Nothing Remains the Same (W. Lesser)

Lesser, W. (2003). Nothing remains the same: Reading and remembering. New York: Mariner.

Clearly this is a book for lovers of books — those of us who feel nostalgic and sentimental about time we’ve spent with books.

Lesser is one of these people, but unusual in that she has not seen any real decrease in the amount of reading in her life (unlike many of us). She has made it her career, and now edits her own literary magazine. In this book, she submits herself to re-readings of important books from her past, examining the difference between the two readings on whichever level is activated in each case. She recognizes that reading a book as an adolescent or as a young woman will necessarily be different from coming to it as a middle-aged woman. Similarly, she realizes that the body of work that she has read after the given text will affect her re-reading. Yet she finds surprise after surprise: books that have no effect upon re-reading despite having elicited intense reactions in the past, books from her adolescence that seem to outline her future worldview and life path in an almost uncanny way (although she could barely remember these aspects of the book before re-reading), and the transition from loving to admiring a book.

Above all, this book reminded me how intensely satisfying it is to read someone’s personal and passionate telling of a subject. Reading Lesser’s chapter on Don Quixote (which I have not read and never realized how massive it was), I was shocked at how enraptured I became. I had felt this before, reading Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch, which I had bought for my sports-mad brother, and been baffled at how I could have been sucked into a book about soccer!

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2 responses to “Nothing Remains the Same (W. Lesser)

  1. Pingback: Reading in trains and buses « On the hunt for seductive details

  2. I suppose that this tells us that the effect of reading on young people is mysterious and it may be ultimately difficult to prove that certain types of reading produce better adult readers, or better adults.

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