I am not a re-reader. Since I was a teenager, I can count on one hand the books I know I’ve read more than once.
I’m currently rereading The Crying of Lot 49, a book I read a decade ago. I only read it the once. Since, I have said it is one of my favorites. It sparked a fascination with Thomas Pynchon, and I’ve since read most of his books. I thought I knew and remembered the book well.
It’s not that my opinion has changed on rereading. In fact, it’s intensified. I know why I have such a strong feeling for the book, but I’m surprised to find I had no recollection of why I had that feeling. I have literally no memory of the 50 pages I just read. I’m about to read the sixth and final chapter, and can say that the fifth chapter must have been incomprehensible to me a decade ago. And yet, somehow then I got enough from it, whether ideas or wonder or a charge or whatever, to have kept it in mind, however vaguely for a decade. And now I read it again and think: holy shit, Thomas Pynchon is a genius.
And embarrassingly, I realize that the book was written in 1965 and I don’t remember if I was aware of the full implication of that a decade ago, whether I understood what it meant in terms of politics and history and sex and the bomb and the counterculture and civil rights and LSD and technology and anything else. I must have known some of it. But I don’t know what my mind was like then. I know what my apartment was like. I remember where I was, physically, when I read it. But I don’t remember my thoughts or my limitations.
And I’m starting to wonder about my other favorite books. What would happen if I reread my favorite books? What if I wrote first about what I remember of them, what I think they’re about, why I think they’re important to me? Would it be similar? Would I find that I was right back then, but be surprised to find out why? Would some be lost on me now?
Maybe I’ll slip some rereading into this year’s rereading. Chapter 5 was revelatory.
On to Chapter 6, of which I only remember the final scene. Sort of.