On re-reading

I probably re-read almost as much as I read. It’s one of the pleasures of my life to re-read. About once a year I re-read Jane Austen’s major novels. She is my ideal of a superb stylist who is also a master storyteller. I have re-read many novels. Sometimes, I admit, it’s just laziness. There’s nothing lying around to read and I need fiction like food on a daily basis.

But I also think that re-reading is important. After all, how can one grasp even a fraction of what an important book has to offer in one reading? In Somerset Maugham’s Of Human Bondage (which I’m re-reading), the principal character disagrees with me:

“I don’t see the use of reading the same thing over and over again,” said Philip. “That’s only a laborious form of idleness.”

That’s one way of looking at it. But I beg to differ. I re-read because my favorite books are like old friends, and periodically I like to spend time with them again. I guess on that basis Jane Austen is my BFF.

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