Books, New and Old

So I have not totally abandoned the rereading project I mentioned ages ago. I got a little sidetracked reading The Sound and the Fury, which I had read in high school, but I don’t think it counts as a read re-read. For one thing, I seem to have confused chunks of it with Of Mice and Men. Oops. My main memory of it as a teenager is a constant bafflement, and there’s still some bafflement.

But it is amazing and beautiful and everything my high school English teacher told me it was. I put it down and immediately wanted to reread it. Theoretically. In actuality, it seemed too exhausting. (Note:I do not recommend reading The Sound & the Fury at bedtime, in the 15- to 30-minute increments of consciousness you get when you have a small child. It adds to the bafflement.)

What I HAVE reread that was on my list is Run by Ann Patchett. I adored it when I read shortly after it was released in 2007. I love Patchett’s language, her world view, the joy and beauty on every page. I love that each book is different, not just with a whole new setting and cast, but a while new TYPE of setting and cast. (Which, believe me, the publishing industry would rather you not do.)

And I still loved Run. What struck me, though, was how the reader–i.e., me–changes on every read of the book–new experiences, new perspective. This was the most glaring example of that I’ve ever had. I read the book before I had a child. (Unrelated note: I was reading Patchett’s State of Wonder in the hospital after delivering my son.) And in that pre-married, pre-children state, her character of a woman who gives up her newborn and toddler for adoption worked for me. The somewhat pat way her decision is explained worked for me.

That changed this read-through. (And here let me say that I am only writing this because I really love Patchett’s writing. Normally if I read something and don’t like it, I’d never write about it. I never understand how writers can sit down and write some scathing, condescending review of another person’s book and NOT empathize with how horrible it would be to be on the receiving end of it. But this isn’t a bad review. Just a comment on picking up a favorite book at different points in your life.)

I think Patchett spends two to three paragraphs covering why this seemingly kind, stable woman looked at her 15-month-old son and decided she could give him to a better family. She certainly still feels the repercussions years down the line, but there’s no darkness to it. No gaping hole. I mean–looking at my 18-month-old and thinking what it would be like to hand him over and know he would never have any memory of me–it seems to me like this mother would have some echoes of Sethe in Beloved. Heartrending, mind-cracking grief and regret and loss. That decision would break you apart, and this lovely, happy book never delves into that.

Anyway, that’s my new read. Still enjoyed it, but I found–as much as I usually love that Patchett writes about a world that is fundamentally a good place, a beautiful place–that I wanted a darker, uglier thread to it.

I also just finished Jeffrey Euginedes’ The Marriage Plot.  I think I’ve heard more mixed, PASSIONATE opinions on it than any other book in recent years. It’s a brilliant book, and I loved parts of it. I loved many individuals lines and paragraphs and scenes. More than any other book I remember reading, I alternated between thinking I was going to put it down and never pick it up again to thinking I was desperate to see what happened next.

I’m still not exactly sure what I think.

Leave a Comment