Happy Friday! This week, it’s Stephen Kozeniewski (author of BRAINEATER JONES and HUNTER OF THE DEAD) on the blog, chatting a bit about re-reading books.
There’s a lot of pearl-clutching these days about what kids won’t get to do that their parents got to do because, you know, every generation has to live identically to the generation before it or else society just, like, completely fucking breaks down. Just like, you know, the Greatest Generation didn’t live the way their parents did and then the universe imploded in the ‘40s. I don’t want this to be one of those posts, because those posts are universally stupid and no, I am not being hyperbolic, they are, to a one, completely and utterly moronic.
So this is more of an elegiac post than a condemnatory one. But I do wonder if kids in the future will ever know what it’s like to have a battered, dog-eared copy of a book that they’ve read cover-to-cover a hundred times. I mean, maybe they will. I don’t know. I don’t know what the future holds. (Except that the next generation will condemn the one after that.)
But I was thinking about it the other day, and I can’t remember the last time I’ve re-read a book. I mean, with the internet, there’s so much new content blasting my eyeholes every day I can’t even keep up with one tenth of one tenth of a percent of the stuff I’d actually like to keep abreast of, let alone have a broad knowledge base of the world. I have to settle for reading a paragraph-long review of a video game I might like to play and hoping I get the gist because I just don’t have 80 hours to devote to playing it, but I want to be knowledgeable about games. And hell, if I do play a game, then that’s like, six seasons of TV I didn’t blast through on Netflix.
It didn’t used to be this way. I had magazines – magazines, for God’s sake – that I used to read through so many times that I can still picture the photographs in my mind. Single issues of “Boy’s Life” and “Nintendo Power” that were just, like, all I had. So every rainy Sunday or boring weekday afternoon I’d re-read them. I read every “Warhammer” rulebook I owned more times than I ever played the game.
And then there was THE HITCH-HIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY. I’d be lying if I said I haven’t read that entire series dozens, possibly hundreds of times. In the tire swing. In the treehouse. At school between (and sometimes during) classes. One night when the power went out and all we had were flashlights. One night when my father wasn’t working for some reason and we all went out and got McDonald’s. At my egg donor’s job on more than one occasion when I had to come in with her.
I mean, right now the thought of re-reading something is just so laughably out of the realm of possibility for me. As I write this, I’m looking at four fat stacks of physical books that I own and ought to have read years ago. That’s not even counting all the favors I owe in the form of books I should be reading that I just plain haven’t bought yet. Or all the sorts of hints and dodges that I give people that sort of suggest I’ve maybe read their work while desperately hoping they never point blank ask.
Ingesting a book, grokking it, letting it become a part of you, that’s certainly a dead part of my life. I don’t know if it’s the times (man) or just my age, or just me personally. But I do wonder about kids. I don’t know if they’ll have a HITCH-HIKER’S GUIDE (or whatever) the way I did. Maybe all kids do. Maybe they ingest books a hundred thousand times because that’s what you do when you’re a kid. I don’t know if I even want them to. Maybe it’s better not to do that, and to spend that time wisely broadening your horizons. I mean, I didn’t. Then again, I’m a frood who really knows where my towel is, so, you know, I guess it’s kind of a trade-off.