The entire idea of rereading implies just such a likeable and progressive assumption about life, one that’s meant to keep us interested in living it: namely, that as you get further along, you find out more valuable stuff; familiarity doesn’t always give way to dreary staleness, but often in fact to celestial understandings; that life and literature both are layered affairs you can work down through.
Rereading a treasured and well-used book is a very different enterprise from reading a book the first time. It’s not that you don’t enter the same river twice. You actually do. It’s just not the same you who does the entering. By the time you get to the second go-round, you probably know—and know more about—what you don’t know, and are possibly more comfortable with that, at least in theory. And you come to a book the second or third time with a different hunger, a more settled sense about how far off the previously-mentioned great horizon really is for you, and what you do and don’t have time for, and what you might reasonably hope to gain from a later look.
A Girl Reading (c.1842). William Etty (English, 1787‑1849). Oil on millboard. York Museums Trust.
Etty painted very unequally. His work at its best possesses great charm of colour, especially in the glowing, but thoroughly realistic, flesh tints. The composition is good, but his drawing is sometimes faulty, and his work usually lacks life and originality. He often endeavoured to inculcate moral lessons by his pictures.
"I wanted to change the world. But I have found that the only thing one can be sure of changing is oneself." - Huxley
Pretty medieval manuscript of the day is a tiny Islamic prayer book from the collections of the University of Edinburgh.
This blog, as you’ll have noticed, focuses almost exclusively on western manuscripts. This reflects my own bias - the little I know about manuscripts is based on studying Christian art at university (some time ago). However there’s a whole world out there, and other manuscript traditions. This book was probably produced in what is modern day Syria or Iran. Lovely, isn’t it?
Because we grew up surrounded by big dramatic story arcs in books and movies, we think our lives are supposed to be filled with huge ups and downs. So people pretend there is drama where there is none.
Every time you enter a library you might say to yourself, “The world is quiet here,” as a sort of pledge proclaiming reading to be the greater good.
My depth of purse is not so great
Nor yet my bibliophilic greed,
That merely buying doth elate:
The books I buy I like to read:
Still e’en when dawdling in a mead,
Beneath a cloudless summer sky,
By bank of Thames, or Tyne, or Tweed,
The books I read — I like to buy.