I am not, by nature, a re-reader. Willow is, and many of my friends are. They are the sort of people who, when they have some free time, will pick up an old comfy favorite, and dig right in, sometimes cover-to-cover, sometimes just the good bits.
This is not the way I read. Partially because I read slowly, and partially because reading for pleasure for me can be so engrossing that I kind of shirk my other reading responsibilities, and partially because I'd rather just read something on my already towering to-be-read pile.
Unfortunately, this predilection away from re-reading is not particularly good for teaching, where not re-reading tends to leave you looking like a bit of a fool in front of the classroom, when you don't remember an incidental, but useful detail. For me, now in year five of my TT position, this really is starting to be an issue, because I'm re-teaching enough texts that I am having to go back for fourth and fifth readings--I know them well enough for this to be a little bit of drudgery, but not well enough to go without doing it.
I know, no one really enjoys re-reading for class: it's work, and it has a tendency to turn the thing we love into labor. But I think my particular problem with it also goes back to why I'm not a re-reader (two of those reasons, at least).
This week, I got a desk copy of Pale Fire in my box. I'm teaching it in a summer narrative theory course. I haven't read it yet, though I knew enough about it to know that it was going to be a good fit. And I've learned that if I want to keep up anything like a diet of new texts, I have to add them to my syllabi. Rarely do I teach a class in which I'm not reading something along with my students. So I've got Pale Fire on my pile.
That, and I took the kids to the bookstore today, to kill a little time on a frigid day where snowplay was impossible. They browsed the kids section, while I went off to look for something particular. I didn't find that text, but while poking around the fiction section, I ran across Orhan Pamuk's My Name is Red, something I've been salivating over for some time. Since I read Rushdie's The Enchantress of Florence this past winter break, I thought that since the Pamuk book covered some of the same historical and geographical territory, that now was a good time to grab it. (also...It was a lovely book that I already wanted and my will power was eroded by begging for Littlest Pet Shop sticker books). So I picked it up, and brought it home.
I walked in, and laid it on the table by the door, on top of Pale Fire and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, which I'm teaching this week (Also, Spanish Tragedy and Hamlet--in a different class--and Shelley and Keats). In terms of urgency, then, My Name is Red automatically goes to the bottom of the pile. This makes me actually resent R&G, which would seem preposterous, except that I've already read it twice and seen it once in the last 15 months, and should look over it again tonight, instead of tucking into bed with a new marvelous beautiful novel that I really just want to read. For the first time.