American Scholar Editor Shares Most Popular Feature from Her Literary Experience with the Journal
Let's be right upfront: Anne Fadiman's Rereadings (Farrar Straus Giroux) is neither for every reader nor for every writer. It is a beautiful little volume meant for those who didn't hate their English Lit class or those who wonder if they would enjoy that class more if they revisited it now with greater understanding, more good (emphasis on the good) reading under their belts.
Fadiman selected from the journal she edits, the American Scholar, seventeen essays from writers who had been asked to write about their relationships with books, books they had read before they were twenty-five and then reread it at any age after that. How had the author changed? How had the book changed them... in the first reading, the second, or more? How did the book seem different? In the foreword, Fadiman says their essays "revealed at least as much about the readers as about the books." Therefore she feels comfortable assuring readers that these essays aren't "conventional literary criticism" and that is comforting for those who just prefer a good story, forget the background stuff and the whys and wherefores.
Still, as a collection, this book will work for best for readers (and writers) who love to read everything. from the backs of milk cartons to novels to, yes, field guides, for it covers the scope of reading and makes us glad that we can.
Writers - serious writers who want to improve their craft or are looking for inspiration - will adore this book. It is a chapter-a-night kind of reading that will provide them with memories, encourage them to read some books (and some kinds of books) they may have missed. It is full of nostalgia and camaraderie; friendships with books, of course, but also with fellow authors. Each and every essay made me want to answer the writer, weigh in on what he or she had to say, share a memory.
In fact, readers of this review may want to read one such impulse I followed up on in this month's Back to Literature column at MyShelf.com. It will only be available for the month of December, for it must make way for January's Noble (Not Nobel) Prize column, but MyShelf archives its columns so it should be available for the curious to see long after that.