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04 May 2010

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Since my high school years when I re-read "Gone with the Wind" about every six months, I have not spent much time re-reading books, particularly nonfiction. Last month I read "The Bridge", Remnick's bio of Barack Obama and was quite taken by the opening story of the march at Selma and the final story of Inauguration Day both of which feature now-Congressman John Lewis. I decided that I needed to finish reading Taylor Branch's 3-volume history of the Civil Rights movement having read the first volume a few years ago. However, I found myself drawn back to that first book and now I'm re-reading all 900 pages. "This is crazy," I keep telling myself, "it's 900 pages." But the sections on the Freedom Riders in 1961, the voter registration drive in Mississippi in 1962, and the children's march in Birmingham in 1963 literally bring me to tears and I stand in awe of the courage of those who, after being beatten bloody, would get up the next day and continue their fight for freedom. It's even more profound the second time through. I think it has become one of those books that I will need to re-read whenever I get disccouraged with America and need to know that it's possible for "the people" to make a difference.

Donna,
Can you believe I've never read GWTW? Should I?

And good on you for re-reading the Taylor Branch. I've read bits of those histories but never made it through one whole volume in one sitting. Amazing stories, though, aren't they? What I can never get over is how really not long ago all that stuff was happening. So weird, how long any kind of progress takes (and then there's always backsliding, sadly). I'll say this, I wouldn't mind re-reading Melba Pattillo Beals's "Warriors Don't Cry," which was incredible (she was one of the "Little Rock 9" who first integrated Little Rock's Central High). But there I go again with a predilection for memoir.

The only non-fiction that I re-read (that comes to mind, at least) are some Buddhist books, or other spiritual tomes. When it comes to actual history, I think I would rather read another authors take on the period. I haven't read a lot of good memoirs, none that I think I need to go through again. However I don't remember them being as well-written as the Didion paragraph.

Do cookbooks count as non-fiction? I read those over and over like porn.

Please read GWTW. It's quite good. I read it at the same time as "To Kill a Mockingbird", and I highly recommend both.

I'm not a re-reader at all and this week I had to read Case Histories again for my mystery book group (plug plug wed nites at sequoya library, come join us) I remember liking the book the first go round, but reading it a second time made me not like it as much. I was probably reading it more critically because I knew I'd be discussing it, but I was noticing flaws and finding fault with the writing and the plot layout. Let's hope this is just a one time re-reading incident and I will wonder find comfort in re-reading like others :)

Marmota,
I think I view the Salinger novels as spiritual tomes, which is weird (I'll admit). I have wanted to read and re-read some C.S. Lewis, so I see what you mean about spiritual tomes.

Didion gives me the feeling that every single sentence is there for a reason, and was sweated over, which is another reason I like her.

Sure, cookbooks count. Why not? I like to look at cookbooks (I own an older set of Julia Child's French Cooking books, but don't think I've ever cracked them) but never get around to actually reading them, or god forbid, actually cooking anything out of them.

Okay, add GWTW to the list!

Katharine,
Well, there's something about those thriller/story-driven books that doesn't lend itself as well to re-reading, I don't think. I salute your memory though--mine's so shot that if I re-read "Case Histories" (which I enjoyed) I'd probably just get all caught up in the plot again. Which explains why I can re-read all Agatha Christie books every few years or so.

You don't have to re-read for comfort; I bet you've gotten comfort from some things you've just read the once. If not I would bet you will someday. Something'll resonate and even if you don't call it "comfort reading," I bet it'll be something close to what I feel.

I had a totally different take on GWTW as a 16 year old than when I last re-read it as a 50 year old. Scarlett is less a romantic heroine and more of a bitchy feminist who just takes too long to see that Rhett is the guy for her. Not saying which take is better or worse...just different. But I will say this, GWTW is the single most significant book that made me a Civil War buff and perhaps that was due as much to the movie and the scene in the Atlanta railroad station with the thousands and thousands of dead and dying soldiers. I just had to know more about that.

Donna,
I don't know how close the movie was to the book, but I do remember having a big case of Rhett love and thinking Scarlett was a total moron (was the other guy "Ashley"? Why did she love that guy?). I look forward to seeing how I feel about the book.

And NOTHING has ever succeeded in interesting me in the Civil War (or any American history, really). Maybe that will happen too. I can't wait to see!

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