Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Giving a Hated High School Read a Second Chance

Creepy eyes.  I get it--I think--but I
don't like it.
The Great Gatsby.  In high school we had to read this book, and while I didn't actually hate it, I was highly irritated that my teacher was swooning over something that, to me, was depressing and didn't have a point.  And I really dislike the traditional cover, which means more to me than I often care to admit.  I prefer something that gives a better sense of the time...which is why, when I saw the audio-book version had a much more pleasant illustration, I was much more willing to give the book another go (also, being read by Tim Robbins was a great selling point).

And so I bought it.  And so it sat on my shelf for years.  Despite my grand intentions of developing my audio-book skills, the reality is that I'm very rarely alone for any substantial amount of time.  I've homeschooled at least some of my kiddos for the past four years--and those little people can talk.  But a small miracle occurred this week: I was in the car by myself for a whole 7 hours or so while we drove from Southern California to Northern California.  Understand that this is a good thing: an island of bliss amid an ever-present sea of conversation.
Now that's a cover I can love.
Can't you hear the jazz?

It was brilliant.  This book that I always thought had no point said so much.  This book that I was convinced lacked hope had wisdom mixed in with the heartbreak.  The writing was beautiful (though not so sure about that chapter-length list of names) and Robbins was a great narrator (for the most part--the girls' voices were a little odd, but the men's voices had so much character that overall it was wonderful).  There were parts that I wished I could stop and re-read and ponder, but it's hard to do that when you're driving and listening.  :)

I hadn't planned on getting to this book this year, but am glad the opportunity arose.  (I'm totally using it as one of my Back to the Classics Challenge books too!)  Have you read (or reread) Gatsby?  Did you like it?  And what about those covers?  I'm on the hunt now for a nice print copy of this book.  Nice cover is a must.  When I get back to SoCal I'm heading over to my local bookshop: Gatsby Books.  They're bound to have a copy or two, right?

13 comments:

  1. I never had to read Gatsby in high school but got it as a Christmas present from my roommate two years ago. I read it on the flight home and absolutely loved it but am very glad I got to read it for the first time on my own terms. I'm not sure I would have enjoyed it in a classroom setting as much, or at 15 instead of 20. I'm glad you enjoyed it more the second time around. You should check out outofprintclothing.com They have a really cool gatsby shirt.

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  2. YES! I had the exact same experience. I really disliked this book in High School. In graduate school, I read another Fitzgerald book (Tender is the Night) which, to this day, is one of my favorite books of all-time. A while after reading that for the first time, I figured I'd better give Gatsby another chance - definitely, definitely an entirely different experience.

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  3. It's one of the books I would describe as "almost perfect". I usually don't care for romance, but this is so full of broken dreams, of hope and terrible fate I had no choice but to love it. One of my favorite books and one of my favorite authors.

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  4. I've never read this, but I'm glad you like it more now. I had to read Frankenstein in secondary school and hated it, maybe it needs an adult reread?

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  5. @Sam - I definitely would not have enjoyed Frankenstein if I had read it at a younger age. It might be worth a re-read.

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  6. I've never read it but I own a copy and it's been on to to-read list forever. Now I'm even more determined to read it. (I need a long car ride when I'm not driving.)

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  7. I think the last ten pages of The Great Gatsby are just totally beautiful-among the best prose of the 20th century-I am glad you gave the book a second chance-

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  8. The fact is there are reasons why young people on high schools are forced to read the things they are - the books are usually very good, but you have to be older to get it; The Great Gatsby is a Great Example...

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  9. I also had a negative reaction to this book in high school--I don't really hate books but this one came close to it. I understood the symbolism, which I admit was brilliant, but the characters were just blah. I might give this another try (I like Adam's comment about that) but I'm not in a big hurry.

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  10. I actually read and LOVED this book in high school. I had a wonderful English teacher that year who made it come alive. I'm glad you enjoyed it this time!

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  11. That's the same cover that I read in high school, and it always looked like some 1970s small town street at night...totally not that jazz age cover I wanted.

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  12. I'm with you on the cover. I dislike the traditional cover.

    I read this one for the first time in high school and didn't love it. Then I reread it twice in college and with each reread I liked it even more. I think if you were forced to read this book at a young age (and have a teacher who swoons over it) you're not going to appreciate it to it's fullest. At least for me, I got a lot more out of it as I got older.

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  13. This is one of the few I actually really appreciated in high school, and I've re-read it four or five times since then. It's actually my "most re-read book" of my entire life.

    I think what got me back then was the beauty and tragedy of it all wrapped up in one. Over the years I still love that part, but I also see more of the nuance and symbolism he used as well.

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