Wednesday, March 23, 2011


If you saw my post from last week, you’ll probably not be surprised to hear that I’m doing a lot of sitting around at the moment.

Because I have to. 

Because objects at rest tend to stay at rest, and heavily pregnant objects at rest don’t move AT ALL, plus they call out for snacks, drinks, and the remote control, much to the annoyance of their husbands who are, unbelievably enough, still refusing to take adequate (read: full) responsibility for their role in this sorry state of bloated affairs. I’m telling ya, my feet are so swollen at the moment, I feel like I’m trying to lace two heads of cabbage into my Chucks every time I put them on.

But I guess the good thing is that in my sedentary state, I’m getting a lot of reading done. 

Sort of. 

What I’m really doing is engaging in a lot of comfort reading. I do this when I’m hungry for literary distraction, but for whatever reason, am too fragile/tired/whatever to embark on something new. So I open up a few books I’ve read a million times and look through them, somewhat glad for their familiarity, but really, yearning for the novelty and thrill they once brought me.

These are definitely the times I wish I had the power to put myself into a state of booknesia. You know – I wish I could wipe the slate clean and read a well-loved book all over again as if for the first time. 

Wouldn’t that be great?

Alas, we never wade into the same book twice, and for this reason, there are some books that I may never read again because I don’t want to tarnish the memory of the impact they had on me when I first read them. I want to remember the way my brain clanged like a bell the first time I experienced them.

Back in college, I took Italian, and our Italian professor was this very enthusiastic, courtly gentleman in his 70s. Midway through the semester, he encouraged us to attend a performance of an opera that was touring campus in order to expose ourselves to the glories of Italian operatic artistry. 

A couple of us went, mostly out of sense of duty because he was so thrilled that we could share in this experience, but, you know, I was nineteen, and it was opera, and my Italian at that point allowed me to understand phrases like, “My pants are yellow,” or “Where may I obtain a headache tablet?” So, a lot of it was lost on me. Plus musical theater generally… I just. Can’t.

At the end of the performance, our professor asked us how we liked it, and whatever our collective response was at the time, we must have communicated that we 1) didn’t; and 2) were sorry about that fact. He said, “Well, opera’s a different experience when you’re older. You'll see. When someone sings about heartbreak, you feel a whole lifetime’s worth.”

And so it is with books. As time goes on, the text is ever the same, but the reader is not. Sometimes you get more out of a book, but sometimes you get less. Or at least, you never again experience that revelatory rush or thrill upon successive readings. Which is why this booknesia thing is an exercise in wishful thinking, of course. 

Still, I ask you: What book do you wish you could read all over again as if for the first time?*

And if I’m asking that question, I really should ask this as well: Would you want to be the person you were the first time you read it?**


**No way, man.