Timely Rereadings

September 4, 2009 at 12:00 am 1 comment

Rereading is a delightful thing and one which, I am sorry to say, I rarely make time for. In my gallop to read everything I want to read in life, I only occasionally stop and take a moment to re-enjoy something from my past or give a book a second shot. And, I must say, this is an absolute travesty. Whenever I do reread something, it is a remarkably worthwhile experience that almost always leads me to discover things about the book I never noticed the first time around. We are never the same reader twice and I am increasingly convinced that rereading provides a unique way to rediscover a book and learn more from it.

geographerslibAs a case in point, I recently started rereading The Geographer’s Library by Jon Fasman. I first read this book when I was 19 and I loved it. Absolutely adored it. I used to say that the book is more character study than anything with a plot that almost tangentially weaves the book together. I would lavish praise on the eloquent prose and well-crafted protagonist Mr. Fasman creates in Paul Tomm. Plot, schmot, 19-year-old-me seemed to say. It was there, sure, but it was really Mr. Fasman’s characters who leapt off the page and into my heart.

This time around, it’s different and even better. There is so much more of the book I’m appreciating. To the betterment of the book as a whole, the plot seems more vibrant and more important, complimenting Mr. Fasman’s still undeniably well-written characters rather than fading away in comparison beside them. But, more to the point, I am now the exact same age as Paul Tomm and in the exact same life-moment. Mr. Fasman’s articulation of those lost years directly after college could hardly have resonated with a 19-year-old, but it is now like pure truth to me, pouring straight into my soul. I empathize with Paul’s awkwardness, his insecurities about his future, and the tug he still feels to his alma mater (a fictionalized version of Yale) despite being a year out. Rather than just enjoying it as a novel, the book now speaks to me as an expression of what it means to be 23 and trying out, as one character put it, “this real world we hear so much about.”

As I read The Geographer’s Library, I now wonder what it will feel like to reread it in another few years. Where will I be? What understanding will I glean from it further? Will I empathize more with Paul’s editor, Art, or maybe with the professorial Jadid? I have no idea, but I am extremely excited to find out.

I often unconsciously think that rereading is a waste of time, something to do when nothing else is at hand and only briefly in between other “new” books. Why go back and read something I’ve already read when there are so many millions of other books out there I haven’t touched? But the more rereading I do, the more meaningful a pursuit I think it truly is. There is so much more to be discovered a second or third time around and, since I’m constantly changing, my experience with a book necessarily does, too. It can also be a bit of a trip down memory lane as I reread a book and remember who I was when I first discovered it. I get to actively compare to who I am now and deeply enjoy what new nuggets the book now bestows upon me.

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Entry filed under: Contemporary Fiction, Musings and Essays. Tags: , .

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. What are your comfort books? | Literary Transgressions  |  August 22, 2014 at 3:10 am

    […] books I might turn to for distraction from whatever is troubling me (most often Jon Fasman’s The Geographer’s Library seems to do the trick), but that’s different. Comfort books don’t cover up a bad […]

    Reply

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