The Reader Version of Revision
Sometimes I’m reading a book and a particular sentence feels like it’s speaking directly to me. The kind of sentence that makes me stop and think for a moment about my own life.
Kiese Laymon’s gorgeous memoir Heavy was full of those moments, but one in particular related to my reading life.
“Re-reading is the reader version of revision,” he said, talking about re-reading James Baldwin over and over, learning more with each reading, finding answers to questions he didn’t know to ask before.
This makes sense to me because I’m a writer and I know the magic happens when I edit. Getting the words down on the page is easy, but I’m not really writing until I’m editing. It’s the editing that makes all the difference.
So to have re-reading books, which I rarely do, compared to editing struck me. I know I miss all kinds of things on a first draft that I later have to correct through the editing process, so Laymon’s quote made me think I’m missing things by only reading some books once.
I know the books I read in high school had to be lost on me. I read The Handmaid’s Tale before I really understood what feminism was. I read The Great Gatsby before learning about privilege and male entitlement. I read Heart of Darkness before understanding colonialism and imperialism and how they’re damaging to the existing populations in the area. I read Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead before knowing much about Shakespeare.
I want to believe that if I re-read any of these books, especially 10+ years later, that I’d get more out of them than I did in high school––which wasn’t much. So those are going at the top of my To Be Re-read list.
I’m curious. Do you re-read books normally? Are you feeling inspired to now? What’s a book that was lost on you the first time you read it? Tell me in the comments!