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Rereading a classic novel brings new insights for many

By Rebecca Hyde

Rowan Public Library

A conversation about books and reading might touch on what is the best American novel or what you’re reading now.  Less frequently asked would be “What are you rereading? How many times? And why?”

Maureen Corrigan shares her rereading experiences in “So We Read On:  How the Great Gatsby Came to be and Why It Endures.” As a high school student, Corrigan read Gatsby and thought it “a boring novel about rich people.” At 55, she considers it “The Great American Novel, “ which deserves to be read at least twice in one’s life, if not every five years. What happened to Corrigan and why did her opinion of the novel change?

She became, over the years, a literary critic, book reviewer, teacher and little older. Her advice is: “First … you have to wise up a little, get older, become more vulnerable to both the sadness of everyday life and its loveliness.”

“The Great Gatsby” is the grim story of a man’s fall from grace, suggesting that the American Dream may be a mirage. It takes on the tough subjects of social class and empty idol worship, be it romantic love or the rewards of self-improvement. For Corrigan, the language of the telling sets the novel apart.  In the “most beautiful sentences ever written about America,” Fitzgerald makes the Dream irresistible.

And Corrigan, because she hasn’t “learned enough,” because she wants to “look harder, read smarter,” will in a year inevitably pick up and read “Gatsby” again.

“My Life in Middlemarch,” by Rebecca Mead, is a memoir, a biography and literary criticism. Mead was 17 when she first read “Middlemarch” by George Eliot, still living in the English town where she grew up and prepping with a tutor for her university entrance examinations. She loved “Middlemarch” because it gratified her aspirations to maturity and learnedness. She completely identified with Miss Dorothea Brooke, and admired what little she then knew about George Eliot. Every time she went back to it, the novel “opened up” further.

Now in her 40s, Mead is still reading “Middlemarch” but with the sensibility of one who has experienced what Eliot called “the actual friction of life.” What now resonates in her rereading is not the hopes and dreams of youth but the resignations attending middle age, of doors closing behind one, of alternative lives unlived.

In her rereading of the book and her research into Eliot’s life, Mead works toward a new sense of a life well-lived. Dorothea’s fate is to be a “heroine of the ordinary”: “Having aspired at the novel’s outset to do good for others in some grand but abstract way, she discovers that the good she is able to do is in relation to the lives that touch her own more closely, even if doing so may be inconvenient or painful for her.”

For Mead, reading and rereading “Middlemarch” is part of her own experience of life. It is one of those books that seem to grow along with the reader. Rereading can be transformative.

Computer classes: Headquarters , Getting to Know Your iPad,  Feb. 24,  7 p.m. Registration required. We’ll discuss components, navigation and use of apps. Must bring own iPad, charged, and have an updated iOS (operating system). Bring current, valid Apple ID. For more info or to registe,r call Paul Birkhead at 704-216-8242. Headquarter, Computer Basics, Feb. 26, 9:30 a.m. If you’re new to computers – or never felt comfortable – this is for you. Classes are free. Sessions: 90 minutes. Class size limited and on a first come, first served basis. Dates and times subject to change without notice. Call 704-216-8242 for more information.

Annual chocolate festival for teens: 5:30-7 p.m., headquarters, Feb. 17; East, Feb. 24. Free, open to middle and high school teens. Light refreshments. For more information call 704-216-8229.

Book Chats for Children: Book discussion group for children in grade two (different grade each month), South only, Feb. 19, 4:15 p.m. “Freckle Juice” by Judy Blume. Registration required; space limited. Call 704-216-7728 for more information.

“Learn App Grow” workshop: Feb. 23, 5:45 p.m. South Rowan Regional Library, 920 Kimball Road, China Grove. Free, open to public. Explore free apps that will inspire you to stay organized, get fit and eat healthier. Led by Tricia Stagger. For information call 704-216-7841.

Martha Bassett in concert: Headquarters, Stanback Auditorium, Feb. 24, 7 p.m. Special concert featuring Martha Bassett. Her musical inspiration moves effortlessly through swing, jazz, folk, country and rock. Admission free, all are welcome. Program starts at 7 pm; doors open at 6:30 pm. Show sponsored by Friends of Rowan Public Library.

Book Bites Club: Feb. 24, 6:30 p.m., “Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern. Book discussion groups for adults and children at South Rowan Regional Library meet the last Tuesday of each month. Open and anyone is free to join at any time. There is a discussion of the book, as well as light refreshments. For more information, call 704-216-7841.

Celebrate Seuss: Feb. 28, 10:30 .m., East Branch, 110 Broad St., Rockwell. Children of all ages celebrate Dr. Seuss and his own “Day of all Days.” For if he’d never been born, well then what would we do? No Horton? No Lorax? No Thing One or Thing Two? That really just isn’t a world we can envision so come join us this day for a great celebration. Light refreshments. Call 704-216-7842 for more information.

Explorers Club: Headquarters, Feb. 28, 11 a.m. Investigate different genres through activities based on books from the collection. Programs for children in third-fifth grade, begin at 11 a.m. and last one hour. This month’s theme, “Kids Cook, Too!” Stir up your creativity as we learn basic kitchen skills. Wear your favorite kitchen attire, aprons optional. Call 704-216-8234 for more details.

Displays: Headquarters, log cabins byNorth Hills Christian School; South, student art by Corriher Lipe Middle School; East, photographs by Shane Tolliver.

Literacy: Call the Rowan County Literacy Council at 704-216-8266 for more information on teaching or receiving literacy tutoring for English speakers or for those for whom English is a second  language.

Children’s Storytime: Weekly events for children through April 30. For more information call 704-216-8234.

Baby Time — Simple stories and songs for 6-23 month-olds with parent or caregiver. Program about one hour. Headquarters, Wednesdays, 10 a.m.; East, Mondays,  10 a.m.

Toddler Time — Sharing books, singing songs and encouraging listening skills; 18-35 months old with parent or caregiver; 30 minutes. Headquarters, Tuesdays, 10:30 a.m.; East, Mondays, 11 a.m.

Tiny Tumblers — Stories, musical scarves and instruments for ages 6-23 months with parent or caregiver. Same program offered twice a week;  30 minutes. South, Tuesday and Thursdays, 10:30 a.m.

Preschool time — Encourages exploration of books and builds reading readiness skills for children 3-5 years old with parent or caregiver; 30 minutes. Headquarters, Thursdays, 10:30 a.m.; East, Thursdays, 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.

Noodle Head storytime — For children 4 years and up to enjoy listening to silly books and tales together; 30 minutes. Headquarters, Thursdays, 4 p.m.; South, Mondays, 4 p.m.

Art programs — Based on various themes and media. Activities vary by branch.  Children 8 and under must be accompanied by an adult.; 30-45 minutes. Headquarters, Art in the Afternoon, Thursdays, 4:30 p.m.; East, Emma’s Easel, Thursdays, 4 p.m.; South, Art with Char, Wednesdays, 4 p.m.

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