word craft


The Phantom of the Opera and Rereading

Phantom of the Opera

As I write this—April 16, 2023—Andrew Lloyd Weber’s musi­cal, The Phan­tom of the Opera, will end its New York City Broad­way run—the longest run in the­atri­cal his­to­ry, with 13,981 per­for­mances. It began in Jan­u­ary 1988. 

I must have been one of the few peo­ple not to have seen it, but a vast num­ber have. One per­son saw it six­ty-nine times. Anoth­er one hun­dred and forty! Anoth­er made a life by see­ing it per­formed in many coun­tries but was most impressed by the one he saw in Swe­den, because, he said, it was done “dif­fer­ent­ly.” Some­one had the street address of the the­atre tat­tooed on her arm! These folks call them­selves “Phans.” 

All this was report­ed in the New York Times.  

There are par­al­lels with books. I once met some­one who told me he read the entire Har­ry Pot­ter series six times. I have met folks who have read Jane Austen’s Pride and Prej­u­dice often—these folks call them­selves “Janeites.” 

In pur­suit of data to sup­port this essay, I checked, and there is cur­rent­ly post­ed a Goodreads review of my The True Con­fes­sions of Char­lotte Doyle, in which the review­er indi­cates she read the book six­teen times. 

As I have con­fessed in this blog, every Christ­mas I reread Dick­ens’ The Christ­mas Car­ol. That’s—another confession—a lot of Christmases. 

I’m sure many of us know young read­ers who reread their favorite books a fair num­ber of times. How many of you have read a favorite pic­ture book to a young read­er so many times you could and per­haps do so with a weary heart? 

What does one get with reread­ing? If one has been engrossed with the plot so much that you are turn­ing the pages at a fast flip, you may miss many of the nuances of a beau­ti­ful­ly writ­ten text, and indeed aspects of the plot. There are real joys in what might be called slow, atten­tive read­ing, often best found when rereading. 

But there are neg­a­tive aspects. When I first read Hemingway’s The Sun Also Ris­es, the writ­ing fas­ci­nat­ed me. A reread only brought me irri­ta­tion by way of its man­nered style. 

I recent­ly reread Dick­ens’ Great Expec­ta­tions—which I first read in my twen­ties. A reread aston­ished me by how much of the book is about abuse, pound­ed out, and received. Vir­tu­al­ly every char­ac­ter is touched by this cru­el­ty. When I first read it (in the 1950s) I may not have even known what the term abuse meant. 

By the same token, as we have been informed and edu­cat­ed about racism, misog­y­ny, and prej­u­dice of one kind or anoth­er, reread­ing may inform us about crit­i­cal things we have missed. 

Of course, when writ­ing, I am con­stant­ly re-read­ing my own work, for­ev­er (so it feels) find­ing things to make bet­ter. Indeed, if I have rea­son to reread one of my own books (pub­lished years ago) I inevitably find things I could have improved. No sur­prise: I don’t like to reread my own work. 

All that said, the return to a text which was mov­ing, or mean­ing­ful in oth­er ways, can be a deep com­fort, a kind of lit­er­ary com­fort food, or even a revival of vital wis­dom. It can be like a vis­it with an old friend, a return to a place that fills you with fond mem­o­ries, a reminder of the good things in life. 

There are lots of lists of fine books to read. How about a list of books worth rereading? 

Does any­one care to share? 

4 thoughts on “The Phantom of the Opera and Rereading”

  1. I read The Lord of the Rings twelve times before I was thir­ty. It’s been a cou­ple of decades since I last read the books. I’ve seen the movies but they nev­er felt as sat­is­fy­ing as the books. Per­haps it’s time to re-read them once again.

    I’ve also read A Wrin­kle in Time and The Arm of the Starfish (Madeleine L’En­gle) at least six times.

  2. The books that I have read the most:
    Beyond the West­ern Sea (the first book split in two)
    Lit­tle Women and sequels
    Anne of Green Gables and sequels
    The Secret Garden
    Pride and Prej­u­dice and Mans­field Park
    The West­mark tril­o­gy by Lloyd Alexander 

    I think reread­ing is most fun when it has been long enough that you have for­got­ten much of the book. Also reread­ing the begin­ning of a series so you can spot the foreshadowing.

  3. Lit­tle Women
    Rose in Bloom
    Stranger in a Strange Land
    Lord of the Rings trilogy
    Sher­lock Holmes books
    Tarzan Books

  4. I’m sure I’ve read Pop­py at least 20 times. I’ve read it aloud to my class just about every year of my 24 years of teach­ing. I also recent­ly read it with my 8 year old daugh­ter. The Last of the Real­ly Great Whang­doo­dles was anoth­er good one to reread. Although, I think the best books to reread are his­tor­i­cal fic­tion books. I find myself want­i­ng to learn more of the his­to­ry after read­ing the book. The when I’ve learned more his­to­ry I find myself want­i­ng to reread the book again and I can appre­ci­ate it more. Sophi­a’s War is a great exam­ple of this.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Recent Posts