Back in November a journalist wrote asking if there were any books I had reread, why rereading might matter to a writer, a few other questions. I spent about 8 hours, I seem to remember, writing an insanely long e-mail. Of this, two points made it into the piece: the fact that I had reread Nancy Drew as a child; an amusing quotation from Nancy Mitford's The Pursuit of Love. I was a bit demoralized; what I had been trying to show was the way that the books one reread obsessively at a particular time marked different stages of the self - some one could go back to (Alice in Wonderland), others not (not, at least, without recognizing that the self who had loved them no longer existed).
I thought this mattered for writers because agents and editors are always offering comments with a view to "the reader" - "the" reader does not exist. The 9-year-old who discovered The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is genetically identical to the 54-year-old who cannot travel without Calvino's Invisible Cities and the OCT of the Iliad; if these are not the same reader -- if between them lie many, many obsessives to whom the current occupant of the body can never return -- the project of improving a book with a view to "the" reader is obviously a non-starter.
I recently got an e-mail from Sheila Heti asking about books I had read as a young reader that one might recommend as an alternative to YA. Her piece is now available at the Globe and Mail. She has said much better the things I was trying to say to David Bowman about the growth of a reader. (Not to be too hard on myself, I assume she did not write the piece in an 8-hour blitz. I thought a quick reply would be helpful to a journalist with a deadline.) The whole thing here.