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The Book as Sweat Pants

November 22, 2011

I am an avid reader, usually of several books at once. Although I have favorite books that I periodically re-read, this year some of those books are getting heavy use. Maybe I should also say that I don’t own sweatpants, but I have been stealing Mr. B’s a lot, usually to snuggle up with these books.

The book that is the most read this year has been Donna Tartt’s The Secret History (FYI – the link contains spoilers). I finally bought myself a copy yesterday, since I’ve checked it out twice from the library this year. Mr. B asked what was good about this book, and the truth was I couldn’t tell him. It isn’t a happy book, but it is beautiful. The characters aren’t good people, but I’m as fascinated with them and their life as the narrator. It is long, which I always thought was a good thing in a book. Mainly though, I think it is just chance that this is the book I keep reading this year. It is always at the library. I want to read but am too tired to read most nights. Rereading the same book is like putting on a really comfortable pair of sweats – you get something out of it, but mostly it is just really comforting to walk around in the same world, reading the same sentences.

I’d like to know, readers, what books do you go back to again and again?

“The Greeks were different. They had a passion for order and symmetry, much like the Romans, but they knew how foolish it was to deny the unseen world, the old gods. Emotion, darkness, barbarism. . .Do you remember what we were speaking of earlier, how bloody, terrible things are sometimes the most beautiful? It is a very Greek idea, and a very profound one. Beauty is terror. Whatever we call beautiful, we quiver before it. And what could be more terrifying and beautiful, to souls like the Greeks or our own, that to lose control completely? To throw off the chains of being for an instant, to shatter the accident of our mortal souls? Euripides speaks of the Maenads: heads thrown back, throats to the stars, ‘more like deer than human beings.’ To be absolutely free! One is quite capable, of course, of working out these destructive passions in more vulgar and less efficient ways. But how glorious to to release them in a single burst! To sing, so scream, to dance barefoot in the woods in the dead of night, with no more awareness of mortality than an animal! These are powerful mysteries. The bellowing of bulls. Springs of honey bubbling from the ground. If we are strong enough in our souls we can rip back the veil and look that naked, terrible beauty right in the face; let God consume us, devour us, unstring our bones. Then spit us out reborn.”

— Donna Tartt, The Secret History


One Comment leave one →
  1. sue permalink
    November 22, 2011 12:20 pm

    i’m not much of a re-reader of books. in fact, considering i’ve worked in bookstores for YEARS, i’m not much of a reader at all any more unless they involve knitting or information i might need on how to fix something (which i’m unlikely to follow anyway). that being said, i started the book you mentioned when it first came out but never finished it. maybe i’ll have to give her a second chance. if i was going to read something again it would have to be “broken for you,” “into the forest,” “catcher in the rye” and the “handmaid’s tale” just to see if i still loved them.

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