Sunday, March 18, 2012

That last of The Great Gatsby (I hope)

The cover of the first edition of The Great Ga...
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Last post brought a phone comment from a friend pointing to a hilarious look at The Great Gatsby.

Wish I had access to this when forced to read Fitzgerald in high school!
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Friday, March 9, 2012

The Great American Novel

I can't ever remember yearning to write the "Great American Novel."

In high school, my English teacher, who often came to class with a massive hangover, was a  taskmaster -- not a hard taskmaster, just a normal, run-of-the-mill instructor who expected his students to excel. He required students to write one theme a week (due on Mondays) at least two pages long, memorize poetry, read at least one book a month (and do an oral and written review alternately), read Shakespeare, and spell like a pro. (He also tried to get the class to memorize the Old English version of Beowulf, which was a miserable failure for everyone and a big disappointment to him.)

He was a little crazy, especially on those hangover days, but most of us were diligent students, and we complied. (That's what we did back then.)

Other than Shakespeare, we had few required reading lists. However, one of the must-read books was The Great Gatsby. According to this teacher, F. Scott Fitzgerald had penned THE Great American Novel when he wrote Gatsby.


I read it.

I hated it!

Let me clarify that because hate is a strong word.

These characters, I thought, were boring. Some rich dude filled with angst over a lost love; a rich woman (the former love) who seemed empty headed; a guy cheating on his wife (Gatsby's former love) and who probably beats her (He does smack his mistress.); and a narrator, a presumably sharp young kid (He seemed dull to me.) who leaves the Midwest and heads to New York where he's supposed to be looking for a job but instead, hangs around boozy, boring,unhappy people.
In my review, I mentioned that I didn't like any of these people, to which I was told:

"You're not supposed to like them."

Well! Who would have guessed.

We teenagers had enough angst!

To me the book was like those soap operas my grandmother watched every day, and if that's what the Great American Novel was supposed to be like, I never wanted to write it!

I'm sure I never will write the Great American Novel. I just like to write, so I do.