Sunday, August 2, 2009
Vacation Reading or how many trips to Block Island will it take before I finish re-reading War and Peace?
A friend of mine said, “There’s no such thing as vacation reading for you now that you're retired. Now you’re always on vacation.”
Well, not exactly. All my life I’ve kind of divided reading into 2 groups: work and pleasure. There was overlap; books I read for pleasure sometimes wound up in my courses.
Bur despite the blurred boundaries, there was always this divide. Now that I am retired, I have my history of second wave feminism in Philly in the work category (more about that later) and the books I cart to the beach in the pleasure box.
The pleasure reading is in two categories: books I want to re-read before I check out and books I’ve never read. For some reason, I’ve been drawn to the re-reading category.
A few years ago I started with Dostoyevsky. I spent my adolescence devouring 19th century Russian novels. Sad to say, re-reading Crime and Punishment was a horrible disappointment. I barely got though it.
Next, I tried Anna Karenina. Reading it through a feminist lens was a very different experience than reading it as a teenager in the early 60’s. And I found Levin (the Tolstoy alter-ego character) insufferable.
Then I decided to tackle the highlight of my teenage years and brought War and Peace to Block Island last year (It’s not that I had such great literary taste as a teen. I also loved Gone with the Wind. I was drawn to big books with tons of characters.)
War and Peace worked out better than my other Russian re-reads. I’m in awe of Tolstoy's skill at portraying his characters’ mixed motives and the contradictory ideas they manage to hold in their heads at the same time. But despite my admiration for his genius, I only got through about ¼ of the book. When I got home I put it down and didn’t pick it up again for a year. And this was the book I once stayed up all night reading!
I brought War and Peace to Block Island again this summer and got to about the mid-point. I enjoyed it even more this summer but haven’t picked up the book since I returned. How many trips Block Island will it take before I finish re-reading War and Peace?
Anyone have experiences re-reading beloved books? Did they stand up to the memories???