Read a story more than once: A story is not like a note with a message that we take in before we crumple up the paper and throw it away. The "message" of a story is in the way it takes shape, the way it creates its own reality. The stories in this book offer rewards for the reader who lingers over them, who goes back to them for a closer look.I clapped the cover shut, struck by the obvious insight: We don't re-read books. I mean, the populace at large rarely ever returns to the first page. On eBay, you can find an entire category of used reading material designated at "Read Once Gently." Only recently have I myself started going back a second and a third and a fourth time, stocking The Middle Shelf with favorites that can stand up to such scrutiny. And stand up they have. Friends and family may wonder why I'm "reading that again," but the editors of my textbook understood. Oft-read titles reward you.
How? Well, not through novelty. Surprise is the first thing to go out the window. But as time goes on and you have another go at a particular volume, you start to notice something interesting: You're able to see the seams. You can perceive foreshadowing, pinpoint symbol and metaphor, grasp nuance of language. You begin to think like the author does, and once-obscure passages start coming clear. Not only is it an invaluable experience for a writer, it's a darn lot of fun for readers. Wordsworth might have bellowed "quit your books" and charged that "we murder to dissect." But I've spent many a joy-charged evening with my nose in a worn paperback, searching for the seams.
(Picture: CC 2008 by Greencolander)