on rereading

T. S. Bazelli wrote an excellent post called “On Rereading.” I had so many things to say that I thought I should write a post about it, rather than writing a comment that was longer than her post (which is not to say that I’ve never done that 🙂 ).

I reread a lot, as I talked about when I wrote a post about Walter Mosley. People experience works of music more than once, why not books?

When I was into Inherent Vice (a period of about five months, during which I blogged about it many times) I read and reread the book, plus I listened many times to the excellent audio version (read by Ron McLarty). Plus posting on the Pynchonwiki, and reading all the other posts there.

Some things I reread are for “comfort reading” reasons, but that’s usually different. As Theresa says, that’s much more likely to be dipping in to read favorite parts. But when I’m rereading to study and learn, I always read the whole thing, from beginning to end. Which is not to say that it’s all dry, academic analysis; there is a particular pleasure in understanding something really well.

I don’t read books about writing. I’m not opposed to it on principle, but for me I’d rather read great books, again and again if necessary, and learn what I can from them.

I also reread my own stuff from time to time, to see what I think about it from a different perspective – where I did well and where I could have done better. Not to rewrite (when a book is done, it’s done), but to apply the lessons to what I’m writing now.

I rewatch movies, too. Some of my reviews are of movies I’ve been watching and thinking about for decades – and if I have anything interesting to say it was it was those decades that made it possible. The most amazing thing to me about Roger Ebert was not that he wrote so many great and interesting reviews, it’s that he wrote at least most of them after having seen the film exactly once. I don’t even see how that’s possible.

(And yes, most of my music listening time for this year has been spent with Les Miserables – the 25th anniversary concert version as I write this.)

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4 Responses to on rereading

  1. tsbazelli says:

    I don’t think I could reread my own writing without editing it! Unlike books, I rarely rewatch movies. Once I’m done with them I’m done. I’m not sure why that’s the case.

  2. I think it’s important, now that computers make rewriting so easy, to make a decision that when something is done, it’s done. I know people who disagree with me about that. 🙂

    Probably very few people rewatch movies as much as I do. When I first discovered Moonrise Kingdom, I watched it almost every day for a couple of weeks. (I still love it, but for now I’m mostly focused on Les Miz. 🙂 )

  3. Maggie says:

    I rarely reread entire books. I skim back over the really good ones sometimes and reread just the parts that inspired me. I rewatch movies a lot, mostly because it’s a comfort (for some strange reason). And as tsbazelli says above, if I reread my own stuff, I’d be way too tempted to edit it, so the only reason I reread is to edit/revise.

    • I sometimes have to reread my own stuff for research, since I always write about the same characters. Sometimes I have to look back to see what I said about so-and-so’s age, or height, or eye color, and then I have to force myself to stop reading and get back to work. 🙂

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