Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Commonplace Entry: Rereading

Vladimir Nabokov, 
"Lectures on Literature"

... one cannot read a book: one can only reread it. A good reader, a major reader, an active and creative reader is a rereader. And I shall tell you why. When we read a book for the first time the very process of laboriously moving our eyes from left to right, line after line, page after page, this complicated physical work upon the book, the very process of learning in terms of space and time what the book is about, this stands between us and artistic appreciation. When we look at a painting we do no have to move our eyes in a special way even if, as in a book, the picture contains elements of depth and development. The element of time does not really enter in a first contact with a painting. In reading a book, we must have time to acquaint ourselves with it. We have no physical organ (as we have the eye in regard to a painting) that takes in the whole picture and can enjoy its details. But at a second, or third, or fourth reading we do, in a sense, behave towards a book as we do towards a painting. However, let us not confuse the physical eye, that monstrous achievement of evolution, with the mind, an even more monstrous achievement. A book, no matter what it is - a work of fiction or a work of science (the boundary line between the two is not as clear as is generally believed) - a book of fiction appeals first of all to the mind. The mind, the brain, the top of the tingling spine, is, or should be, the only instrument used upon a book.

Lectures on Literature by Vladimir Nabokov. Mariner Books, 2002 (1980)


Brian Joseph said...

This is a great passage thanks for posting it.

I concur about rereading, it opens up entire new vistas. Of course the issue of time gets intertwined with this. There is so little time to gat to all the thousands of works that I want to get to the first time. It is always a tough decision weather to read something new or to reread.

James said...

It truly is a tough decision, but over the years some of the books I have read demand rereading. And it is worth it.