A creative writing professor once narrated a story about the relationship between his friend and Anna Karenina. When the friend first read Tolstoy’s novel as a young man, he was enthralled by Anna’s tragic fate. Re-reading it in middle age, he appreciated Levin’s efforts to simplify matters and live off the land. When he read it again years later, he was apt to throw up his hands at the shenanigans of all these young people.Re-reading, then, can tell us more about ourselves than about the book in question. In a larger sense, it can also reflect how times have changed. Jonathan Yardley has written about how the experience of reading JD Salinger’s beloved The Catcher in the Rye was like looking into a mirror for generations of adolescents. Nowadays, it’s more likely to be seen as jejune, if not overly sentimental.Nabokov, in his usual patrician manner, once remarked to a group of students that “one cannot read a book, one can only re-read it.” He meant that the act of reading should be active, even creative, and we ought to behave towards a book as we do towards a painting. Outside the classroom, however, the way we look at things… Read full this story
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