeans or a beer at your local watering hole. It is comfortable and comforting.

Can I get an “Amen?” Or do you think I’m talking nonsense? Let me know.