Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Cowen on Gladwell on Rereading

Tyler Cowen is impressed by Malcolm Gladwell's assertion that "rereading is much underrated." I agree with every word of that except "underrated"--I'm not at all sure it is underrated, at least not in the circles where Cowen and Gladwell would hope to travel. Or maybe they are just too young. There comes a point when it sinks in on you that you can draw on your experience, your accumulated cultural apparatus. You realize you can plumb new depths of nuance in your old favorites. You also (I am not sure whether Cowen/Gladwell intended this or even know it) --you find the truth in the maxim that every reading is a rereading. You realize (in retrospect!) that your first exposure to (say) Pinocchio was cast against an implicit model, to which the exposure becomes an affirmation, a criticism or a challenge. When those guys finally grow up, they may come to see the truth of Whitehead's maxim that all philosophy is a footnote to Plato.

For an elaboration of the point, with the obligatory Nabokov reference, go here. Whether love is lovelier the second time around--is left as an exercise for the student.

upfdsate: Joel points out that Lady Kaga rereads Pride and Prejudice every year.

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