There are apparently two types of people in the world — and by “people” I mean avid readers, because really, what other kind of people do I know anything about? — those who read a book once and never pick it up again, and those who read books over and over.
I fall into the latter category. But I rather envy the “hey, I’ve already read that” people. After all, there are so many wonderful books in the world. You can’t possibly hope to read them all, even if you read voraciously and read each book only once. It’s a terrible waste of your valuable reading time, I suppose, to pass the new books by in favor of a book you’ve read so many times you almost have it memorized.
I have entire shelves full of Georgette Heyer novels. I “discovered” her books right around the time she died, and there were a couple of nasty decades following her demise wherein her books were difficult to find. I therefore acquired multiple copies of the ones I did find, and became a Heyer hoarder. I liked to have a reading copy and a keeping copy, you see. Ebay had not yet been invented, used book stores were scarce, and laying my hands on a tattered copy of, say, FRIDAY’S CHILD made me feel like Indiana Jones uncovering the Ark. Now she has, thank goodness, become a “classic” and her books are as ubiquitous as Jane Austen’s or P.D. Wodehouse’s (to name the two authors to whom she is most often compared). But my anxious desire to have two copies of each of her titles was firmly rooted in the fact that I was reading my single copies to tatters.
My husband is hinting about getting me a Kindle for my upcoming birthday. I couldn’t resist peeking at the Kindle store. I’d heard that many titles issued prior to 1923 were available for free in Kindle editions — imagine having Sherlock Holmes and Mr. Darcy at my fingertips! — and I simply had to check. I almost fell off my chair when I found all the E. Nesbit titles I had loved in my childhood, there in the Kindle store …. FOR FREE. The thought of re-reading them brought tears of pure excitement to my eyes. What a treat! What a treasure! Hours of delight stretched before me, days of bliss, weeks of wallowing in her gorgeously put-together language!
Oh, dear. The fabulous new books I am also dying to read will simply have to wait. I cannot deny myself the pleasure of revisiting E. Nesbit.
Now, if my taste for re-reading lies at one end of the spectrum, my mother’s tastes lay at the opposite end. She was mystified when I, at the age of eight or ten, wanted to go with Tracy-next-door to see the movie Pollyanna. “You’ve already seen it,” she said — in her “I’m talking to an idiot” voice. TV’s summer re-runs were torture to her. I actually witnessed her once watch ten minutes of a movie on TV, really enjoying it, before she realized she’d seen the movie years before. Disappointed, she immediately changed the channel.
“It’s a good movie!” I exclaimed.
“Yes, but I’ve seen it,” she replied. And in case you’re wondering: Yes, she would rather invest two hours in a mediocre movie that was new to her than a really good movie she’d already seen.
What is this strange quirk that leads us to be revisitors or … or … non-revisitors? Because the preferences seem to be strong, either way. And they are obviously not genetic. I am closely related to many people, not just my mother, who read a book once and then shelve it forever. And to me, that would be like … I dunno … promiscuity. (“This is a great book! How can you want a different book? Why do you need something NEW all the time?! What’s WRONG with you??”)
I wonder if it has anything to do with being a writer?
Actually, I suspect it doesn’t.
It may have something to do with being a certain KIND of writer, however. I am the slow kind of writer. And it might very well be that I’m so darn slow because I spend way too much time going over what I’ve already written. I go over it, and over it, and over it. I guess I like to go over it. And over it and over it. Because that’s what I do, and why else would I do that?
Some writers write quickly. They create a mysterious product called a “first draft.” I have never written a first draft. When I reach the end of a book, it is done. But that’s probably because I have already gone over it, and over it, and over it …
I certainly waste a lot of time. Oh, the hours I have squandered, reading books I have already read and watching movies I have already seen! I hate to think of all the wonderful books I now will never get around to, and the great movies I will never see, because I have carelessly frittered away my chances, revisiting stuff I already knew by heart! Sad.
On the other hand, E. Nesbit … oh, I can hardly wait.