Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Reading Peculiarities

I love to reread books. I have reread some favorites as many as twenty times (or more--who's counting?).

When I moved to Poland, my ability to acquire new reading material in English was extremely limited (although the situation has improved over the years). The inexpensive Wordsworth Classics, published in the UK, are often available in bookstores that sell English teaching materials, and it wasn't long before I had acquired a complete collection of Jane Austen's six books, all of which I had read before.

Those six books, for the uncertain, are Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Emma, Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park, and Persuasion.

Now these six books are on my shelves, and it has become my habit to reread them every year. All of them. That means that I've read each of Jane Austen's novels seven or eight times in as many years. I know them backwards and forwards. I can pick up any book, open it at random, and step right into the story. There are some scenes that I can play out in my mind almost word for word. I am never bored doing this, and I usually reserve these books for a cold or rainy afternoon when I just want comfort reading.

I don't think there are many authors that could bear this kind of reading and rereading year after year. Jane Austen's stories are classic and comfortable, and her writing sparkles, no matter how many times you read the books. I could never pick a favorite heroine or a favorite book, because I really love them all. If I could meet an author in person, I think Jane Austen would be my first choice. She must have been delightful to know--such a fun companion. I might have been worried about what she'd say about me in her letters home, though!

I think I've already read four of the six so far this year, with Northanger Abbey and Persuasion still left to go. I can't seem to leave Jane Austen alone, and I'd like to pick up one of them and curl up for an afternoon in Bath (both of those books take one to Bath).

But Leo Tolstoy is standing between us, and I am not letting myself start any new books until War and Peace is finished. Sometimes the novel flows along, and I get caught up in the web of characters--there are so many! Other times, even though Tolstoy has helpfully provided a map, I find myself churning through "the left flank was left unfortified," with only a vague idea, really, of what a "flank" means on the battlefield.

I really need to get this story the first time around, because I don't think Tolstoy will be joining Jane Austen in my merry round of rereads.


At 4:55 PM , Blogger Dominion Family said...

It took me two years to finish War & Peace and that convinced me slow reading is worthwhile as I remember much of it. I just kept it by my bed and read a page at a time.

At 8:01 PM , Blogger Writing and Living said...

I reread Austen, too.

It took me several months to finish Anna Karenina, and it didn't have all the war stuff to contend with.

At 5:02 AM , Blogger Laurie said...

Put me on the list of those who reread Austin over and over...but then there are lots of books I read over and over. It's surprising I ever work in a fresh book because I love the ones I already know so much, but there is always room for a new friend.

At 4:30 AM , Blogger T1andM2 said...

Oh, I was going to say Anna Karenina was totally different for me but I see someone above feels differently!

Honestly, I got so involved in that book I kept thinking "I wonder what's happening to X right now?" when I absolutely had to put it down and attend to other things, like the university course I was doing at the time!

But I know what you mean about Jane Austen. Like Charlotte Mason and Scott...

At 4:31 AM , Blogger T1andM2 said...

That's my sons nature blog account, it's actually a grown up woman writing the above,

in Australia


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