Monday, August 6, 2018

Again: In Defense of the Reread

Good Monday morning.

July has slipped away. I am never sad to see July go. 

Summer is all but gone. Urban Meyer is in trouble, Jalen Hurt is whining about the QB situation at Alabama, LSU is set to open their season against top-ten ranked Miami, & I am here for all of it.

A quick highlight reel of our lives these last two weeks: 

Week before last we saw our final $1 movie of the summer, which was Paddington II. Reagan saw it when it was originally in theaters, but this was my first viewing. I believe it was by far my favorite of all the $1 movies we saw this summer. I'd have paid more than $1 to see it. When I was younger I frequently watched & enjoyed Hugh Grant films. I grew up on Nine Months (with Julianne Moore), Notting Hill, Sense & Sensibility, & the fantastic Bridget Jones's Diary, a movie I've yet to tire of for a variety of reasons, most of them having to do with Colin Firth. 

But some of them having to do with Renee Zellweger. 

Anyway, as I was saying, Hugh Grant. It was good to see & thoroughly enjoy Hugh Grant on the big screen again. Here's the thing with Hugh Grant. Trey is so critical of the man. He always says, Hugh Grant plays Hugh Grant in every movie he makes. This is simply not true. He is perfect as Austen's Edward Ferrars, & he is also perfect as Daniel Cleaver in the first two Bridget Jones films. I'd love to see someone attempt to argue that timid Edward Ferrars & narcissistic Daniel Cleaver have even one thing in common. I mean aside from being portrayed by Hugh Grant, obviously. You know who would not make that argument? Someone who's never watched Sense & Sensibility &/or Bridget Jones's Diary. I didn't even realize I had so many Hugh Grant feelings. Who knew a $1 showing of Paddington II would spark so many feelings.

In other movies-starring-British-people news, the same week the kids & I saw Paddington II Trey & I saw the most recent Mission Impossible film. I am pretty positive in eight years of blogging this is my very first reference to any Mission Impossible film. I have no particular love for this franchise. Now, I know that Tom Cruise is an amazing movie star. I say that with no sarcasm. He is legitimately perhaps the greatest movie star of all time; feel free to discuss that bold statement in the comments. 

This latest Mission Impossible film is good. It's worth seeing in the theater. It is rumored to have a plot, but the plot is secondary to Tom Cruise running around being awesome. The movie is one incredible action sequence after another. If you didn't know, Henry Cavill is Cruise's co-star in this film. Between my burger from Five Guys, my vat of popcorn, Henry Cavill, & laughing with Trey over the constant & ridiculous car/helicopter/motorcycle chases in the film, I had a most excellent date night. 

In other interesting & expensive news, unbeknownst to me, Henry (who has a penchant for removing the batteries from everything in the house that requires batteries) somehow knocked four AA batteries into our garbage disposal. There they sat, fully concealed & happy in their dark, damp home, until one day I flipped the garbage disposal switch & was immediately met with a terrible grinding sound & the smell of battery acid. The end of this story goes like this: we now have a functional garbage disposal once again, & Henry will have to earn a scholarship to attend college. 

Moving along, this past Saturday was Vacation Bible School at church. It takes a lot of people doing a lot of different but equally important things to pull off VBS. It's mentally exhausting to think about all of it.

I was completely wiped after the festivities ended Saturday, though admittedly that was in part due to my decision to stay up & read way too late the previous night. I can't even say it was a bad decision though. I clearly rarely regret reading when I should be sleeping because this is essentially the story of this summer, & in fact this entire blog is the love child of VBS-related activities & my reading habits. My last blog was posted two weeks ago & is also the product of a book I read this summer, Liane Moriarty's The Husband's Secret. It can be found *** here **** if you missed it. 

This year's VBS centered on three of the miracles Jesus performed, & I was tasked with sharing a few thoughts about the feeding of the five thousand. Did you know that, other than the resurrection, the feeding of the five thousand is the only miracle that is recounted in all four gospels? 

All summer I've had an internal debate about the merits of rereading books. For the first time in a while I have had time to read (as in really read whatever I want to read regardless of its academic merits or inclusion on a required reading list), & so I've had some discussions with myself about what to read. Obviously I always want to make time for my book club book, but I've had enough reading time to read a considerable amount beyond that. I don't want to overdramatize how it feels to have time to read whatever I want, but it's akin to having more oxygen to breathe after subsisting on minimal amounts. 

This past week my tendency to return to things I love has been validated. I reread books, I rewatch movies, & yes, as you might expect I love a good second-chance romance novel featuring two people who find each other, lose each other, & then find each other again. Sigh. I actually recently read a book in this vein; I'll tell you more about it momentarily. 

My thoughts on the topic of rereading always circle back around to a handful of C.S. Lewis quotes.  

Who am I to question the advice of C.S. Lewis? Given my summer-long debate over rereading books (&, yes, watching Jurassic World again & again . . . mainly as background noise while folding laundry), it was interesting to me to discover (or be reminded of something I think I already knew) that the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand is told not once, not twice, but four times in the Bible. Why four different accounts? Why the repetition? 

And now we proceed to the portion of the blog where I use scripture & the words of C.S. Lewis to explain why it's important to reread Twilight. I am kidding; I actually have not read Twilight in a good long while. 

There is so much value in a reread of most books, in revisiting something you once loved . . . or even, yes, giving a book or a film (or a person?) you did not care for the first time a second look. Maybe you've changed. That's what's so perfect about books; they don't change. If you walk away from a reread with a deeper appreciation for a book, or if a character you once hated now draws your empathy, guess what? You might have grown, & I hear personal growth is all the rage. 

A good while ago I wrote a blog about Edna Pontellier, the protagonist in The Awakening. I discuss Edna as a yardstick by which a reader might measure herself over the course of several rereads of Chopin's novel. I discuss my thoughts on Edna upon meeting her at sixteen, rereading her story in my twenties, & rereading her story again as a wife & mother in my thirties. Click here if you missed that or want to, you know, reread it. See what I did there. 

Needless to say, C.S. Lewis & the numerous Biblical accounts of the feeding of the five thousand have convinced me it is perfectly fine to return to a story with which you're already familiar even if it means further delaying something you've never read. There are a handful of reasons this makes so much sense. First, you may've missed something the first time. In fact, in well-written literature laced with nuances & subtleties that aren't spelled out in black & white, you probably did miss something. 

Second, not only is it likely you missed something during the first read, it's likely you've changed. I honestly believe rereading a book is an excellent way to gauge how you've changed or grown intellectually / emotionally / spiritually with the passage of time & the new experiences life inevitably brings, because if you respond differently, well, you know you've changed because the book did not. This is why we discuss literature with present tense verbs, after all. In the opening chapter of A Farewell to Arms, we meet Frederic Henry. He is an ambulance driver. . . he is because HE STILL IS. He will forever be a young solider who falls in love with a woman he has no intention of loving. Isn't that wonderful? Every time someone reads the novel, Frederic & Catherine fall in love all over again. 

This reread policy obviously includes the Bible. When you read the story of the feeding of the five thousand after you've had kids, you automatically think of the mom of the boy who had the five loaves & the two fish because you know she was a forward-thinking woman who packed that lunch despite having a thousand other things to do that day. Perspective is so important, both your own sometimes-shifting perspective over time as well as the thoughts of others. There are four accounts of the feeding of the five thousand (& four accounts of the crucifixion) for the same reason I love book club: when you know something is important you want to turn to others & ask, What did you think? What is your perspective on this? 

The last thing I'll say in defense of rereading a book is that after about a year has passed, I can recall enjoying a book, & I can discuss the general emotions I associate with the book, but details are usually lost to me. It is always rewarding to again immerse myself in the details that charmed me the first time. 

To round out this discussion of returning to lost loves, I'll quickly tell you about a book I recently read for the first time: Love and Other Words by Christina Lauren. It is a second-chance romance about a couple named Macy & Elliot. As high school students, these young people cherish their close friendship so much they're reticent to date each other (well, one of them is more reticent than the other). Macy suffers a tragic loss early in her life, & it is her friendship with Elliot that sustains her in the ensuing years. As high school draws to a close, the two have a falling-out. They don't speak for a decade until . . . wait for it . . . they bump into each other outside a coffee house. The novel flip flops between past & present, if you enjoy that sort of thing. 

I could go into some detail about what I do not like about Love and Other Words. There are things about it I do not like much at all (mainly some plot issues that keep me up at night are a little bothersome), but I can't share those with you without outlining the entire book & dropping spoilers left & right. Christina Lauren is the pen name of two friends who've coauthored quite a few books. This is the best thing I've read from them to date. Some of their other stuff I would not recommend, but I think this book actually shows some growth in their writing. 

One last note about rereading books. I think I am about to reread Dear Miss Moreau. I really haven't wanted to look at it since publication, which was almost a year ago. I wrote it because it was something I wanted to read, so I suppose I will (re)read it. I needed a break from the whole thing, but I miss it a little now. Two minor announcements concerning the book: 

(1) You can download it free today; the free download will also be available tomorrow (Tuesday, August 7) as well. *** CLICK HERE *** to find her. Also, soon the paperback price will permanently drop by three or four dollars. This drop should commence September 1. 

(2) I have several thousand words of a sequel written. If I ever publish another book, it will be a standalone novel featuring totally different characters. I don't think I have a novel's worth of story left to tell where Edie & Dr. Foster are concerned, but I do have a few chapters written. It picks up at Christmastime (at Edie's home in Louisiana) shortly after the close of Dear Miss Moreau. I think I am going to revisit the few chapters I've written, tweak them, & give them to you for Christmas. My goal is to post them here at some point in the next few months. I took the time to write these additional chapters, & there's no reason the few of you who want to read a little more shouldn't read them. 

It is good to be reminded of why we first felt enthusiasm for something, be it a book or even Hugh Grant. Rediscovery is such an appealing concept to me, which is probably why I reread books & certainly why I read second-chance romance novels. As you might imagine, Journey's "Faithfully" plays softly on repeat in my head as I read . . . seriously the line, "I get the joy of rediscovering you," is the best line. 

This is our last week with no school. We will soon rediscover early mornings & the vice grip of a schedule. Reagan's first day is next Friday, & so this week I am trying to get all the things I can possibly get out of the way out of the way. I got the dog groomed last week. I need to schedule haircuts for the kids. Reagan is seeing her endocrinologist this week. Honestly that's about all I'll likely accomplish this week because I am not ready to give up my reading time. Next week I have two parent orientations, & it'll be Zero Hour for Reagan to finish her summer reading assignment so to mentally prepare myself, I am going to read as often as I can this week & pretend the beginning of school is not imminent.

There's a concept discussed in The Screwtape Letters I must share now, & then I'll hush. The demon Screwtape explains to his nephew, the tempter Wormwood, that God created in man a natural rhythm that alternates between the need for stability & the need for change. The seasons satisfy this rhythm because they represent change while also representing stability in their predictable cyclical yearly pattern. Isn't that wonderful? I just love that. Screwtape of course goes on to explain to his demon nephew how to exploit humans' desire for change, but that is not important to my purposes today. I am sad to see the days of sleeping late go, but I am always happy to see fall commence. It is almost time. It will be fall. Again. It's a familiar shift, one I've experienced for over three decades now, but there is always a welcome freshness to it.

One of the many things I believe J.K. Rowling did well when she wrote her Harry Potter series is she chose to begin each novel at the same time of year. We always return to Harry when he's about to begin another year at Hogwarts. This is particularly appealing to young readers, her target audience, because they associate fall with a new beginning. It is also appealing to me, someone who lives & breathes on the semester system. I have compartmentalized my life into summer / fall semester / spring semester since I began college at seventeen, & while I do love adjunct teaching & am excited to return to it soon, I know I also love the predictable tumble of summer into the fall semester. I am ready. I won't have as much time to reread books, but I'll meet new students & watch a lot of college football & wear my tall boots & my sweaters.

Y'all have a wonderful week.  


No comments:

Post a Comment