Nothing Remains the Same

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

The first thing to be said is that Nothing Remains the Same: Rereading and Remembering is a dangerous book. It should come with a warning label: do not pick up unless you wish your reading life to be altered for at least the next three months. However, if you don’t mind having your future reading set on an unalterable course in the wake of finishing Wendy Lesser’s marvelous memoir, then by all means pick it up. So compelling is her account of revisiting Don Quixote de la Mancha (1605) or The Idiot (1868) or The Tempest (1623), of re-assessing D. H. Lawrence or William Wordsworth, George Orwell or George Eliot, that it is fair to say most readers will feel an irresistible itch to launch a major rereading of their own favorite writers as well.

Lesser, founder and editor of The Threepenny Review, writes as someone who knows the academic literary game but has opted not to play it. Educated at Harvard, Cambridge, and Berkeley, she knows the current theoretical jargon and voguish critical moves, but she adamantly refuses to employ them; she trusts her own responses to literature, is fearlessly subjective, and is not afraid to talk about the way a book (never a “text”) has made her feel. In fact, one criterion for choosing a book to re-read and reflect on was whether or not its first reading produced a “visceral” memory. And the word she chooses to express the result of the entire year-long project is...

(The entire section is 444 words.)