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On rereading
Patricia Meyer Spacks
Adult Nonfiction Z1003.2 .S63 2011

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From Publishers' Weekly:

In this accessible, sometimes engaging, but often repetitive and predictable "autobiography of thoughts and feelings elicited by novels," Spacks, an emeritus University of Virginia literature professor, revisits an array of formative texts from her childhood, adolescence, and academic career. To investigate rereading's "continuum between stability and change," Spacks first focuses on the unexpected rewards and occasional disappointments of reexamining children's literature from an adult perspective. This establishes a pattern that generally holds for the rest of the book: lively close readings of texts, which may or may not explicitly pertain to rereading, followed by bland reiterations of her conclusions about the value of revisiting texts. The three chapters on rereading novels emblematic of certain eras (the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s) seem little more than extended musings on the fact that culture, family, and friends affect our reading experiences. Spacks's insistent focus on her personal history and experiences, while inherent to her project, is especially wearisome here. A later chapter on "professional rereading." which deals with the work of literary scholarship and larger concerns regarding the canon, proves much stronger. However, the book's often obvious conclusions and absorption with the author's own experiences leave it unable to overcome the question it poses about Saul Bellow's Herzog: "And why should a reader care?" (Nov.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

From Library Journal:

"Books help to constitute our identity," writes Spacks (Edgar Shannon Professor of English Emerita, Univ. of Virginia; The Female Imagination). After her retirement, she found time to devote to reading books anew that she had read over the course of six decades. She here reexamines her childhood favorites (Alice in Wonderland; Kidnapped), books she loved on first reading (Brighton Rock; Wives and Daughters), and books she disliked (The Pickwick Papers; Herzog). She devotes an entire chapter to reanalyzing Jane Austen novels. In other chapters, she assesses the feasibility of disentangling "personal and social history" when rereading a work after many years. Spacks tests this hypothesis in three chapters in which she reexamines novels published and first read during the 1950s (Catcher in the Rye), 1960s (The Golden Notebook), and 1970s (The Sacred and Profane Love Machine) and discovers that her opinions have changed radically. Spacks questions many of her past literary judgments with candor and harsh self-criticism, emphasizing that rereading explores "new ground" and is never dispassionate. VERDICT An insightful and compelling book that will appeal to all fans of literature and students of literary theory.-Erica Swenson Danowitz, Delaware Cty. Community Coll. Lib., Media, PA (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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