Monday, July 07, 2008

Pleasure can be renewed

Last summer, I reread Stendhal's The Charterhouse of Parma (Penguin), drawn deep into his picture of the political life of those old Italian city states, comical and personal, arbitrary, everything on a human scale. It was years since I'd read the novel; I had just about remembered Waterloo, the prison and the duchess in love with her young nephew in her middle age, but most of the story that wound them together had faded, so it was almost like finding it for the first time. You can't hold most of what's inside the covers of a novel in your memory for very long after you've finished reading: that isn't accidental or a weakness - it's intrinsic to the novel form and means pleasure can be renewed over and over. Last time I read Emma, I discovered that when Harriet stayed with the Martins, they had their little shepherd boy in to sing to them in the evenings; I'm sure that had never been in the book before.

--Tessa Hadley, "Summer Reading"

4 comments:

Jordan said...

Aw. That last comment made me smile.

SFP said...

Isn't that great? I love Tessa Hadley.

Crissy said...

Because there are so many books I haven't read *once*, I hesitate to re-read.
This paragraph, though, makes me want to reconsider. Especially this line:
"You can't hold most of what's inside the covers of a novel in your memory for very long after you've finished reading: that isn't accidental or a weakness - it's intrinsic to the novel form and means pleasure can be renewed over and over."

SFP said...

Outside a few short stories, I haven't done any rereading this year. And I miss it. For the past 15 years or so I haven't reread anything to the point of internalizing it--I keep telling myself I'm looking for the ones I'll want to read that way when I'm older. I have been fighting down an urge to reread Howards End--at least until I get through a few more library books.

You should grant yourself permission to reread a few of your favorites, Chrissy. Just to see if the pleasure's greater the second time around.