But as for reading how curious it is: all these books, their lore of the ages, waiting to be embraced but usually slipping out of one’s nerveless hands on to the floor. When one reads properly it is as if a third person is present.
Life is not like the dim ironic stories I like to read, it is like a daytime serial on television. The banality will make you weep as much as anything else.
We teach females that in relationships, compromise is what women do. We raise girls to see each other as competitors, not for jobs or for accomplishments— which I think can be a good thing— but for the attention of men. We teach girls that they cannot be sexual beings in the way that boys are. If we have sons, we don’t mind knowing about our sons’ girlfriends, but our daughters boyfriends? ‘God forbid!’ But of course when the time is right, we expect those girls to bring back the perfect man to be their husband. We police girls, we praise girls for virginity, but we don’t praise boys for virginity. And it’s always made me wonder how exactly this is supposed to work out because [laughs] the loss of virginity is usually a process that involves [laughs]….
We teach girls shame. ‘Close your legs!’ ‘Cover yourself!’ We make them feel as though by being born female, they are already guilty of something. And so, girls grow up to be women who cannot say they have desire. They grow up to be women who silence themselves. They grow up to be women who cannot say what they truly think. And they grow up—and this is the worst thing we do to girls—they grow up to be women who have turned pretense into an art form.
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.