Summer Rereading


“I think about forgotten gestures, the multiple signals and words of grandparents, lost little by little, not inherited, fallen one after the other from the tree of time.

“Tonight I found a candle on a table, and as a game I lit it and walked along the corridor with it. The breeze stirred up by my motion was about to put it out, then I saw my right hand come up all by itself, cup itself, protect the flame with a living lampshade that kept the breeze away.

“While the flame climbed up again alert, I thought the gesture belonged to all of us. . . for thousands of years, during the Age of Fire, until they changed it on us to electric lights. . .

“The vanity of believing that we understand the works of time: it buries its dead and keeps the keys.  Only in dreams, in poetry, in play — do we sometimes arrive at what we were before we were this thing that, who knows, we are.”

— Page 459, Hopscotch by Julio Cortázar

Hopscotch is an amazing, sometimes frustrating but altogether delightful book I’m rereading for the third time this summer in an effort to finish a personal essay about Cortázar, first loves, 9/11 and military funerals.

That first time I read Hopscotch a huge number of significant events occurred — in my life and in the world — all of which would go to shape the person I am today.  Or at least that’s what I believe and what my essay will try to prove.

But to be honest, I haven’t started to reread it yet. What with all the other great books to reread. Sometimes you get to an age when you only want to revisit the books that truly shaped your world.  Still, I sometimes wonder if my penchant for rereading stems from incurable nostalgia.

Right now I’m rereading Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino and considering rereading Life: A User’s Manual by Georges Perec and Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. I’m curious what my reaction would be if I reread books from my early adolescence like On The Road or The Sun Also Rises but I doubt I’ll commit to rereading those kinds of books.

The book I’ve read the most is called Gemini and it’s about identical twins who are lovers.  I read it the first time when I spent my summer loafing at a cafe called The Living Room which was, ironically enough, across the street from a mortuary.  They served quadruple-shot Vietnamese coffees with real coffee beans floating in it. I tried to get a job that summer at a scaffolding company but instead I ended up being a proctor for special education law students.

What books have you reread the most? What books do you think you can reread indefinitely and still not exhaust?

What books do you think need to be reread almost immediately?

Now that summer is here these questions demand to be answered!

Michael Berger is a barely-published writer and book-seller living in San Francisco. He is one of the founding Corsairs of the Iron Garters Bike Club and is currently pursuing a degree in applied pataphysics. He sometimes eats oatmeal for dinner. More from this author →