So there I am, at my desk, working on something or other. The sun is nearly up, so I can tell that it’s about time to get ready for bed. I glance over at my bookshelf for something to read. I have a few academic papers on my laptop I should read. I have a review copy of a book from a publisher I feel obligated to read. And then there is, of course, the stack, which I barely feel compelled to comment on. That guilt-ridden mixed bag of a bargain bin / gifted / literary books that we can just never seem to get through. It’d been kind of a rough weekend, so none of these categories were really going to fit the bill. So I opted for something I rarely opt for: the reread.
That’s right. I grabbed a book I had already read at least once, and decided it was time to read it again. Given the context, this action may seem the height of absurdity. With so much new to consume, how could I possibly go back to something for a second time? This is an attitude I actually sympathize with a great deal. I am haunted by my stack. If I die before getting through books others have given me, then I will have died a failure. I recognize that I may be occupying an extreme end of the reader spectrum, but it’s just who I am and I’ve learned to cope with it. Sort of.
Beyond the weird, philosophical baggage, the reread really is a great idea. Comics cost a good bit of money, and the time spent reading one, especially one enjoyable enough to be worth the reread, is usually disproportionate to the amount spent for the experience. So I always thought of a reading book a twice as essentially getting it for half off, which obviously isn’t literally true, but it does help assuage some of my financial guilt.
There’s also a difference between rereading a single book versus and entire series. There are times where you may legitimately want to start at page 1 of Preacher and not put it down until the final page of volume 10. And then there are times where you just want that snippet, maybe you’ve forgotten the details of a particular arc, or you remember really enjoying one volume somewhere in the middle and you need to remind yourself why.
As a recent example in my own life, I couldn’t really remember how everything went down with the Governor in The Walking Dead. I remembered the bigger events, but not the fine details, and since it was clear that the Governor was about to play a major role in the show, as season 3 had just gotten started, I decided to do a little reread of the Governor arc. It was kind of like watching a movie from your childhood, where things still happen that surprise you but with each surprise there’s also an “Oh yeah, I remember this” moment. At the same time, it wasn’t the most enjoyable reread, because I was just trying to cram the story back into my brain, not savor it the way I probably ought to. It was tempting to keep going and read more past that point, because The Walking Dead is nothing if not extremely compelling as serialized fiction goes, but I resisted. I’d seen what I needed to see, and the guilt to get back to the stack pulled me away from it.
The other interesting thing was I did this reread digitally. I think it was because I started around Thanksgiving break, so I wasn’t with my physical volumes. I think guided panel is necessary to read comic on a screen, but I by no means think it is a very good solution in the long run, but that’s another column. However, just the other night, having been fairly let down by the finale of season 3, I decided I needed to give myself a quick reminder for why I like the concept so much, so I grabbed a volume semi-at-random and wound up with #11 “Fear the Hunters.” I picked it because I remember it being pretty horrific, but again the details were fuzzy, and I also remembered it resolving the primary problem within that one volume, so I wouldn’t get sucked in the reread loop. It worked great, the perfect dose of the characters in non-annoying form, and the story does pretty much wrap up within the one volume. Although some of the things the group does, and justifies doing, as so horrific as to make Negan come across as magnanimous, but the group are our protagonists so I guess we pretty much have to take their side even when they do terrible awful things.
I’ve been thinking about doing a column covered my thoughts on the reread for a while now. My girlfriend had been sick and had asked me to grab her a stack of comics. She ended up barely touching them and just sleeping, but there were a few things in there that I thought might be worth another go so I snagged Kevin Smith’s Green Arrow relaunch. I made it through 1 issue, and even that was a slog. There are a lot of words in a Kevin Smith book. The Phil Hester art was as pretty as I remember, but I just couldn’t hang and had to put the book back. Sometimes you have to know when to retreat from the reread.
Are you a rereader? Do you have a system beyond random selections and guilt? Let’s talk about it in the comments!
Ryan Haupt wishes his immune system crapped out on him more often so he could reread more books, but sadly he is quite healthy. Hear him not be the other person hacking their lungs up on the podcast Science… sort of.