Saturday, August 10, 2013

Thoughts after re-reading "Perks of Being a Wallflower" by Stephen Chbosky

I first read this book about 2 1/2 years ago (my review here).  I loved it, I remember loving it, and I reread my review, confirming that I loved it.  I was super-excited that it was the first book listed to read for my upcoming YA Lit class for grad school.

I truly do not reread books very often.  I just don't.  I force myself to reread a classic every year because I know that as I change, my understanding of these older texts will change as well.  But for newer books, I typically don't reread as I have hundreds of books waiting for me to read for the first time and my attention goes there.  Even so, when I DO read a book again, I sometimes find myself nodding my head more in remembrance of the first time I read it - not really in the moment of reading and experience the text in the present.  But this did not happen while rereading Perks.  In fact, the exercise has unnerved me a little bit.

I expected to remember many more details about the book than I did.  I mean, it has only been 2 1/2 years, right?  That's not THAT long.  Although I didn't really consider that I've probably read 200 books or so since then too...  so maybe I should cut myself a little break.  But I didn't remember the big things.  I didn't remember the biggest thing of all...  and as I was reading it, I was fully in the moment yet cognizant of the fact that I felt sadder this time around.  Charlie seemed to be much more separate from the life he was observing than I remembered.  And while I remembered what had happened to the aunt, I didn't remember what had happened to Charlie by way of the aunt.  And this has me thinking.  Do I remember more of Charlie's social awkwardness because I related to that personally and blocked out the horrible things that happened to him (much like Charlie did himself) because they are not only terrible but that I couldn't relate with them directly?  How many other books have I edited in my memory like this?  What does it mean that I can read these stories, feel all the emotions that are evoked by such stories, but then block them out when remembering the book as a whole later on?   And how is this going to affect the way I work - will I be able to properly recommend books if I can't remember these sorts of details?  Am I a terrible reader?   Am I making any sense at all right now?

I realize that I'm probably thinking a bit too much on this, perhaps placing too much importance on this situation, but I'd really love to know what you think about these questions.  Have you ever had to consider these things yourself?

At least I still very much believe that this is an amazing book.
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8 comments:

Mandy said...

I had the same thing happen when I saw the PERKS movie. I had forgotten about what happened to Charlie re: the aunt. It had been maybe five years since I'd read it, but still. That's a big part to forget.

Kiersten said...

I think part of why that particular part goes unremembered is because that is an issue that almost everyone chooses to block out. And it's that way for books, movies, news articles/clips and even real-life experiences for real victims. It is an experience of life that no one should ever have to face and it's easier for most everyone to just block it out the way Charlie did in the book. And as a result, you as "his reader" you did the same thing. As did I. Don't let it make you panic. It's part of the emotional and mental response. I think you will do fine when it comes to recommending and reviewing books.

theenglishist.com said...

I had the exact same response. I also didn't remember Jonas finding out what part of his father's job truly entailed until I read THAT book for a second time as well.

I'm thinking maybe it has something to do with the writing. The characters have blocked it out/don't know, so we as readers focus more on the aftermath and the details because that's what happens with the characters.

Courtney said...

I just read Perks last summer- and am still putting off the movie (despite my dear love for Emma Watson). I think we remember the parts of the books we loved and then, when we reread, we remember all the other little things that we loved (or didn't quite love) about the books. That's how it is EVERY time I reread Harry Potter.

Susan said...

When the movie came out, I remember thinking that I should read the book, (I didn't see the movie but my son did) but I haven't gotten around to the book yet. After your post, I know I really have to read the book.

Sarah Reads Too Much said...

Confession: I haven't seen the movie yet. But really want to.

Andi said...

I re-read occasionally and sometimes I'm bored because I remember tons, and sometimes it's like a whole new reading experience. This one book I would consider re-reading because ALL I remember is the big thing!

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

I reread this one before seeing the movie (wihch really is fantastic) and there was quite a bit I'd forgotten. I've tried to embrace rereading for the first time in the last year or so and I've realized that I love it. I get so much more out of my favorite books the second time around. I also realize that I edit books in my mind and rereading makes me catch so much more of the story.

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