What I’m Re-Reading
An important practice.
All I did as a kid, it seemed, was re-read. There was the public library, of course, but I was most attached to the books I’d gotten my mom to buy me at Borders, and I would pore over them repeatedly. I’d do the same with magazines. Life without scrolling was a life of deep attention to whatever was at hand, and I’m grateful to have grown up then—re-reading, re-listening, re-watching.
Sometimes, of course, it was a cereal box or a shampoo bottle, but often, it was repeated readings of an issue of Vogue picked up at the grocery check-out; teeny-bopper magazines like Twist or YM; and my small personal library, stocked with books chosen willy-nilly: Microserfs by Douglas Coupland for its cover; The Metapmorphosis by Franz Kafka because I’d heard his name around; Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy because I loved the title and heard the boys in Radiohead enjoyed it. (They were my influencers.) I don’t think I understood it; I should read it again.
Re-reading engrained things in me—ideas, grammar, and perhaps most important, how styles and approaches would differ from one magazine or author to another. I was studying writing and editing, in effect, even when it may have looked like what I was doing was staving off the tedium of childhood and adolescence on the living room couch. These re-readings were punctuated by studies of the Delia*s catalogue and the logging of crushes and rages and miseries in my journals. (I am, more or less, still this person, though rather than Delia*s, I look at expensive candles and occasional shoes.)
The re-read has continued to be a significant practice in my life, and it’s why I shudder a bit when people suggest I get rid of some of my (admittedly large) personal library: I never know when I’ll need a certain recipe, a certain reference, a turn of phrase, to immerse myself once again in the worlds of Alvaro Enrigue or Rachel Cusk. What if I need to remember how I felt in 2010? I’ll need to go back to what I was reading to conjure up the scene. Were writing not my job, I know, all of this would sound like mad ravings.
This month, I’m focused on some re-visitations. Here is the stack I put together a in September and October, a vision board for the future and a carrot at the end of a stick:
Ban en Banlieue by Bhanu Kapil; White Girls by Hilton Als; My Parents: An Introduction / This Does Not Belong to You by Aleksandar Hemon; I Love Dick by Chris Kraus; Ordinary Notes by Christina Sharpe; The Importance of Being Iceland by Eileen Myles; When the Sick Rule the World by Dodie Bellamy; Heroines by Kate Zambreno. (It’s obvious that Semiotext(e) is the Radiohead of my thirties.)
Some of these, I’ve only read for the first time recently; others, it’s been years since I first got into them and I never went back; still others, I’ve repeatedly dipped into since I first read them. They’re touchstones, foundational.
Thank you all for reading and supporting my work this year. I’m wildly grateful and am so excited for what’s to come. We’ll talk in January!
What are you doing to mark the end of this year and the start of a new one? Any rituals you have?
This Friday’s paid subscriber post will be the last missive out of this newsletter for the year, announcing the four books we’ll be reading as part of The Desk Book Club. I’m so looking forward to what you think of the picks.
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My small capsule jewelry collection with By Ren, whose designs are handmade to order in Philadelphia, is live through the end of 2023. There are cocktail picks with a pearl on them, which are my favorite thing ever! Perfect gift.
Last Friday’s paid subscriber post ran down all of my November eating and cooking. It’s been quite a lot of tofu and banana smoothies.