I know, I know. It is no longer the first week of summer (for the 2nd or 3rd for that matter). But, as I promised in last week’s blog post, “Summer Time, Summer Time” one of my goals for the summer is to read one book per week and then write about what I’ve read on this very blog. Sooo…without further ado, here is Week 1 of my Summertime Reading:
I mean come on. Of course I wanted a reread of this classic prior to seeing the new Baz Luhrmann iteration of Fitzgerald’s story. As the rest of you lovely readers most likely did (Big shout out to my new followers – thanks guys!), I read The Great Gatsby for the first time as a high schooler. I enjoyed it as an innocent 17 year-old, and remembered bits and pieces of the story, though mostly from the Robert Redford/Mia Farrow movie version rather than the book itself. When a colleague of mine mentioned she had never read it and was intent to do so before seeing the film, I did two things: 1.) Balked at her lack of literary chops (No Fitzgerald in the high school syllabus? Whaaaa?) and 2.) Grabbed my personal copy (saved since high school – one of the 3 I decided NOT to sell back to the school) and packed it in my carry-on for the flight to Florida.
14 years after I read it the first time, I enjoyed The Great Gatsby even more immensely. Certainly, the life I have lived and lessons I’ve learned in those 14 years allowed the book to carry more meaning for me. For example, I was much better able to see Jay Gatsby’s life, and Daisy’s and Tom’s as well, for what it was (pretty much empty longing dressed up with glitter and alcohol) and not just see the glitz and glamour of the Gatsby parties. The characters are endearingly flawed, and this time around, I enjoyed seeing these flaws come to light and become less endearing as Nick realized them. As a high schooler, I found myself focusing on Jay and Daisy, but as an adult, I gave my attention to Nick. Since he had the most redeeming qualities (with enough pizzazz to keep him interesting) and I continually wondered through the course of the book, Why do you continue associating with a group of people whose morals are so jarringly askew?
As a writer, I was able to reread The Great Gatsby not only for the story, but to observe the techniques of a master writer. Fitzgerald’s ability to transport the reader to East and West Eggs is unbelievable. While reading, I was not sitting in the middle seat on a crowded flight from Dallas to Omaha with my husband sleeping beside me, I was waltzing through the courtyards behind Gatsby’s mansion and chatting with Nick and Jordan in the library. Fitzgerald used just enough detail to give the reader a clear picture of Gatsby’s world, but was succinct enough to allow the full story to be told in very few pages.
The wonderful thing about reading a classic is it stretches your brain and makes you think. But when you reread it, you understand even more…beyond just the vocabulary.