Classics and Rereading

I have the good fortune to facilitate a monthly book discussion at a local library. The format consists of five titles related to a particular topic. The current topic Destruction and Redemption includes the titles:

Emma Bovary by Gustave Flaubert    

The End of the Affair by Graham Greene   


Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov   

The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles   


Morgan’s Passing by Anne Tyler   

As a literature major it is not the first time I’ve encountered these titles. And, I admit that I was not thrilled at the prospect of rereading some of them. I’m glad I did. It has been a good learning experience.

What have I learned? Readers and writers approach stories in the same way. What way? We come to the page based on the life parameters we have experienced at the point of writing or reading a book. A book that bored us twenty might be insightful or moving a decade later.

The experience is reminiscent of the following Mark Twain quote:

The certainty of a first experience becomes tainted or enhanced by experience. It does not remain static. You might have a pleasant surprise if you revisit a book you previously disliked. Sad to say the converse is also true,  you may reread a title that you loved and find that it no longer moves you.  Be open. Keep reading.