IN PRAISE OF REVISITING
April 4th, 2020
Words by Tavi Gevinson · Illustration by Faye Orlove
Here are three ways to commune more deeply with your favorite books, albums or movies.
If you feel overwhelmed by the unknowable future, then I recommend going deep with your old faves. Among the lists of new streaming content or novels to read “before you die” (thanks for the reminder!!!), your favorite books/albums/movies wait patiently to offer comfort. To dispense well-worn phrases that will ring true in new ways. To soothe your loneliness like a visit from an old friend.
When you revisit a favorite book/album/movie, the effects multiply in every direction: your past lives overlap with the present, new meanings radiate out from the work, and your understanding of the work deepens. You’re communing with the artist and your younger self, all at once. Now that’s what I call alone-but-not-lonely!
Here are three ways to revisit your faves that go beyond the typical reread, relisten, or rewatch. They take some time, but maybe it’s a good time to do things that take time.
1. Read along to an album, movie, or audiobook.
When you read along to the thing you’re watching or listening to, it feels like someone’s reading you a bedtime story, and who doesn’t want to be coddled like a baby right now? Reading along slows down my brain and keeps me from wandering into the dank underbelly of my quarantined psyche. I register lyrics I’d never heard before. Lines I know well suddenly sound different, entering into the present and catching me by surprise. Also, PSA: many scripts for movies and plays are online, free, and Googlable.
I recently did this with a musical, listening along and reading the scenes in between, and it was soooo cozy. It reminded me of being a kid and trying to piece together the plot of a show from its soundtrack alone. But to hear the end of that story, you'll have to catch my one-woman show, Dank Underbelly! (The exclamation point is part of the title.)
2. Copy down your favorite parts from books.
I discovered this as a calming activity while typing up parts of books I’d underlined so I would have a searchable document of quotations I needed for something I was writing. (I was procrastinating.) It started out as tedious, but now it puts me at ease. Writing out other people’s words requires focus but is also sort of mindless. There's also the hope that, through some osmosis, this activity helps me to think more like the people I admire, and to internalize their good ideas.
If this sounds like brainwashing to you, then you are...not wrong. But in terms of feeling less lonely, it’s also a way of living inside an author’s voice for a little bit. Maybe by taking apart their words and putting them back together, you’ll get a more thorough look at how their brain works. You’ll see how they were able to articulate a feeling that likely began as nebulous.
3. Listen to a musical artist’s discography in order.
The ability to stream music has totally eroded my sense of patience. I click around on Spotify like I’m playing a game of whack-a-mole, waiting for some song I allegedly enjoy to get to the chorus and inspire a weak kind of satisfaction before I get restless and move onto the next. I’ve taken all my favorite songs for granted, treating them like mere files floating around in the ether. I’ve forgotten that a song is a recording of a performance, given by a human being, in a room, on a day in history. That it’s a sequence of decisions made in a studio, stemming from ideas received in the shower, inspired by real, lived-through moments.
So: this recommendation is to listen to all of an artist’s albums in order. You’ll appreciate your fave like never before, going on the journey of their musical career, noticing how their voice changed, noticing patterns. I did this with Joni Mitchell’s catalog, and hearing her sing “Both Sides Now” first at age 26 and then at 57 was mind-blowing. Talk about a dank underbelly! (I mean that as a compliment.) Being in a single artist’s world for a while was a much-needed antidote to the whack-a-mole-ness of not just my music-listening habits, but digital life in general.
This is an hours-long activity, and you might get antsy during the songs you already know well. Great! That means you can get lost in them. Let the familiar lull you into a peaceful kind of boredom, where images enter your mind, emotions come and go, and change occurs in secret.
As with periods of isolation, just listening reaps rewards that only reveal themselves later. Maybe not rewards, exactly, but definitely evolution. It happens whether you mean it to or not, and even when you think you’re only doing the bare minimum. You can’t notice it immediately, or all at once, but I feel confident--even though I don’t know you--that you’ll look back and find that when you thought you were just surviving, you were actually growing. You were learning how to cope. To sit in your feelings. To weather discomfort. To help yourself. That evolution, to me, is inevitable, even when all the rest is unknown.
Tavi Gevinson is a writer and actor. From 2011-2018, she edited the online magazine and book series, Rookie. You can follow her @tavitulle.
Faye Orlove is an illustrator, animator and activist originally from the East Coast. In 2015, she began the non-profit space Junior High in East Hollywood. Junior High + their team of volunteers offers an accessible space to the community that prioritizes the safety and expression of marginalized artists. Faye loves pop-culture, the fact that Kim Kardashian is studying to be a lawyer, and the newest Jonas Brothers single. She describes herself as a Virgo, a Jewish American Princess and someone just trying really, really hard.