The Fine Pleasure of Rereading Books

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I've never been one to rewatch old movies. I know how it ends, I know where the major plot twists lie, and I know how the relationships pan out. With a few rare exceptions, rewatching a movie I saw several years ago usually just bores me. I have, almost implicitly, taken the same approach with books. If I have read the book, know the major points, the plot, and the moral of the story, I usually will read something else on my long list of books-to-read before I will revisit something I've already checked off. "My time is valuable and I'm not a terribly quick reader, so why should I reread something I've already read when there are 3 other books I want to read whose content I don't know?" is the internal monologue I give myself when considering revisiting an old book.

Today, I picked up a book I hadn't read a second time since my first reading when I was 15. Specifically, I started reading The Fountainhead again. Rand's work on the architect Howard Roark was the second of her works I had read, after Anthem (which is underrated among her followers and admirers) and before Atlas Shrugged (which is underrated among her detractors). Though I have only finished the first chapter, I am already noticing that I appreciate the book more than when I originally read it.

Being more familiar with Rand and her philosophy, and knowing that The Fountainhead is much more an explication of her moral and individualistic philosophy than specifically her political philosophy (something that I believe was lost on me years ago), I am picking up on the subtleties of the characters and their mannerisms much more, giving the reading more depth, and making it more enjoyable.

Even if Rand's characters can be a bit two-dimensional, knowing what Rand is using them to embody -- the values and mindsets of her villains and her heroes -- and how certain mannerisms and personality quirks translate into these values and mindsets makes each scene all the more interesting.

And this is something that is only really noticed on the second read-through of a book like The Fountainhead, where so much of the text is devoted to communicating values and the characters are representative of something more than just a person. The tired trope that says it isn't the destination that matters, but the journey, is actually true in the case here -- I know how the book is going to end. I know that it is going to unfold in a certain way. I can predict how the next chapter will go. But because I know these things and have to devote less energy to following the unfolding of the plot, and because I am more aware of the style of the author, I can enjoy that journey more than the first time through.

 

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I'm Zak. School should have taught you how to succeed at work and build a great career. Instead, it taught you that mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell. Thankfully, I teach what school never taught.

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