Saturday, June 30, 2018

Re-Reading...Just for Fun

Note to self: In the thrill of the spacious expanse of June and the way it invites me to fill the summer with all that can be done to get ready for next year—professional reading and well as exploring more YA books that might hook students, organizing files, doing research for the science textbook adoption coming up, finding more resources, cleaning out my email in-box, clearing my computer desk top—don’t forget to nurture my own reading life. 

This week I did something I hardly ever do: re-read a book that I wasn’t (1) teaching or (2) reading aloud to an audience. In this summer vacation time, with my usual community scattering to the winds while my travel plans suddenly shifted, my eyes wandered my bookshelf, paused on a title, and I thought: I need to sink into that community again, with that character, and eavesdrop on the thoughts of the ineligible bachelor barber of Port William, KY, in Wendell Berry’s novel Jayber Crow.

It was a good thought. Like the first time, reading the novel got off to a slow start. And then I discovered that I had used a pencil to mark my favorite parts many years ago. Mostly, they were the same. Plus a few more. Note to self: Mark up books when I read them. My future self will enjoy the community with its past self.  I’ll just share a couple of the lines I marked, and these aren’t even the most significant, but they are representative, in a way, of the narrator's gentle humor, insight, and avoidance of banality. 

Reflecting on a woman who was constantly finding fault with the town and everyone in it, and most especially himself, Jayber says the following:
To mind being disliked by a woman you don’t desire and are not married to is yet another failure of common sense. So be it. I have always counted being unmarried to Cecelia Overhold as a privilege; it surely is better to be disliked distantly than intimately. It surely is far better to be disliked by somebody you don’t love than by somebody you do. Even so, I mind. Even so, failing to love somebody is a failure. (208)

And as he tries to correct that failure by imagining himself into her perspective, he realizes that critique is a double-edged sword:
Theoretically, there is always a better place for a person to live, better work to do, a better spouse to wed, better friends to have. But then this person must meet herself coming back: Theoretically, there always is a better inhabitant of this place, a better member of this community, a better worker, spouse, and friend than she is. This surely describes one of the circles of Hell, and who hasn’t travelled around it a time or two? (210)

Speaking of the circles of Hell, the parallels to Dante's Divine Comedy didn't even dawn on my until I'd finished my second read! On top of all the allusions, the book is in 3 parts, and there's even a Virgil and a Beatrice figure. Next time through, I'll be on the lookout for the 3 beasts. I'm sure they're there!  

I’m so glad I took a mini-vacation from all the new books you “should” read and treated myself to a re-read of one I’ve loved. What’s a book you’ve loved and might like to re-visit?

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