Tuesday, February 10, 2015


"After a hundred reads, familiarity with the text verges on memorisation – the sensation of the words passing over the eyes like cud through the fourth stomach of a cow. Centireading belongs to the extreme of reader experience, the ultramarathon of the bookish, but it’s not that uncommon. To a certain type of reader, exposure at the right moment to Anne of Green Gables or Pride and Prejudice or Sherlock Holmes or Dune can almost guarantee centireading. Christmas is devoted to reading books we all know perfectly well. The children want to hear the one story they have heard so many times they don’t need to hear it again."

On reading a book 100 times -- a good writer writes about reading Hamlet and Wodehouse,

Centireading Force:why reading a book 100 times is a great idea

As a Navy kid who attended 10 schools, I found reading and re-reading and re-reading certain books formed a groove in my mind of friendly kinship and "place" that eluded me in my constantly-changing school social circles. These books helped me translate my experiences from the vantage point of a wanderer in good company.
I saw myself as the adventuring outsider, watching mountains and plains and woods and cities roll by the car window on 80 or 95 or the Cross-Bronx Expressway. Though a skinny American girl living in the 1970s and 80s, I felt I related directly with the Pevensies and the Ingalls of Narnia, Cambridge, and the woods and prairies of 19th century America -- not the Middletons of Charleston or the Donovans of Maine or the Smiths of Virginia. I can quote the Narnia books and the Little House books like I can quote the Bible, yea, in time of need.
Later, as an adult living in Shanghai, when the strangeness of that glittering and odd city felt heavy and chemical, and like walking in a backwards world upside down, I turned frequently to Wodehouse to recall something warmly organic, a comfortable friendship, the mollifying lightness of old jokes shared again. And also therein recalled a world that presumes we are all, occidental and oriental, at least a little bit nuts.

In this except from the article, the author reflects on Jeeves and Hamlet (and why not?) as an expat Canadian boy in England: 
"Every Sunday, my family would load ourselves into a car – my father, my mother, my kid brother and I – and drive out more or less randomly to see what England had to offer. In western Canada where I grew up, it had been perfectly standard to cross three or four hours of prairie to visit a relative for lunch. From Cambridge, an hour in any direction would land us in a church from the reign of Queen Anne, unspeakably ancient to our new world eyes, or some grand estate, the luxury of the residence always offset by the cheapness of its gift shops, always reeking of scones and plastic guidebooks, or the ruin of some abbey, the stuff of mossy legends. During these trips, in the tiny English car, we would listen to cassettes of The Inimitable Jeeves, read by Jonathan Cecil.
The psychology of my love for The Inimitable Jeeves isn’t exactly hard to understand. As we rolled through that strange country, laughing at the English with the English, the family was both inside and outside. My associations with The Inimitable Jeeves are as powerful as they could possibly be, a fused sense of family unity and childhood adventure. The book is so much more than just a happy childhood memory. In such ways, books pick us, rather than the other way around.

The main effect of reading Hamlet a 100 times was, counter-intuitively, that it lost its sense of cliche. 'To be or not to be' is the Stairway to Heaven of theatre; it settles over the crowd like a slightly funky blanket knitted by a favorite aunt. Eventually, if you read Hamlet often enough, every soliloquy takes on that same familiarity. And so 'To be or not to be' resumes its natural place in the play, as just another speech. Which renders its power and its beauty of a piece with the rest of the work."

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