Wednesday, April 17, 2002

Wendy Lesser on Rereading - I'm conflicted on this article, which is why I'm writing about it. On the one hand, it's well written, and it's a nice exploration of the way a book changes for us as we ourselves change. But am I the only one to find the core idea to be pretty obvious? Here's the deal: when we read a book, our reaction is not, strictly speaking, to the book itself, but to our experience of the book, and that experience is affected by many factors, from the physical and psychological context (sitting in our living room, versus waiting in an airport, versus waiting to see the oncologist) to our own life experiences. It's a nice article, a diverting read, and if you've never really thought about the difference between the novel and your experience of the novel, then this could be a nice introduction. But I have to wonder if anyone's really surprised to find that Henry James reads differently at 40 than it does at 20 or even 25.

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