Sometimes I find myself thinking so much that it leads me on a journey to the bookshelf, and I want to suddenly reread all my favorite books or read others again that I hadn't put much thought into before. One idea reminds me of that one part of that one story, and then I wonder if I still have that other book that I held onto for years but probably finally donated to the library. With excitement I relish the idea of revisiting the poignancy of the pages.
This was my Monday, pulling out Franny and Zooey, digging through the boxes in the garage looking for a college text about the New Testament letters, and thinking that my husband had a good idea in rereading Tuesdays with Morrie. Then I found a children's book in French that I forgot I owned, which got me to thinking about pulling out all my French texts to study through, and then I wondered if I read my French Bible would I gain any insight I couldn't get in English.
The pile of books on my desk was growing. I immediately saw the danger of getting overwhelmed by the stack and leaving it there to go and do something far less intellectual than start reading. But where to start? I wanted all the information and brilliant revelations in my head RIGHT AWAY. It took some nudging from my husband, but that evening I chose to begin with Salinger instead of Netflix. Then on Tuesday I spent an hour in the sand pit of the park reading Zooey (having gotten through Franny just barely, the night before, as I tried to stay awake), and found myself transported on my journey back in time to who I was when I first read it. (I didn't stay back there too long because my son kept throwing sand my direction!)
What a strange feeling, though, to read a text and be transported in time to my past self. I can't exactly explain it except to say that I felt at one time all important and intellectual and completely confused and not at all wise. The "wisdom" of my younger self fell dead at the feet of the present me who realizes she knows nothing at all. I was at the same time deliciously nostalgic and sad that I hadn't gotten anywhere.
I suppose these conflicting feelings have a lot to do with what I was reading and why I picked it up to read again. I wanted an answer, that I thought I had found a long time ago, and I wanted to remember it and be all the better for it. Maybe I will still get there—have to finish the book first—but perhaps what I am to learn from this experience, if anything, is that what I needed to know back then is not necessarily what I need to know today. And perhaps feeling less wise is actually being more wise.
In the long run, then, this journey should lead to more self-discovery. Then in ten years I can go back and read these books again and maybe remember where I was at the second (or third or fourth) reading and find that I have learned after all. It makes me wonder what it is like for the authors. They have—presumably—read their books so many times in the rewriting and editing processes that they may be too sick of the stories to read them ever again. But what if they do? Ten or twenty years down the road do they sneakily pick up a copy of one of their books in the library and start reading it? Do they find themselves taken back to that first time the idea popped into their heads for the story? Do they smile with nostalgia and cringe? Do they learn something new and wonder how they could have missed it the first time? Do they wonder how they ever thought they knew anything?
I don't know. But for now I think I'll keep going down this rabbit hole; it's too much fun to stop. I want to know how I will feel when I pick up the next book. What will I think or reconsider? I'm not disenchanted any more.