Why A Great Book Always Has Something New to Say

By Malachy Walsh, Seminar Host

A Great Book always has something new to say.

Aristotle notes that we tend to have different close friends during the different phases in our lives– fun-loving buddies in youth, romantic engagements, and families as we start life, business, and political friends as we battle through life’s struggles, and fellow survivors as we retire from the field.

Booth observes that Great Books can and should be reread during the different phases of our lives.  Now that I am in my seventies, Nestor is my hero in the Iliad. I don’t fit into my armor anymore.  At 25, the young copywriter in me loved the wily liar Odysseus. The middle-aged Shakespeare scholars seem to love the tragedies of Macbeth and Hamlet;  old men like me gravitate to the more forgiving comedies and romances like The Tempest.

Yes, the books stay the same, but our reading changes from one time of life to another just as our readings differ from one person to another in our seminar conversations. Most new books have a way of getting old fast.  No matter how long a Great Book has been around or how often you have read it, a Great Book is always a new read.

Friends with benefits?

Booth speaks of his love for George Elliot.  We love some friends more than others. I must admit, I still wince a little when Dante is on deck, while I never tire of watching Shakespeare on the boards. Plato sometimes angers me, while Aristotle can be exhaustingly cumbersome. Some of the friends depress me like Dostoevsky; others rally me like Tolstoy.  Some clear my mind like Pascal and Euclid; others always make me smile like Montaigne and Jane Austen. Some scare me like Freud; others comfort me like Aquinas. Kant seems to march and plod, while Nietzsche and Augustine soar. I am still looking for one to help me lose weight!

However they come, whenever they come, Great Books come as great friends.  Curl up with one tonight.