On rereading

October 20, 2008

I’m an avid rereader.  I can never understand those clutter shows where people say they should get rid of books if they’ve read them once.  I turn to books over and over again, many of them, many times.

I just finished rereading Paul Auster’s New York Trilogy, which I read for the first time in 2002.

It’s a wonderful book – well, a series of short stories, which I like even better – full of postmodern mystery, questions of identity, and readers and writers. And incredibly well-written and intelligent, but without ostentatious complexity.

I don’t want to give too much away, so what I really wanted to talk about was my experience of rereading. It was really fascinating to me, seeing what I had marked or commented on that held less significance upon rereading, or things I was absolutely shocked that I had missed the first time around.

I suppose what it really comes down to is a concept that’s actually mentioned in the book: the palimpsest, or a text where layers of meaning are built up (literally) over time.

So I’m thinking about my thoughts on the book. And the more times I read, the more layers there will be.

Doesn’t get much more postmodern, or more ancient, than that.

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