All posts filed under: rereading

Bluets by Maggie Nelson | edge of evening

Rereading: Bluets

1. Suppose I were to begin by saying that I had fallen in love with a color. Suppose I were to speak this as though it were a confession; suppose I shredded my napkin as we spoke. It began slowly. An appreciation, an affinity. Then, one day, it became more serious. Then (looking into an empty teacup, its bottom stained with thin brown excrement coiled into the shape of a seahorse) it became somehow personal. Bluets by Maggie Nelson Rereading as a way to recover a lost state, to return to the cloud of feeling the book first evoked. I suppose that you re-readers must have made this discovery long ago. But, it’s not without its risks. Who hasn’t experienced the book that changes during one’s absence and upon reacquaintance isn’t at all the colour, shape, texture or density that memory would suggest? Or — more insidious, more disconcerting — the book that contains the underlinings and margin notes of an imbecile in one’s own neat hand. 130. We cannot read the darkness. We cannot read it. It …

The Sentimentalists by Johanna Skibsrud | edge of evening

Rereading: The Sentimentalists

When I was younger, and we had come to Henry’s house alone in those solitary summers of my father’s disappearance, I had imagined that the past really existed, semi-submerged, in Henry’s backyard. Wouldn’t that be enough for anyone? I’d thought. To explain that certain sadness, which I identified sometimes in him. A sadness that would make you, when you saw it, want to pull the edges of your own life up around you, and stay there, carefully, inside.  Now, though, I find it difficult to believe that anything is ever buried in the way that I had once supposed. I believe instead that everything remains. At the very limit; the exact surface of things. So that in the end it is not so much what has been subtracted form a life that really matters, but the distances, instead, between the things that remain.The Sentimentalists, Johanna Skibsrud I have a bookcase, the bookcase B bought me for my 30th birthday, in which I keep only the books that have struck me in some special world-changing way. Many of them …

The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald | edge of evening

Penelope Fitzgerald: The Bookshop

In 1959 Florence Green occasionally passed a night when she was not absolutely sure whether she had slept or not. This was because of her worries as to whether to purchase a small property, the Old House, with its own warehouse on the foreshore and to open the only bookshop in Hardborough. The uncertainty probably kept her awake. Seven years ago, when I turned thirty, we were in East Anglia to celebrate the wedding of our friends A & I. We spent the eve of my birthday in the small coastal town of Southwold. T was fifteen months old. We walked on the beach with her, looking out into the bleak North Sea, then sat on a bench outside a pub drinking pints of Adnams while she watched us from her pushchair. The skies were vast and pearly with opalescent cloud. It was our first hotel stay with a baby and when she’d fallen asleep we read together in the bathroom, taking it in turns to lie in the bath. The next morning it was raining. We ate …

Rereading: Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson

“If I could see my mother, it would not have to be her eyes, her hair. I would not need to touch her sleeve. There was no more the stoop of her high shoulders. The lake had taken that, I knew. It was so long since the dark had swum her hair, and there was nothing more to dream of, but often she almost slipped through any door I saw from the side of my eye, and it was she, and not changed, and not perished. She was a music I no longer heard, that rang in my mind, itself and nothing else, lost to all sense, but not perished, not perished.” I first heard of Marilynne Robinson on a Saturday afternoon in the late spring of 2003. I was reading the Guardian — as we did in those long ago pre-children days — when I came across an article by Paul Bailey about a novel of ‘eerie beauty’ published in 1981 by a writer who in the intervening decade had written several non-fiction books, …

Rereading: Fair Play by Tove Jansson

Photos: 1. My own. 2. Klovharu, or Haru, Tove & Tuulikka’s atoll-shaped island on the Gulf of Finland. Photo: Per Olov Jansson © Moomin Characters™. 3. Tove Jansson. Photo: Per Olov Jansson © Moomin Characters™  “Jonna had a happy habit of waking each morning as if to a new life which stretched before her straight through to evening, clean, untouched, rarely shadowed by yesterday’s worries and mistakes.” I‘ve wanted to re-read Fair Play ever since I read Denise’s beautiful response to it at the start of the year (you can read my original thoughts from back in 2007 here). And, as I knew it would be, it was an afternoon well spent. Reading Tove Jansson is like drinking a glass of the clearest, iced water: purifying, refreshing, invigorating. Fair Play is a book about art and love, and how to bring those two together to make a life. Except in Jansson, art is always given its due as both work and play: there is no art without work. Famous for her children’s books about the Finn Family …

On rereading

“For me rereading is the litmus test of a work of art” Edna O’Brien. “We finish a book and return to it years later to see what we might have missed, or the ways in which time or age have affected our understanding.” ‘Reading Like a Writer’, Francine Prose I would love to reread more than I do. I watch the way my seven-year-old daughter reads — returning to old favourites again and again, sometimes going back to the start of a series as soon as she reaches the end — and I remember the deep pleasure of reading a book over and over until it is as familiar as a dear friend. But it’s hard, as an adult, to make the time to reread. The piles of books that I want to read — both virtual & literal: by my bed, in the loft room, on the shelves at the end of the kitchen — seem to grow exponentially. There’s a strange pressure to read the next thing, or the latest thing, or the classic …