San Francisco, California

The case for rereading

I want to quote this whole piece by Mandy Brown about rereading books but to avoid plagiarism I will only mention this graf:

Reread a book enough times, or often enough—keep it at hand so you can flip to dog-eared pages and marked up passages here and there—and it will eventually root itself in your mind. It becomes both a reference point and a connector, a means of gathering your knowledge and experience, drawing it all together. It becomes the material through which you engage with the world.

Well, okay, I lied—because I also want to point to this section where I began hollering aloud in my empty apartment:

Rereading packs your brain with thoughts to think with. It also makes other thoughts—like those that might flit by you in the form of various newsfeeds—less likely to be thought with. It gives you something to hold on to, something to draw back to, when everything else is in flux.

Mandy then lists some of the books that all her thoughts orbit around, those foundational thoughts-to-think. In my case that would most certainly be Ellen Ullman’s description of work in Close to the Machine, Harkaway’s story of the Greek financier in Gnomon and the success of many days in Tigerman, along with the ghost from Ali Smith’s How to Be Both. Smush all that into the The Humane Interface by Jef Raskin, James Baldwin’s defiance and protest in The Fire Next Time along with Italo Calvino’s description of the inferno in Invisible Cities and you have an almost fully formed and replicatable Robin Rendle.

But I think there is a Solar Thought here—thoughts that resolve around a central capital T thought, that one Thing of Things, the Thought of Thoughts that you can’t ever let go. Sometimes there’s a singular, unremovable pillar buried inside that our whole personality has formed around. It’s this thought that you see every place and every book and every person by. And, for me at least, that’s PG Wodehouse; his vision of humor and England and how silliness ought to be embedded within every sentence is just pure magic.

I dearly wish more people read Wodehouse. If you’ve never read his work before then I apologize in advance because it will feel like getting struck by lightning. Wait!—you will most undoubtedly cry—writing can work like this? Writing can hop and dance and skip all over the place? Why does anyone write in any other way? Why did no-one tell me about this silly chap?

Every Wodehouse story is an excuse to tell the same story, with the same jokes in the same spot, simply rearranged. But that’s quickly forgiven because each and every sentence is like this:

I could see that, if not actually disgruntled, he was far from being gruntled.

You can write like this. I can write like this. And that’s why Wodehouse’s writing is the Thought of Thoughts, the Thing of Things for me.