Ennui & Old Friends

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It is rare that I re-read a book. I used to do it frequently, in my childhood and early teens {Heidi, Harriet The Spy, Rebecca, and Dracula were among those beloved favorites} but nowadays I almost feel it’s a waste of time. I’m a little ashamed to admit feeling like that, because there are so many special stories worth spending time with, again and again, but…as I get older I feel there is less and less time to read all of the things I want to read, and so the cherished tales often stay tucked away on the shelf.

Last night I was experiencing a bit of a funk; I’m almost tempted to use the word “bored” (except I hate that word and I try to never feel that way*) so let’s say, instead, that I’m in the grips of a vague ennui. I blame the relentless summer heat and the fact that we had just had a small sun shower. It’s like, why even bother to rain? Rain and sunshine don’t belong in the same space together. If the skies aren’t dark and the clouds aren’t ponderous and you don’t feel either a little bit scared or sad when it’s happening, then the rain is doing a crappy job. Also: fuck rainbows.

When I get like this, I don’t want to read anything, look at anything, do anything. And it occurred to me that in the grips of a bit of ennui is the perfect time to re-acquaint myself with a book I’d read many years ago. Summer vacation of my 11th year, as a matter of fact. And I’d never been so scared in my life…

About fifty or one hundred pages into Cujo, I’m realizing how differently it is affecting me than it did thirty years ago. The closet-spectre of Frank Dodd is still scary as hell, but the tragic horror of Cujo himself…I mean…it’s just…he was such a good dog! This is so damn sad now. Why did I think I wanted to re-read a story about a poor, rapid pupper?

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I think when I finish this up I’ll re-visit Dracula and Rebecca and Harriet the Spy (and Heidi, if anyone wants to give me with old beat up copy! I lost mine ages ago.) I wonder if they’ll still thrill and amuse and inspire and impact me the same way? What will have changed for me, or in me, that affects my perception of the characters and the story? What details will I notice that escaped me before? What will it recall for me that has since been forgotten? I wonder.

What are your beloved favorites that you return to time and time again, for comfort, or in times of boredom? Are there some that no longer affect you the same way, or perhaps affect you on an entirely different level, now that you are an adult?

*And on the subject of boredom… are we even allowed to be bored? Louis CK says that we are not (at least I think that was him.) But maybe it is good to experience a little bit of boredom every now and then. I mean is it healthy to always be busy, busy, go – go – go? Maybe it is good to say fuck it! Everything is stupid! I don’t want to do any of the shit in this moment right now! It’s dumb and pointless and BORING! What do you think?

9 Comments on Ennui & Old Friends

  1. Anton
    July 13, 2017 at 4:29 pm (3 months ago)

    I had that EXACT same edition of Dracula/Frankenstein!!! Aaaa, it’s so good to see it again. I remember because it was the very first *adult* book I read all the way through on my own. I was young a lot of it sailed right over my eight year old head but I doggedly read my way through that over the course of several months.

    I find myself re-reading Guy Gavriel Kay’s Fionavar books when I’m feeling sad. They were something I read young and loved, the first introduction to a lot of fantasy tropes. I still have such strong feelings about them even now. It always feels new, each time.

    My go to comfort reading quite often is Edith Wharton and Fay Weldon. Something always strikes me in their sharply incisive portraits of women constrained in their social circumstances.

    Reply
    • S. Elizabeth
      July 13, 2017 at 4:45 pm (3 months ago)

      Isn’t that a gorgeous book? I feel awful…I have never read Frankenstein (from this copy)! I read a manky old paperback that I stole from a roommate when I spent the summer before highschool in the dorms of our local aeronautical university as part of some sort of college head start program…and you know, I actually enjoyed it…but I just can’t bring myself to read it from this copy. I mean, if I’m reading the Frankenstein half, I’m not reading the Dracula half–and Dracula will always win out!

      I don’t think I have ever read any Guy Gavriel Kay, although I am certain I picked up at least one book from a series of his from a used bookstore when I was younger. I thought the cover was really pretty…but I ended up trading it in for credit, never having read it. Also, are you familiar with any of Edith Wharton’s ghost stories? This is a good one: http://www.online-literature.com/wharton/2920/

      Reply
      • Anton
        July 21, 2017 at 9:15 pm (2 months ago)

        I love Wharton’s ghost stories. They are so melancholy.

        Reply
  2. A. Birdland
    July 13, 2017 at 4:33 pm (3 months ago)

    These are the ones I always reread:

    A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
    Rebecca
    I Capture the Castle
    The Makioka Sisters
    Lord of the Rings
    The Little House books
    A Wrinkle in Time

    Reply
    • S. Elizabeth
      July 13, 2017 at 4:38 pm (3 months ago)

      Oh, The Makioka Sisters–I don’t think I’ve ever read that! And A Wrinkle In Time, how could I forget that one! I actually re-read that a few years ago, maybe back in 2011? I had just moved back to FL and was living with my sister while I was looking for a place of my own. I remember having an evening alone in their house and finding it on their shelf and curling up with it. It did not disappoint, although I think I found myself getting more annoyed with Charles than I recall previously!

      Reply
    • S. Elizabeth
      July 13, 2017 at 4:51 pm (3 months ago)

      Also! I have *never* read A Tree Grows In Brooklyn. Is it too late?

      Reply
      • A. Birdland
        July 14, 2017 at 6:03 am (2 months ago)

        Nope, ddefinitely not too late! You will identify with different characters depending on the age you are.

        Reply
  3. Catherine
    July 14, 2017 at 12:35 pm (2 months ago)

    I tend to re-read books in my in-between-books funk, that bit of reading when you’re done with one book and can’t figure out or stay with something.
    My current favourite reread is The Midnight Mayor by Kate Griffin (urban fantasy) or The Crimson Petal and the White by Michael Faber or Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. I also tend to read The Historian every October.
    Even with most of them being large novels, I’ve read them so often and know them so well, I don’t mind stopping mid-story to start something new.

    Reply
  4. A
    July 15, 2017 at 11:04 am (2 months ago)

    In dialectical behavior therapy, we teach that feeling bored can be a sign that you’re watching what’s happening rather than mindfully participating in it! I find that when I’m bored it’s usually because I’m internally complaining all the things I’d RATHER be doing, and not appreciating the things happening around me in the moment <3

    Reply

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