Monday, October 15, 2007

Re reading the Greats, and not.

Nearly everyone has something they learned or thought wrong as a child that they later discovered was mistaken. One of the things I had mistaken included the idea that boys and girls had different left and right arms. (When my mom was teaching me left from right, she'd be facing me, and we'd have opposite right arms and left arms. She never realized I didn't get it. Imagine my surprise when I got to 1st grade and saw while saying "The Pledge" that the girls placed their same hand over their hearts as I did mine.
The teacher explained when I asked her that every one's right and left are the same.)
Another idea I had wrong was the belief that one could only read a book once. Because then you'd read it. Other things were like that--if you thought didn't like a vegetable or some food, you'd have to try it, but once you tried it, you didn't have to eat it again. Or movies: once you'd seen a movie, then you'd seen it. You could remember it, talk about enjoying it, but you didn't go back. (Although one could play songs over and over and over again, which I did--which nearly drove my father to violence...)
One summer when I was reading through books like a paper shredder. Not that I tore or shredded them really, but I was just zooming through the pages and moving on. I played the same album while I read a book, and then I'd change the music when the book was over. I didn't really think much about it until I read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. I enjoyed that book so much that it colored the album I was listening to. To this day, that music makes me think of reading Tom Sawyer. And when I was finished, I completely stopped and breathed a sigh: I had finished Tom Sawyer, and it was great and I could never read it again, because I had read it now.
There were so many things to see and to read (and still are, for all that) that I didn't even realize until years later that one could see a movie a second time or more if it was really good, and one could read a book a second or third time or more. What fun! What a surprise for me!
Since that discovery, I've read a number of books more than once, and a couple books as regularly as annually or bi-annually. But I've never re-read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. I know I could. I've known I could for many years now. But that first reading was so perfect, so intensely sweet and irreproducible that if I did re-read the book, like a river, it wouldn't be the same book any more. Although concerning books I had been mistaken about not being able to read more than once, this one experience of reading I'm saving as the perfect one.


kcself said...

I think you are right not to read it again--it can't ever be the same as it was then. I have tried to reproduce the feelings I had when reading certain books as a child--the one that comes to mind most vividly right now is *The Truth About Mary Rose* by Marilyn Sachs. I remember reading it as a preteen and just bawling, thinking it was the best book ever. After tracking it down in my thirties, I was like, "eh?" Good, fine, but almost somehow not the same book.

Carrie K said...

I think you're right not to reread it again too. That experience can't be replicated.

What I'm finding lately is that I'm not finishing books I'm really enjoying possibly so that it won't be over? It's odd.