Leaving the Garden
I read The Secret Garden to Rilla recently. She loved it beyond reckoning, same as I did at her age—same as I do now. During fraught passages, she couldn’t keep still: had to roll around on the bed, wave her legs in the air, hug herself, squeal, stand up and jump. All that emotion had to manifest in movement. It was fascinating to witness the way the book literally moved her. It brought a whole new dimension to my understanding of that expression.
Often, after I’ve read a book aloud to my kids, they take it away and immediately reread it. I thought Rilla might want to do that with Secret Garden but she looked almost shocked by the suggestion.
“No!” she exclaimed. “After you read me a book, I kinda treat it as an artifact too fragile to be touched.”
Well. I’m going to have to think about that. She probably won’t feel that way forever, and I imagine there will come a day when she does curl up with this tome for a delicious, private reread. Maybe around age ten or eleven—she’s only eight, after all. It’s interesting to contemplate, though. Was the experience of this book so fully engaging, such a complete kinesthetic, aural, visual, imaginative absorption that it feels enough? Have you ever experienced a book that way—a first encounter so complete that you never wanted to go back again?
I remember feeling that way when i was eight, and yes, specifically with both The Secret Garden and A Little Princess. The intensity of the emotional content maybe … I love what Rilla said, being able to recall it so vividly myself. A book so good so beautiful so true so rich you simply cannot partake of it again. The rabid rereads come more in the teen years? Do you think? On the bridge from girlhood to young woman: we read over and over and over again, mapping our maturing selves either onto or away from what we learn from Laura, Anne, Emily, Jo, Vicki Austin, Meg Murry, Maria Merryweather. Ok, this is obviously getting very gendered, but for me, what i took away from Frodo and Sam, just for example, was different and not because they were hobbits and i a human girl, but because they were male. But i reread those just as often as Wilder, L’Engle, Alcott, Montgomery, Goudge etc etc from age ten onwards ….
As an adult, it isn’t so much the fiction that ensnares me that way: it’s the nonfiction, maybe scholarly sociocultural books, maybe memoirs. Some, many, are just too rich to return to.
On June 30, 2014 at 10:15 am
Karen Edmisten says:
Oh, my gosh, I so dearly love what she said and the way that she said it. Hugs to you, Rilla!
On June 30, 2014 at 11:02 am
That is utterly beautiful.
On June 30, 2014 at 11:20 am
Fanny Harville says:
So much of what I do as a lit. professor is reread favorite books, so that feeling you and Rilla describe is especially precious to me because I can’t always indulge it. I do love rereading, of course, but I also really cherish books that I won’t have to ever teach or write about or read a second time or talk about with anyone at all! Tillie Olsen’s story collection “Tell Me A Riddle” is one of those for me.
On June 30, 2014 at 11:59 am
Yes, I had this experience recently with Alan Garner’s Boneland – a much awaited, much longed for book that I was delighted to receive for Christmas and I read that day, golloped up in a astonished, delighted chunks. It was even better than I had imagined.
Now I’m slightly scared to re read it, afraid that part of the joy was it being Christmas day, and not expecting to get it, and being able to inhale it almost in one (it was two sittings because of dinner)
On June 30, 2014 at 1:13 pm
Melissa Wiley says:
I’m loving your stories. I’m a chronic rereader, always have been, and am possibly becoming EVEN MORE SO by the year. Hundreds of new books lining my walls, piled on my Kindle, more coming all the time, and I *want* to read them, I do! Right after I read Persuasion one more time first. On Twitter the other day I saw a photo of trees near a lake and was instantly overcome with longing to reread The Blue Castle for the, I don’t know, seventeenth time at least. I know there’s a book I read in the past year or two that I thought was brilliant and devastating and I knew I’d never want to read it again, but I can’t think what it was. It’s a rarity, for certain. Right now I feel like I could spend the next year on Forster alone.
On June 30, 2014 at 5:51 pm
Was it The Signature of All Things?
On July 1, 2014 at 6:36 am
Melanie B says:
For me Room might be one I never go back and re-read. Or at least it will have to be a long time. Too raw and too wringing. I used to be much more of a re-reader. Now I have this feeling of the briefness of time and the vastness of books I want to read. For me right now the pleasures of re-reading are in reading books I love to the kids. I look forward to sharing more and more with them as they get older and that’s how I deal with my need to re-read, postponing it until that golden day when I can say, “Hey, check this out.”
Rilla’s reaction and Bella’s are similarly physical. Since Bella is not an independent reader yet, it’s harder to know how she’ll feel about the inviolability of books I read to her. Except that when I introduced her to the Chronicles of Narnia on audio, she listened to them obsessively. She wanted to go back again and again to that world that I’d introduced her to.
On July 1, 2014 at 8:31 pm
I wish I’d had that kind of wisdom and restraint as a younger reader. It’s only now that I’ve entered my thirties that I’ve learned to savor certain books, to let them linger in my memory instead of re-reading them to the point of dullness.
Re-reads have always been, and still are, my favorite – but there are some books that I wish I’d let simmer in my soul more (CS Lewis’ Till We Have Faces is the first that comes to mind – read it first as a pre-teen, and then many times over after that, and now I haven’t read it in ten years because I want to have the joy of rediscovering it).
On July 2, 2014 at 5:03 pm