Yesterday I received a package that I had purchased on-line. It was a first edition hardcover of Helen Hooven Santmyer’s colossal novel, “…And Ladies of the Club”. This book was published in a run of two thousand copies by Ohio State University Press in 1982, two years before it got picked up by Putnam, when it became a New York Times #1 bestseller.
I became interested in the novel’s history even before I finished reading it, and I searched for first-edition copies, even contacting antiquarian bookstores in and around Santmyer’s hometown of Xenia, Ohio. The vendor of the copy I eventually bought kindly sent me many photos of the book (that’s his hand and ear you see on the bottom and the right side of the photo which I cropped).
Of all the copies I found on-line, this was the best one. It is immaculate, thanks to the clear plastic cover protecting the dust jacket. Too many copies that other vendors told me about had dust jackets that were cracking and flaking. The price on the top of the inside flap had been cut out, but the vendor told me about this, and sent me a photo of it. This 1982 edition is 1344 pages long, and is the thickest hardcover novel I have ever seen–and remember, I work in a library. (It could swallow up anything that Diana Gabaldon or Bryce Courtenay has written.) The paper is heavy and the book weighs more than any novel I have ever seen. I should take it to the Y one day and put it on the scale just to see how much. Who needs dumbbells when I have this novel? I would like to thank Chris Lipe for accepting its delivery since this brick of a book cost less than four dollars to mail within the United States, while it would have cost $22 to mail to Canada.
I enjoy reading nonfiction, and have read many books over and over again. However, I have never read any novel even twice. Back in my university days when I studied French and German literature, I never read a novel twice. I learned early to make notes and mark pages as I read the book the first time. The thought occurred to me immediately after I read “…And Ladies of the Club” that I would enjoy another run-through about the ladies from Waynesboro, Ohio. I don’t know when I’ll read it again, but…
And so I would like to ask: who here rereads novels? What deserves a second, or third reading? Why?