Recently, Kurt Andersen realized that, with only a couple of exceptions, he hadn’t read any book, or seen any movie, more than twice. And that suited Kurt just fine. There are so many great works, new and classic, to be discovered; he can’t ignore them to spend hours with an old favorite.
“My father, who was a literary critic, once wrote ‘When you reread a classic, you do not see more in the book than you did before. You see more in you than there was before.’” Besides, she scolds Kurt, “Do you hear a Beethoven symphony just once and say, ‘OK, I’ve checked that one off my list … I better go on and do the complete works of Vivaldi now’?”
Are you an avid rereader of books or rewatcher of movies?
Or is once enough?
Tell us below. And if you change Kurt’s mind, he’ll give you a call and reread your pick.
See responses from other listeners.
I suspect some of it is to relive the emotional impact - or to see if how much I have changed (wiser? or not...)
East of Eden (about every 5 years)
David Copperfield (same)
and just for the fun of it,
Ex Libris and At Large by Anne Fadiman herself (about every 3 years or so...they're a lot shorter!)
Sense and Sensibility
McCabe & Mrs. Miller
Almost never, and I have read a tremendous amount of book & watched more movies than is good for me.Why? I have a large attention deficit disorder component in my personality. I crave "newness" & you probably do, too, which is what makes you a great reporter.
Because as I learn more about the world and consequently myself I see so much more in works than I had when I was less informed, less 'complete'. Rereading books allows me to appreciate works in greater detail than I had previously, it is though I am seeing a completely new work sometimes now that I have a fuller perspective. My most frequent reread is Catch - 22 whose humor and commentary does not become tediously predictable or boring with each reading but more scathing, honest and brilliant.
I enjoy watching movies that my mother used to show me when I was a kid -- like the 1960s Disney movies "Swiss Family Robinson" and "The Parent Trap." Although these are not cinematic masterpieces, they transport me back to a time when I was a kid and did not have to worry about grown up things. These movies got me through a particularly hard time at work when I was doing tedious work under intense deadline pressure for about two weeks straight. It was fall when it was cold outside and got dark early. So, I would come home from a really hard day at work and watch one of these movies. For a couple of hours I would leave my grown up concerns and enjoy a taste of my childhood innocence with its lack of responsibility. When things get tough, I will pop one these old movies in.
Chevy Chase, Maryland
Because I'm a scholar of literature, and an artist myself (currently in an MFA program in Cartooning), I revisit movies and books for two reasons: for scholarly purposes (to refresh my knowledge or improve my understanding) and for relaxation purposes (to take my mind off my studies). I would really really encourage you to revisit works for the latter purpose. Aren't there movies, for example, that you can enjoy on the most superficial level? That can ease work-tension and recharge your personal style? For me, that movie has always been TO WONG FOO, THANKS FOR EVERYTHING, JULIE NEWMAR. This movie was hugely significant in my life because it showed me, as a 13 year old queer boy, that my adult life could be fun, friendly, and fabulous. I return to it at least once a year to remind me of my priorities, and to tap into my comedic and adventurous self. It's fun to watch, and it feels like "mine."
White River Junction, VT
Certain books demand re-reading, such as "Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass" and Walter Kaufman's "critique of Religion and Philosophy" and "The Faith of a Heretic". I read them every five years, because by that time I am a new person and can see insights that I missed before--insights so true they make me laugh out loud.
I re-read constantly. Because there are just so few really terrific books one can fully love that it behooves one to go back to something adored and treasured. Because writers often spend years and years carefully constructing and structuring the worlds of their books, perfecting the prose so that the story of its style--which always hovers in and around the plot and characters-- may be so finely wrought it can only be grasped completely with multiple perusals. Because it's so wonderful to re-visit books over a lifetime, seeing how they strike one at this or that emotional landmark. When reading, for instance, Anna Karenin or Madame Bovary as a youngster you may find yourself immediately drawn to the title characters' defiant, desirous rebellion against the status quo; as you grow older, though, their actions can begin to seem frighteningly reckless or delusional; the ironies about the kinds of things the women think they want for themselves may begin to show out around the edges; eventually the author's profound and nuanced insights about the possible versus the imagined, how humans tend to behave en masse versus genuine individual morality, the sentimental crudity of accepted truisms versus brash straightforward sensitivity can emerge with a fullness and maturity that makes a book a living, breathing, bleeding, pulsing body. The sophistication of this kind of reading simply would not be possible with one time off at, say, eighteen or twenty, when all you want is something that shocks or tells you to shrug off the boring past of dull childhood.
I love to reread books and experience the story again, revel in some particularly well written passage, gain a deeper understanding of the characters and themes or discover something new. This is especially true of books I've read during different times of my life. Right now I am reading Little Women again, sharing it with my daughter. I also enjoy Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and In the Time of Butterflies by Julia Alvarez.
I have stacks of book I would like to revisit, but Dune is the book I pick up time after time.
I rewatch movies often. I have movies for different situations "Field of Dreams" for when I'm sick, "The Inside Man" when I can't sleep, and "Lawrence of Arabia" when I need to escape.
there's always more to read/watch. also you start to keep track of how you yourself change: heraclitus's dictum (even though he didn't say it himself) "one does not step into the same river twice" applies to the river as much as the person that steps into the river.
Santa Clara, CA
I know it's cliched, but I've re-read Catcher in the Rye about 6 times and each time have been amazed by how wrong I was the previous time about good old Holden. My opinion of him changed from inscrutable adolescent, to soul-mate, to wise man, to crazy person, and probably back to somehow pitiable but inscrutable adolescent. As a result, it provided a unique mirror for how I've changed or at least how my perspective has changed.
Central New Jersey
Thank you, Kurt, for the opportunity to define why I reread certain books. I have a number of favorites, but I will confine it to one: Jean-Dominique Bauby's The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. Bauby had been the editor-in-chief of the French Elle when he suffered a stroke at age 43. The medical result was a diagnosis of locked-in syndrome. I cannot imagine the enormous courage and commitment that Bauby drew from in order to create an alphabet that others could notate from that led to the magnificent and powerful inner dialogue of his novel. He is a reminder to all of us to live our lives with courage until the final hour.
New York City, NY
I change. I'm not the same reader that I was when I was 20 or 30 or 40. I want to see how the image changes when the lens ages. I like to re-read the Short Stories of John Cheever. I'd suggest these to a slow reader because there is no need for the time commitment you may fear.
River Edge, NJ
I absolutely adore revisiting my cherished favorites. Phillip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" is an example of a book series where a re-read warrants attention. Every time I sweep through the tragedies of Lyra's adventure I discover the depths of some allusions I had no reference for in youth, or some critical expression I somehow missed on the first exhilarating read-through. Aside from such academic joys, the re-telling of tales, I feel, strengthens their value for any reader, and an author's observations and elucidations may resonate more effectively in your heart and memories.
Temple Terrace, Florida
I went through the first 40+ years of my life knowing that time was too short to reread anything. So much good stuff out there, how dare I? Then, by degrees, I realized I had more time than I had bargained on. Now I portion out about 10-20% of my reading to rereads. I love it. I have two sorts. The first is the heavy hitters, usually Pynchon, one of my all time faves. I defy anyone to plumb the depths, or gaze on the sweet reflections of every facet, of Gravity’s Rainbow or Mason & Dixon on the first pass. Try harder. My second category is my library of pure pleasure. The two most likely suspects being Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin saga and T.H. White’s The Once and Future King, a book that moved me so deeply as a teenager that I’ve never lost my dear love of it. The urge comes in waves and most often when I wake at 2:30 A.M. and need to find my happy place.
Thanks for the great show, it never disappoints.
I enjoy reading classics over and over again and find that the are new to me each timel. I can recall when and where I read them the last time, etc.
The Great Gatsby, Voltaire's Candide and the Grapes of Wrate. are always good for a revisit. Goodness what a combination!
Favorite? That's limiting it to one, when there is such a long list of books and films I read and reread and reread (or rewatch).
I have read "Mists of Avalon" at least 20 times; the "Lord of the Rings" books 8 or 9 times; "Martian Chronicles" probably 40 times since I was 12; the Jane Austen books - each at least 25 times or more; "More than Human" maybe 15 times; "Anne Karina" 5 or 6 times; CJ Cherryh's "Foreigner" series - probably 5 or 6 times; "Somatics" by Thomas Hanna - around 15 times; Vonnegut books - most at least 10 times;
Philip K Dick's "Do Androids Dream of Electic Sheep?" probably 20 times or more, and the rest of his books at least 5 times each for the several I have read; LeGuin's "Earthsea" books - at least 8 times, and her other sci fic books - several times, "Dancing at the Edge of World - probably close to 10 times.
And that's just the "tip of the iceburg" on the great books I reread and reread. So many books are shallow in ideas and delivery, and poorly written - why not reread brilliant books and mine them even further.
And as for films, don't get me started.
it's a little bit of both: there are movies that no matter what, they stick in your mind and you find you watch them over and over--not for love, but because they speak to some inner dialogue you're having. I still keep watching "Pink Floyd: The Wall" and "Apocalypse Now" because they have images that never get old for me.
As for books, I'll re-read short stories more than novels. I find more to love in the economy of images and languages within a short story. The only novels worth re-reading are the ones you had difficulty with and finished but feel as if you missed much of it the first time.
Nyack, New York
I do sometimes reread a book. As much because I don't remember previously reading it as not. 60-65 books a year are hard to keep track of. I am not a big movie goer. There are only 5-6 movies that I have seen I would bother watching again;"Summer of 42" for instance or recently "True Grit". For the most part I remember the others all to well or they are eminatly forgettable.
Pequot Lakes, Minnesota
I have read each book in the Travis McGee series by John D MacDonald, from The Deep Blue Good-by through all 21 colorful titles, multiple times. A knight errant "part rebel, part philosopher, and every inch his own man, Travis McGee is the handsome, sexy, Florida boat bum with a special genius for helping friends in trouble-or avenging their deaths". MacDonald captures the Florida culture and landscape of '60s and '70s. Steven King, Jonathan Kellerman, and other major authors identify MacDonald as inspiration for their own careers. Lo Kurt Vonnegut said, "To diggers a thousand years from now...the works of John D. MacDonald would be a treasure on the order of the tomb of Tutankhamen". Travis McGee is a young, virile successful Don Quixote with a brilliant international economist, Meyer, as his Sancho Panza. Just joyful adventurous, deeply philosophical, escape, so pleasurable over and over.