Re-runs and Re-reads

Growing up my family used to watch the same movies over and over until we were so well versed that we no longer needed the actual film to enjoy the experience of watching it. We didn’t branch out very frequently (to quote from our repertoire: “We don’t normally go where we ain’t already been.”), but occasionally we would adopt something new. Sometimes we chose well; other times we’d revert to the standards. They made us laugh. They made us cringe. They were comfortable.

Books affect me the same way. Branching out is always fun, and trying new authors feels like living dangerously sometimes. But there are certain standards, certain stories, certain authors that remain constant. These books I’ve read over and over again, some of them so many times I can quote whole sections. The characters have become a part of my reality, so real to me that it’s difficult to conceive of them the same way every time I open the pages. At some point, I reason, they should have learned from these mistakes. They should know as well as I what is going to happen in the next chapter because we’ve all been there before. Except we haven’t. The characters never age, although my perception of their actions and my ability to relate to them does. I love them for who they are to me and what I feel like they could be if they were only given a few more pages. The possibilities are endless.

The scenery in these books and the action feels a bit like watching a familiar film. I know the cracks in the sidewalks and how the paint peels from the porch railing. I know on what side of the castle the moss grows because I’ve seen it in my mind so many times. It’s just as real to me as anything I see on screen.

I look to the characters for consistency. People, real people, are slippery, and it’s very easy to put trust in the wrong place. We don’t want to think that we are the only ones who have our best interests at heart, but so often that seems to be the case. But the people in the books remain the same through every read. They don’t stab the reader in the back. They don’t modify their behavior to save themselves at the reader’s expense. I always know where I stand with them, even if it’s not where I want to be. I respect them for this. I always will. They have become a comfort zone, a place to land when I’m looking for something predictable, something with order, a welcome distraction when I feel like I’m losing control.

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