Saturday, May 30, 2009

We are more or less caught up with the spring garden work (well, I haven't finished my demolition project but that seems to be an on-going skirmish, with the Chinese Lantern Company (Inc) continually pushing their underground railway around in an intricate maze. I come across the long, straight pencil thin roots wherever I dig). ....

There is now a little time for books, and I have been re-reading Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman, a charming book (as they would say in reviews) about the precious place books have in the life of those who treasure them. This will be the third or fourth time of reading....

And as a coincidence I found in the library a book she has edited entitled "Rereadings".

From a review by Farrar, Straus and Giroux...

'Is a book the same book—or a reader the same reader—the second time around? The seventeen authors in this witty and poignant collection of essays all agree on the answer: Never.

The editor of Rereadings is Anne Fadiman, and readers of her bestselling book Ex Libris will find this volume especially satisfying. Her chosen authors include Sven Birkerts, Allegra Goodman, Vivian Gornick, Patricia Hampl, Phillip Lopate, and Luc Sante; the objects of their literary affections range from Pride and Prejudice to Sue Barton, Student Nurse.

These essays are not conventional literary criticism; they are about relationships. Rereadings reveals at least as much about the reader as about the book: each is a miniature memoir that focuses on that most interesting of topics, the protean nature of love. And as every bibliophile knows, no love is more life-changing than the love of a book'.

In her Foreward: On Reading, Anne tells the tale of reading 'The Horse and His Boy' by C.S. Lewis to her son, Henry. It is a book she had read when she was eight, - the age of her son at the time of the rereading. His acceptance of the book was the same as her's had been at first reading, enthusiastic and totally absorbed in the adventure.

Anne was delighted at his reaction to the time they spent reading, but gradually her adult self remembered C.S. Lewis's attitude to women, and she was appalled to find it colouring her interpretation of the book which she had once found so enchanting.

Anne says - 'and there lay the essential differences between reading and rereading, acts that Henry and I were performing simultaneously. The former had more velocity: and latter had more depth. The former shut out the world in order to focus on the story; the latter dragged in the world in order to assess the story. The former was more fun; the latter was more cynical. But what was remarkable about the latter was that it contained the former; even while, as with the upper half of a set of bifocals, I saw the book through the complicating lens of adulthood, I also saw it through the memory of the first time I'd read it, when it had seemed as swift and pure as the Winding Arrow, the river that divides Calormen from Archenland'.

I closed the book and thought about this, - the way experience affects our relationship to books we first read while we were still young and innocent; when we didn't know what it is like to be twenty, or thirty-five, or sixty, or even eighty-four.

I remembered reading 'Claudia and David' by Rose Franken ca 1944. And at the same time Charles saw a stage play of 'Claudia and David' while he was still overseas, in London. We were engaged, but not yet married until he returned from the war.

It was a tender, romanticized picture of marriage, and I sighed with anticipation. Sentiment kept the book on our shelves for many years, probably until we downsized just after our 60th year together. I did reread it a number of times, - it was still touching and romantic, but by this time I also knew the realities of a happy marriage.

A few years ago I found a sequel to Claudia and David in a second hand book store.
It will be interesting to reread it. I have never really abandoned romance, but then, the years have taught me to cultivate reality as well.

Will I have a different view of the 'young Claudia' from the one that filled my head with such quixotic fantasies?

And if I don't, what will that indicate?????

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