Accidental Re-Reading

I was five minutes away from the end of U-571 before I realize that I’ve watched the movie before. I am now roughly 30% into Larry Lessig’s Free Culture, and I can’t shake the feeling that I’ve also read this text before.

I think I must now modify my previous confession of not re-reading a whole lot: I don’t deliberate re-read a whole lot. However, given my faulty recall and penchant for abandoning books part of the way through only to pick them up and start again at the beginning some time later, I think I re-read more books than I initially estimated.

During these second readings, I usually find some things to be as though I’m encountering them for the first time. Of course, I can’t be, and I’m not even of an age yet where I can complain about how my memory “isn’t what it used to be”. My memory is as it always has been: imperfect.

I’m resigned to the fact that to read a book once is to capture only its outline, the rough shape it ideas cast, the light imprint it makes on my psyche. To achieve more necessitates re-reading, but in this world where 288,355 new titles get published in a year in the US alone, who could afford the time to re-read?

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2 Responses to Accidental Re-Reading

  1. caitlinstern says:

    There might not be time to re-read, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. After all, since it’s impossible to read all the books out there, you may as well revisit old friends occasionally…

    • Rightio. “Should”, when not tied to a moral meaning, must be read as “best” or “necessary to advance one’s goal” and hence must be tied to a specific purpose. If one’s purpose in reading is to, say, produce literary criticism on a text, then one should, and indeed must, re-read that text time and again. If one’s goal in reading is to enjoy oneself, and if re-reading brings one that joy, then, of course, why not?

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