Because increasingly, I don’t. And I feel sort of, I don’t know, bad about this. But then rereading itself also seems somehow indulgent, when my “to read” list grows ever longer, and I realize that I still haven’t gotten to books I intended to read a year ago. I don’t know what I feel so guilty about; it’s just me here, I’m an adult, I can do what I want, etc. But then–ah. It’s not just me, is it? The proliferation of lit-blogs and other sites devoted to reading have created a communal bookshelf, which thrills and delights, and also provokes, in me anyway, a kind of anxiety/hysteria. My to-read lists spawn to-read lists, prequels and sequels of themselves (“if you’re going to read ____, you should really start with x, and then read y“), and then I also often find that when the same book starts buzzing around the various sites I check in with, echoing here and there until it seems as though everyone has read it or is reading it, and I am reading about everybody’s reading of it, my stalwart resolve to sit down and read it myself intensifies and then combusts: the intention’s version of premature ejaculation. It’s like, instead of doing the honorable thing and having sex with the actual book, I masturbate to other people having sex with it. And with an already-unwieldy list to fret over, my appetite for said It-book diminishes, is falsely satisfied but satisfied enough. (And yes, it does a little make me feel dirty and confused.)
Exceptions are books written by friends. I tend to read those right away. And there are a rotating array of books/authors that I keep close by and consult, maybe not in full, but routinely. Especially when I’m trying to start something new.
Stefan Zweig’s Beware of Pity has been on my list for nearly two years. I have read the first twenty pages. Little, Big by John Crowley was on my list for even longer, and I finally finished it over the summer. It felt like a huge accomplishment.
Maybe there will come a year that I will declare The Year of the Already Read Already, where I will ceremoniously liberate myself from the shackles of new-or-new-to-me-works, and focus solely on rereading. Either books that I loved immediately, or books that I didn’t read carefully enough.
But imagine how behind I will be after such a year!
So I’m interested: do you reread? If so, what, and why? Do you feel any part of this conundrum?