Wednesday, January 29, 2020

"A breath of springtime as the autumn winds blow"

Michael Dirda on re-reading (which he doesn't do very much):
...[S]ome folks discover the secret to thwarting the meretricious allure of the evanescently contemporary. Instead of picking up new books, they go back to old favorites. There are people who every year reread The Lord of the Rings or Jane Austen’s six novels or the complete adventures of Sherlock Holmes or all the plays of Shakespeare. My favorite college professor reread Madame Bovary whenever he taught the novel, which was essentially every year for three decades. He said that each time he found something new in it. Oscar Wilde contended that if a book wasn’t worth reading over and over again, it wasn’t worth reading at all. ....

One sure sign that a reader has reached old age is that he or she loses interest in new fiction. Seen it all. Been there, done that. It’s then that people nearly always do return to the books they loved when young, hoping for a breath of springtime as the autumn winds blow. And if they aren’t rereading Treasure Island or The Secret Garden? Then it’s likely to be the Bible, Plato’s dialogues or Montaigne’s essays because these inexhaustible classics address nothing less than the meaning of life, which really means, of course, the meaning of our own lives.

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