Wednesday, September 3, 2014
The extraordinary thing about re-reading a much-loved novel is realizing how brand new the novel can feel, even the fourth time around. For here I am this morning, turning the early pages of Marilynne Robinson's exquisite story, and thinking: How could I have forgotten this? Or this? And this? Yes, I remember the train and the lake, Sylvie and her flowers, the laundry being hung on the line. But I did not remember how swiftly and gracefully Nelson moves through genealogy and across landscape. There's that impeccable first line, "My name is Ruth." Then an indication of grandmother, sisters-in-law, a daughter, and Edmund Foster—all in seven lines. Then a sudden shift to place and to Edmund Foster's childhood home, described in great detail, "no more a human stronghold than a grave."
All this, and we haven't turned a page.
It's almost as if the novel has broken into tangents before it has even begun, and this (among so much) is what I didn't think about before (or maybe I forgot thinking about it before so that I read it as brand new)—how Housekeeping declares itself by means of a branching interiority right from the start.
Do I see that now because of something Alyson said in a note to me, or would I have seen it anyway, and is it because of the number of books that I have read between my third read of Housekeeping years ago and now, or because of my age, or because I am looking for something new in the stories I read?
I don't know, but I do wonder this: What if I decided to re-read my favorite two dozen books? What would I learn—about stories and about me?
What if we did?
A project to ponder, as September unfolds.