Re-reading is no big deal for me. If I start listing all the books that I have read more than once I will not have any need to write anything else to reach the acceptable word limit for a blog post. People read books for many reasons. I can’t possibly list them down here. But, re-reading? Yeah, that is something that I can try. Possibly. There are certain facets to a book that makes a relatively larger impact on the reader than other sundry aspects. A book is like a complex human being. It is a reflection to one’s own psyche, in a way. A book read once will give you an image of what the writer is telling you which the second reading might completely change. I remember when I first read Catcher in the Rye I really thought that it was a damn funny book. I thought Holden was one of the most comic characters ever written. I spoke about it with my sister who had first given it to me and she simply said that I should read it again.
I was astounded when I finished it the second time. Gone was the image of a funny Holden. It was replaced with a sad individual who was having trouble fitting in. It was a story about a guy who hadn’t gotten over his younger brother’s death. It was a story of a teenager who just didn’t know why people never bothered about the whereabouts of the ducks when the pond froze over. Holden was funny no doubt, but, now his jokes were like a smoke screen over his painful years and experience. He opened up to me a little with every reading. It so happens that this is the only book that gives me pleasure no matter how many times I’ve read it. And this is the only book that I read in this fashion. I take the book, close my eyes, think of a page number and start reading from there. I need not necessarily finish it.
The pleasure is different when I re read Wuthering Heights. With Bronte, it was the prose that I fell in love with. The way she has written Heathcliff and Cathy can never be imitated. I can SEE them enact the book when I read it. A little story: I had a big load to carry for my exams last year. I was sitting for them from another place. I couldn’t afford to carry novels to kill time. I didn’t have any surplus time. But Wuthering Heights still made the cut and it accompanied me with my exam materials. I even read it. It is one of my favourites on the “reading again” list.
It is such a beautiful exercise when one sits to decode a lovely book. Little questions pop up out of nowhere! Why does Bronte name certain streets having sexual innuendos in Wuthering Heights? Why does Holden lie about picking up his gym equipments when he goes to meet his professor? Why does Maclean keep using the name “Mary” in his books for female characters? It is a never ending experience.
Speaking of Maclean I cannot help but mention (again?) that he is the one whom I read with unending gusto while I was in school. I’ve read guns of Navarone 5 times; Fear is the Key thrice; Force 10 from Navarone thrice; Bear Island twice and puppet on a chain and dark crusader 3 times each. What saddens me is that Ice Station Zebra is one of the best that I’ve read but I only managed to read it once. Don’t know how that happened! Perhaps it was so because I don’t own it yet.
Anyway, it’s not only Salinger, Bronte and Maclean that I’ve re-read. There are a lot more. If I can read a Maclean as many as 5 times just imagine how many times those classics will be read! After all, reading a book is like talking to the writer. Like, Holden says that a good writer is someone whom you would want to call and talk to. I wish one could do that! Certain people have issues with this exercise of re-reading. They tell me what I get out of the book if I know the story already. Little do they know that the story is not why one reads a book. They don’t know that the book’s character keeps changing. They’re unaware why a book needs to be read and re-read.
They don’t feel that a book would be holding back a little after the first read and that it would want to be read again to surprise you. Aren’t they aware that a book is something that is ever changing in ones opinion? One learns and understands the working of the human psyche by just merely thumbing over a volume of printed paper.
Aren’t they aware that you one doesn’t merely read a book? Don’t they know that it is the book that speaks to you?