One day the cultural critic Wendy Lesser idly picked The Portrait of a Lady from her bookshelf and began to read it again for the first time in 20 years. She was astonished.
In her first readings as a student, she'd been too close in age to Henry James' heroine, Isabel Archer, to appreciate her properly, and she read the novel largely for plot - ''I only wanted her to marry the lord and get it over with.'' Now, in her 40s, she was no longer in competition with Isabel, found her charming, was more sympathetic to her wish to acquire a life and more patient with James' long sentences.
The experience moved Lesser to embark on a re-reading jag and eventually to write a book (Nothing Remains the Same: Rereading and Remembering). There are at least two readers, she says - the older one and the younger one - and you know this because they respond differently to the book.
We re-read books for many reasons, summed up in another book, On Rereading, by Patricia Meyer Spacks: ''A treat, a form of escape, a device for getting to sleep or for distracting oneself, a way to evoke memories (not only of the text but of one's life and of past selves), a reminder of half-forgotten truths, an inlet to new insight.'' It's also a risky enterprise: we may end up disappointed.
Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/entertainment/books/unseen-delights-in-a-repeat-viewing-20120601-1zmfy.html#ixzz1wasxlT4J