Friday, May 25, 2012

Book Challenge: Day 3

Day three, you ask? Here's the thing. Day 2 asked about my least favorite book. What's the point of blasting Twilight again and again? And books put breath into me; I dislike having to come up with reasons to dislike and discourage reading. I think there is enough of that. Furthermore, I think the Twilight series was addicting, much as I call it my least favorite. I just found absolutely no literary merit to it. Which is fine for people who want a teen romance. I half-heartedly expected more, and it didn't deliver.

Day Three of the challenge asked about a book that surprised me, good or bad. And here is where I feel I commit a cardinal literary sin. There's also a good chance I'll go to English Library American Literature Writer hell for this. I didn't like Gatsby. Cat's out of the bag.

It simply has never been a book that held such wonder for me as I know it has for many of my contemporaries.

I've never found myself fully engaged with the story for some reason. I revere it as a literary work because I feel it should be respected as a great American classic... but can't give myself any good reasons why it *is* an American classic.

I have a sneaking suspicion that part of this is because I was never required to read this in high school. I had fantastic teachers who made me love a lot of books that I might otherwise have skipped (hello, Lonesome Dove, Les Miserables, Once and Future King), but The Great Gatsby never made the list, so I've never attempted to read it while really looking for literary devices and themes, only for my own enjoyment.

I love the cover art, I love the 8 bit computer game, I love the idea of it, and I love the party scenes. I just could never sink into the story, either bit by bit or headfirst immersion(two main tacks when reading- the author either engrosses you a bit at a time, so you love a character's personality or sensibility, or actions and words, one after another like dominos some portion of the book wins you over until you realize you're thoroughly engrossed and in love; OR from the very first sentence, you are completely ready to buy into whatever the author tells you and absolutely in love and invested in the characters, world, and literary tone you are plunked down into). 

It always felt like a shortcoming, a failure to me as a reader and even as a writer, to admit this(even to myself). I have a very close friend who LOVES Gatsby, and I think a good portion of that is because she teaches it. When she speaks about it, I get insanely jealous. She has a handle on something I can't comprehend. She has a deep, passionate literary love for a book I can't get 50 pages into without losing the thread of the story and feeling lost.

Gatsby is a book where I feel downright DUMB as a reader because I never get the magic out of it that everyone else seems to. Part of me should relish that, challenge it, and overcome it. I've been reading at a college level since middle school. Books have been my life. 

In seventh grade, I would read at the lunch table, and the girls I sat with would pilfer pieces of my lunch from under the book I had my nose in to see if I'd notice. It became a party trick of mine, peripheral vision. I can still see the Ziploc baggie of carrots sliding out of my field of vision as I tried to concentrate on whatever Mary Higgins Clark's protagonist was figuring out in the murder of her husband. I will never forget the last few Chips Ahoy cookies from the package, still on the plastic sleeve of the container, slowly being helped from my brown lunch bag to the other side of the table while I tried to get a grasp on The Color Purple, which my librarian mother had to sign a permission slip to allow me to read. As if anyone could have stopped me.  

So while I have spent plenty of time feeling isolated from my peers socially, I have never felt an outsider in the classroom (unless you count calculus. Ugh). I have never failed to grasp the wonder that was either dangled in front of me or spoon-fed to me as a student or an independent reader. Until Gatsby. Only Gatsby. And I don't have a solution for this one. Unless my favorite high school English teachers who love Fitzgerald and Gatsby's world want to sit me down and spoon-feed me themes and give me homework until it clicks and I understand.

Talk about white whales...

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