Friday, September 25, 2009

Reading With Older Eyes

I'm going to post a few of the blog entries I did for my last English class, none of which are that profound, but they relate directly to my reading or writing, so I guess they are germane to my own blog.

I have to say I LOVED the short story "Say Yes" by Tobias Wolff. The thing I loved about it most was the realization that now I am older (a very wise forty-four), I interpret things differently than when I was younger. This is an obvious statement, one I have heard many times, but it is just now beginning to sink in. I really do. In my last class, I re-read J.D. Salinger's "The Catcher in the Rye." I read it previously in high school, and again in college. This time, I got different things out of it. How can that be? I can certainly understand different people interpreting fiction differently, but the same person - years later? Apparently, it is true.

I do not think I would have liked "Say Yes" when I was younger. I would have thought it was weird, pointless: no action in a simple argument. But I read it when I was older, and have been married for 18 years. This gave such a familiarity to their argument and the undertones of how well they did or did not know each other. It takes on a new dimension of understanding when those long years have passed for the reader as well.

I think I am surprised I noticed this. I certainly don't mean that a younger reader won't understand it or enjoy it. I'm not really talking about age or youth being the filter, but more of an experience subset. Does the idea of theme, what the story is about, come from a different place when you've lived something similar? Maybe war stories are this way. Someone who's never experienced war can still read and comprehend and understand the complexities, but read by someone who HAS been in a war . . . perhaps they glean yet another layer hidden from the rest of us.


Jo Taylor

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