Thursday, March 25, 2010

Revisiting a Favorite

If I didn't teach literature, I'm not sure how many books I'd read a second time--not that there aren't several I would love to revisit, but there are just so many out there still untouched. My re-reading experience, though, reminds me how much is to be gained by reading a book--or a poem or a story--for a second time or more. Sometimes even though the book hasn't changed, I have. Even when I've read a book recently, I make so many new discoveries the second time through.

This week my students in English 111 were to have read the first nine chapters of Ron Rash's latest novel Serena. I first read the book back before it went on the market, and I loved it. I had read Rash's three earlier novels, One Foot in Eden, Saints at the River, and The World Made Straight, as well as some of his poetry and short stories. Having taught Macbeth to high school seniors for many years, I particularly enjoyed the allusions and parallels.

Assigning a novel to a composition class is a tough sell, but all of our first year English classes are incorporating the novel this semester in preparation for Rash's appearance at our Writers Symposium April 22-23 on campus. Some grumbled a little, but as they've started to read, I've enjoyed hearing the chatter. Most gratifying of all, I get questions such as "Can I read on past the first nine chapters?" I overhear students saying, "Our cable went out, so I started reading it and then I couldn't quit." They hate Serena, the title character. I reassure them they are supposed to hate her. She's evil. She makes Lady Macbeth look like a Girl Scout.

When I recommend books to individuals, I can tailor my selections to fit the reader, but when I am helping to choose something for dozens, even hundreds of people of all ages, genders, and backgrounds, I want to get it right. Since my overriding goal is to inspire a love of reading for pleasure, I want to do everything I can to make the literary experience a good one. In fact, my goal is for them to be ready for the next suggestion. I feel as if I'm participating in one big book club. I know, too, that having Ron Rash on campus to speak to them will be such a bonus. I can't wait to see what we pick for next semester.

1 comment:

Marie said...

I don't reread as often as I should; it is such a rewarding experience, as you say. :-) You always see so much more into the author's craft and structure and it takes the book to a whole new level.