I don't like change and I'm not fond of surprises: at the moment, I'm incapable of anything other than re-reading.
Things feel risky enough, without throwing new literature into the mix. It's too disorienting. I like books better after I've read them.
I have a strange relationship with re-reading, in that I forget basically everything I've read almost immediately. Growing up with Harry Potter was a scourge: I'd have to speed-read every book in the series before a new one came out in the summer. Today, Potter references sail over my head regularly, casting doubt on my status as a woman of letters.
There's a silver lining: re-reading, I experience the page-turning thrill with no dread of disappointment. I enjoy suspense that I've no right to.
I think the body remembers the sensations of reading particular books, so I know when to prescribe them to myself.
When I first read Edna O'Brien's The Country Girls, I was the same age as the young teenage protagonist. I loved it first for the same reason I'd loved Enid Blyton - the quaintness, the talk of shillings and corporal punishment. I didn't notice the parts that sparked moral panic and book-burning.
I picked up the series again a few times over the years: I like that the turns of phrase remind me of my grandmother. Immersing myself in 1950s Ireland reminds me what a miracle it is that she's so cool today.
On the most recent re-reading I noticed a new sensation: irritation. I suspect I had previously related to the young, inexperienced, obsessive Caitleen, paranoid about her lover's ex, jealous, and taken to drawing meaning where there is none. I don't have much in common with her any more, but I do have much more empathy (for her and for younger-me). This reading, with more life under my belt, I felt everything more deeply.
The paperbacks on my shelf haven't changed, but I have. A re-read is never just a re-read. I suspect I'll check in on The Country Girls again if I have a child. They'll be new again then, and I might be a better reader.
We have stuck with the Material Girl, pictured left, through so much - the 'American Life' album; her performance in 'Body of Evidence'; even the recent Corona-crash rose-petal video message - but letting 'Holiday' be used in a pizza ad? We're done.
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