The Great Gatsby The Great Gatsby discussion


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Why I tried to love this book and instead ended up hating it.

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message 1: by Adi Narayan (last edited Mar 20, 2012 03:55AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Adi Narayan Mandalemula I don't know if this book is trash or if I'm dumb enough to not understand it's greatness. I want to admit that I genuinely tried to love this book but just couldn't and by the time I finished the last sentence, I was confused and sort of ended up hating this book. Why I tried to love this book? Two equally important reasons. 1) There was enormous hype surrounding this book. 2) The book carried forward an absolutely brilliant theme. And why I ended up frustrated and hating this book, I explain now with some indignation.

The following sentences are just a few of those that made me read twice and thrice (because I couldn't grasp the meaning) and some left me perplexed because I didn't find the meaning great, and some made me feel dumb because I still couldn't understand what they mean -

--but there was an immediately perceptible vitality about her as if the nerves of her body were continually smouldering.--

--Wilson hurriedly went toward the little office, mingling immediately with the cement color of the walls. A white ashen dust veiled his dark suit and his pale hair as it veiled everything in the vicinity—except his wife, who moved close to Tom.--
(why does he have to explain every single thing in ths book so much? Why can't he just say that man walked away along side the wall into that room or wherever. Just because he can explain things, he shouldn't explain every single thing.)

--[He] was standing with his hands in his pockets regarding the silver pepper of the stars.--

--Unlike Gatsby and Tom Buchanan, I had no girl whose disembodied face floated along the dark cornices and blinding signs.....--

--Only wind in the trees, which blew the wires and made the lights go off and on again as if the house had winked into the darkness.--
(I understood this one, but still, when all the other things in this book are frustrating me, I struggled with this. It isn't easy reading under such total frustration. First of all, from beginning to ending, I never connected to any character in this Novel. In the frustration I struggled with this sentence, but seen alone, this is a good one.)

--But there was a change in Gatsby that was simply confounding. He literally glowed; without a word or a gesture of exultation a new well-being radiated from him and filled the little room.--
(I can understand this sentence, but all through the Novel I find that the Writer only tells about Gatsby's astonishingly unique nature. He almost never shows it. It's like he's trying to make us imagine that Gatsby is a special personality rather than showing it to us directly. I find that Gatsby is overly hyped throughout the book.)

And while these are very difficult for me to understand, what follows here is completely inexplicable for my mind -

--Out of the corner of his eye Gatsby saw that the blocks of the sidewalks really formed a ladder and mounted to a secret place above the trees—he could climb to it, if he climbed alone, and once there he could suck on the pap of life, gulp down the incomparable milk of wonder.--

When everyone understands it and is praising it a lot, and I can't get what the hell that is, I wonder if I'm really that dumb. Seriously, I want to ask you, who loved this book - how did you understand these things in this book. It's like Fitzgerald just wrote whatever he wanted to.

Please share your views about this book.


Lauren I think it's overrated, not often i find a classic book boring! It was boring.


Adi Narayan Mandalemula Lauren wrote: "I think it's overrated, not often i find a classic book boring! It was boring."

I too feel the same. There are classics that make me think that people at that time might have liked it. But this one, I just can't understand the hype surrounded around the book. It's like Bridges of Madison county selling 20 million copies. Both are overly hyped and both carry powerful messages across.


Jeanie It's not my cup of tea either. It wasn't exactly the prose style that failed to grab me. I think I often glossed over such example sentences as above by taking a general impression rather than parsing its meaning. More than anything, I never connected with a single character. I'm glad to know I'm not the only person who didn't find this notoriously great classic to be so great. I do read a lot of the classics and get them. Perhaps the era it is written about adds to my apathy about the story, but not even the reputedly great prose made me find it enthralling.


message 5: by Adi Narayan (last edited Apr 13, 2012 12:27AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Adi Narayan Mandalemula Reputedly great prose? That makes me feel even more sad. Why am I not getting this reputedly great prose? What does it mean when he climbs up the tree, sucks on the pap of life and digest that milk of wonder or something like wonder which tastes like milk or that night that makes you feel utterly lonely but still lets you experience the life in you, feel the pulse and scratch your hand and ease the itch or whatever. I couldn't get all that. I feel somewhat pathetic. Makes me feel good when I read messages like yours Jeanie, learning that I'm not the only one lost at this book. Thanks for replying Jeanie.


Troy Read it for High School English, and hated it. Read it again at 40, and thought it was wonderful.

Just looking at the pieces the OP sampled, I think they're fine: Much clearer than many others I could think of. His use of metaphor is appropriate, and creative. Sorry, I just don't see the problem.


Anthony Cardenas May I share a story?

I read The Great Gatsby when I was in High School, along with the works of Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner. Next to the two great titans of style…Fitzgerald's writing seemed almost ordinary and mundane by comparison. And so I grew up, and began writing myself, and finding my own style, experimenting with the labyrinth poetic prose of Faulkner and the short, poetic verse-like prose of Hemingway, sometimes marrying the two extremes. Years went by, I found my own writing voice and wrote my own works…and I never went back to The Great Gatsby, because I thought that I had already read it, to be honest. But for some reason, I was looking through my library and came across the cover and I started to read it again.

This time, though, something happened. I was no longer comparing it to anyone or anything. I was just reading it. No great expectations, or anything like that. And as I read it, I began to marvel at how perfect the sentences were. How the style did not draw attention to itself and how the author disappeared into the story. The scene with the women in the hot apartment trying to cool down…my god, I couldn't believe how perfectly written it was. And when I finished it…i confirmed what I had already figured out over years of writing myself: good writing doesn't draw attention to its own style. It serves only the story. The story is what is paramount not the author's style.

And now, whenI read things, and the style is so overt and so in your face and is basically the author showing off his "skills"…it distracts me from the story, and I get turned off. It's like a really great singer, who is doing all of these extraneous runs and ad-libs…and not actually just singing the song.

Fitzgerald let the writing serve the story, in my opinion. It was no less and no more than what was necessary to convey the intent and emotion of a scene.

You mention the part where Gatsby fancifully describes his aspirations by "sucking on the pap of life", etc…the reason the prose takes on an almost lyrical aspect is because it's from Gatsby's perspective (he's recalling something from his past) and Gatsby romanticizes everything. He's remembering this kiss with Daisy and injecting romance and fantasy into it, blowing it out of proportion so that it takes on an almost unreal and unattainable thing.

That's Gatsby's biggest character flaw. He's a romantic. He thinks by becoming everything Daisy every dreamed about (wealthy and power and affluence) that he can just come in and sweep her off her feet. he's not prepared for the reality of her situation and of her conflicted feelings. He doesn't understand them because he's romanticized her as a heroine, when in fact, she's just a silly girl who has made some rather bad decisions in her life.

But I digress. It may not be for everyone, and it could be that right now, the Great Gatsby is not right for you. I certainly wasn't ready for it at a certain point of my life, but now I am. It's like anything in life…there is a right time for it, and a wrong time.

My advice is to read what you want and enjoy what you read, and don't worry about what other people think. People will tell you that a certain book is the greatest thing every written…but that doesn't make it so.

The Great Gatsby, to me, is perfectly written. But that's just me. :)

Enjoy!


Adi Narayan Mandalemula Troy wrote: "I think they're fine: Much clearer than many others I could think of. His use of metaphor is appropriate, and creative. Sorry, I just don't see the problem. "

Thanks for replying. I find it very difficult to understand. He could've made it easier for the common reader to understand. I read Dickens and Bronte and found them very readable. Understood them well. Wuthering Heights is one of my favorite books. I totally got the similes and the imagery too long before I watched Phoebe explain it to Rachel. I just can't get these Great Gatsby phrases.


Tina I recently re-read Gatsby. I don't hate it, but I don't like it either. I actually think that Tender Is the Nightis a much better book. But that's my little opinion.


message 10: by Adi Narayan (last edited Mar 19, 2012 09:35AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Adi Narayan Mandalemula Anthony wrote: "May I share a story?"

Thanks a lot for replying. What a reply. Fantastic. You gave me the perfect answer I was seeking for when I was writing this post. After I read your reply I got to a conclusion that I can believe I've matured as a reader when I start getting Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby like most others do. Like you said, may be I'm just not ready for this Novel. I'll go back to Rowling, Tolstoy and Dostoevksy. They are a lot easily readable for me. I find your reply really very useful Anthony.


Adi Narayan Mandalemula Tina wrote: "I recently re-read Gatsby. I don't hate it, but I don't like it either. I actually think that Tender Is the Nightis a much better book. But that's my little opinion."

I thought of reading Tender is the Night, but Great Gatsby scared me away from it.


message 12: by Licha (new) - rated it 1 star

Licha Thanks Aditya for reminding why I hated this book so much. I had to read this book when I was in high school and all I remember is hating it. I don't remember much else about it, but your samples of sentences from the book brought back the feeling of "ugh" I had when reading it. It is probably the reason why I didn't like it then. Not a book that I would likely pick up again.


message 13: by L.S. (new) - rated it 2 stars

L.S. Murphy WOW! I'm so glad there are other people who don't like this book!


Adi Narayan Mandalemula L.S. wrote: "WOW! I'm so glad there are other people who don't like this book!"

Ha ha. Thanks. Your comment made me feel the same way too. :)


message 15: by Troy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Troy Aditya,

I think you're struggling a bit with an issue that many of us have: The transition from the realist novels of the 19th century to the modernist/post-modernist novels of the 20th.

The problem is that we have Ulysses, To The Lighthouse, and As I Lay Dying in between, and literature will never be the same.

There are still very readable 20th century writers (e.g., Hemingway, Steinbeck). But much of the rest is somewhat more difficult than those earlier books you mentioned.

Like any other craft, reading is a skill that requires practice and experience. I wouldn't give up on Fitzgerald yet. He is a good stepping stone to the more difficult, yet incredibly rewarding, novels of James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, William Faulkner and Thomas Pynchon.


Julia Aditya wrote: "Anthony wrote: "May I share a story?"

Thanks a lot for replying. What a reply. Fantastic. You gave me the perfect answer I was seeking for when I was writing this post. After I read your reply I g..."


Aditya wrote: "I don't know if this book is trash or if I'm dumb enough to not understand it's greatness. I want to tell you why I hated the book. The following sentences are just a few of those that made me read..."

Aditya wrote: "Anthony wrote: "May I share a story?"

Thanks a lot for replying. What a reply. Fantastic. You gave me the perfect answer I was seeking for when I was writing this post. After I read your reply I g..."


Anthony wrote: "May I share a story?

I read The Great Gatsby when I was in High School, along with the works of Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner. Next to the two great titans of style…Fitzgerald's writing s..."


If you enjoy the Russian greats, I am suprised that the lyrical nature of Fitzgerald's writing eludes you. The great Russian novels (I have a love affair with Russian lit) are some of the most romantic, poetic and lyric of all time, in my opinion.

It seems to me that you grasp Fitzgerald's meaning just fine, you just don't like his writing style. It doesn't make Gatsby great OR trash, you just don't like it. That's fine.

Personally, I appreciated Gatsby much more than I liked it. Whether you enjoyed it or not, Fitzgerald was a good writer. However, I tend to enjoy the type of description in Gatsby, it helps me create a little running film in my mind.

If you don't enjoy so much description, whatever you do, avoid Henry James! He will frustrate and bore you to tears!

Happy reading!


Adi Narayan Mandalemula Licha wrote: "Thanks Aditya for reminding why I hated this book so much."

Really nice to know that I'm in good company. ;) My friend was in awe for this book. He loved it totally. I was reading alongside him, and I just can't this book. I can't even go fast through these pages. It's like running in sand, not beside the surf, but in the middle of a desert. Hopeless. Very Irritated.


message 18: by W (new) - rated it 5 stars

W I agree with the previous posters... it sounds like you just don't care for his writing style, and that's okay.

Although I understand where they're coming from, I'm often a little disappointed when high school teachers assign this as required reading. I think it turns a lot of people off of reading Fitzgerald or other classics, because it is a very daunting, somewhat complicated, incredibly descriptive writing style, more so than some of his other works like Tender is the Night or any of his short stories. Personally, the imagery is one of the reasons I like the novel so much, but I get that it's not an easy read -- there's definitely passages you have to read over a few times to really get, and descriptions you really have to stop and think about to understand.

So, basically, I'd recommend trying out some of F.Scott Fitzgerald's short stories before writing him off completely :)


message 19: by Adi Narayan (last edited Mar 19, 2012 10:53AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Adi Narayan Mandalemula Wendy wrote: "I agree with the previous posters... it sounds like you just don't care for his writing style, and that's okay."

Thanks for replying Wendy. I'll definitely try his other novels now. Like you observed, yes, I had to go through each paragraph two to three times and think a while about it to understand it. But I like a Novel to be a smooth read. It can terrify me or make me cry or make me laugh. Whatever it does, it should be a smooth flow. I shouldn't have to stop often to think about what I just read. In Great Gatsby, I had stop literally after every paragraph. May be I'm just not ready for this Novel. Definitely I'll try reading Fitzgerald's other works Wendy. Thanks for recommending.


message 20: by Lily (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lily Aditya wrote: "...But I like a Novel to be a smooth read. It can terrify me or make me cry or make me laugh. Whatever it does, it should be a smooth flow. I shouldn't have to stop often to think about what I just read...."

Have just been indulging in a fascinating discussion elsewhere on goodreads about the importance of reading speed and what factors impact it. One of my takeaways from that discussion is that reading speed is a reading skill that we can bring under our control to enhance our reading pleasure, but we do need to be conscious and learn how to do so, rather than necessarily being automatic about it. Rather like re-reading, another skill that lots of us have probably learned how and when to use (perhaps better: still are learning).


message 21: by Troy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Troy Have you tried reading Fitzgerald aloud? Sometimes the sound of a word or sentence is easier to process than the visual.

I'm currently reading Proust, and I think reading aloud helped immensely when I got bogged down in a couple of really dense paragraphs.


message 22: by Lily (last edited Mar 19, 2012 11:46AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lily Troy wrote: "I'm currently reading Proust, and I think reading aloud helped immensely..."

Troy -- The audio CDs are finally permitting me to enjoy Proust, after several previous attempts to read him. Those monstrously long sentences and descriptions become beautiful and even sensuous. How many fun and fabulous modes we have to acquire stories today!


Heather I never had to read The Great Gatsby in high school, which I am now glad about. I figure I know enough about literature, imagery, etc to understand why some people find GATSBY great, but I'm just not one of those people. After reading it, I went to Sparknotes, just to check what it said about why this book is "important." I understood the points they made, but I still can't say I enjoyed GATSBY, and I don't think of it as a book I would ever want to read again. I think the one redeeming part of the book was a look into the extremes of culture in the "roaring 20s." Beyond that, I'll leave it alone.


Maria I think that one main reason why I loved it so much had to do with the fact that I read it for school and had a very good but intimidating teacher, so there was no way I was not going to read it and read it well! I had to analyze it critically, find meaning behind the confusing moments and write a few commentarys on passages! But I think that what made me love it the most was my teachers pure love and passion for the book itself. I think that her feelings for it definetly influenced mine because she did a great job explaining the meaning behind things but also she made US find meaning in the book which helps as well because you learn what to look for. If you dont understand what I mean by "find meaning", at a very basic level it is when you look at a section in the book and describe/figure out why the author said what they did and why the reader should CARE! I am not going to lie, this book was no walk in the park as far as enjoyment goes for me. I had many moments when I didnt like it and wished I could stop but I didn't and I hope that you give it another try with a different point of view.


message 25: by Luke (new) - rated it 5 stars

Luke Evans I'm with Anthony. That was a great reply.

I think part, if not most of the problem lies in how it's taught. Teachers often stress every sentence, trying to wring meaning out of every syllable, but really, it's meant to be read as a whole. Sure, it all works together, and if you plan to write or understand what you read then it's good to be able to break it down. But perhaps steps are being missed, because so many have a disconnect. It becomes tedious and unenjoyable, and so instead of teaching kids to appreciate literature, they unwittingly teach them to resent it. Really a shame, because it's a remarkably witty and taut book.

I thought it strange that you'd mention the descriptions as being overdone when it's a relatively short, quick read, especially compared to Dickens and other older works, or even Stephen King. I think those descriptions have a place in the greater purpose of the book, and weren't simply throwaway description for the sake of description.

But that's just me. I'm sure it's not for everyone.


message 26: by Licha (new) - rated it 1 star

Licha Luke wrote: "I'm with Anthony. That was a great reply.

I think part, if not most of the problem lies in how it's taught. Teachers often stress every sentence, trying to wring meaning out of every syllable, but..."


You bring up a good point. I wonder how many books we all hated or misunderstood back in high school because of the over-analyzing we all had to do.


Marisa I read this book in my high school English class. I also absolutely hated it. This book cannot even compare to some other classics that I love. Catcher in the Rye was a book that I read at the same time as Gatsby and I absolutely adore it. Gatsby is overrated.


Julia Maria wrote: "I think that one main reason why I loved it so much had to do with the fact that I read it for school and had a very good but intimidating teacher, so there was no way I was not going to read it an..."

Great contribution to this discussion. The book was not required reading for me, and I wish I had had your wonderful teacher's input at several points throughout the story. I am such a character driven reader, and there was such a shortage of 'likable' characters! I think this was part of the point of the book, but it really forced your attention to the prose. Gatsby will never be on my 'favorites' list, but the writing is top notch.


message 29: by Luke (new) - rated it 5 stars

Luke Evans Marisa wrote: "Catcher in the Rye was a book that I read at the same time as Gatsby and I absolutely adore it. Gatsby is overrated."


See, I feel the same way, only inverse. I found Catcher in the Rye to be tedious and pointless. I kept waiting for something to happen, but nothing ever did.


Marisa Luke wrote: "Marisa wrote: "Catcher in the Rye was a book that I read at the same time as Gatsby and I absolutely adore it. Gatsby is overrated."


See, I feel the same way, only inverse. I found Catcher in th..."


I sort of agree with you because you are right, nothing really did happen but I liked how the story was a battle inside one character. I also like how Holden did not change his view on life to match the worlds.


message 31: by Ray (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ray Campbell Referring back to the original disgust with flowery prose - if all images and ideas could be communicated directly with the desired effect using Hemingway style blunt statements, there would be no need of poetry or music. Fitzgerald's words make images dance in my mind. I feel wind and rain and smell spring, summer and fall... If the references and images don't connect with you, then the book is a confusing blur and I can completely understand disliking it. I know New York, Long Island and the mansions of Newport. I've seen grey men fade into a grey cityscape and heard the rumble of trains as I've raced along the same roads to which Fitzgerald refers. I love Jazz and history. The passion in this book is in the dialog and the spirit of the period which Fitzgerald captures in poetic turns of phrase. I love the book. When he talks about the light running across the lawn over the hedge and leaping to clear the sundial, I envision the cliffs at Newport and the lawn of the Breakers and I am delighted. The book speaks to experience and imagery not everyone shares.


Richard well after 8 years now of declaring Gatsby attrocious and my wife declaring it wonderous i guess it's time to give it a re-read. so it's next up to read once i finish the book i'm on


message 33: by Lisa (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lisa Westerfield I read it a long time ago - not as assigned reading either. I didn't hate it but found the story forgetable.


message 34: by Ray (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ray Campbell I like living in yuppy hell with the SUVs and golden retrievers, but there is something of the hippie in me. I like that Nick figures out that his rich friends are full of it, that there is more to life and goes home. It's sort of the Wizard of Oz archetype in lyrical prose set in a posh landscape during the Jazz Age. Again, I really liked it - short, whimsical prose, self discovery through the misadventures of others, jazz and the "promise of gay things to come". What's not to like.


Anthony Cardenas Luke wrote: "I'm with Anthony. That was a great reply.

I think part, if not most of the problem lies in how it's taught. Teachers often stress every sentence, trying to wring meaning out of every syllable, but..."


Luke, you make a really great point about teachers and their innate ability to kill one's pleasure of reading and literature in general.

It's funny because I'm a Reader and a Writer not because of teachers but Despite them. Every book they assigned me to read when I was growing up (Moby Dick, The Scarlet Letter, Great Expectations, etc)...I absolutely dreaded and hated reading, and I think it was simply because a.) I was too young to read such older works, and b.) my teachers emphasized the "significance and literary merit" of the books rather than just letting us simply enjoying them for their own sake, and then letting us discover our own meanings. More often than not, i felt I was at church and a priest was basically overexplaining what jesus meant by this that or the other thing.

I actually think literature is taught backwards in schools. Invariably, we are taught the ancients first and then work our way up to the modern times. Which is awful. First, as teenagers, you just can't relate to language of Beowulf or Gilgamesh. Also, Shakespeare is a chore to read at 14, at least it was for me. I think most teens have trouble fully understanding Shakespeare because of the language and the social/cultural references of the Elizabethan Era and not all the Mel Gibson and Kenneth Branagh movies in the world will change that I'm afraid. It took me years after high school to truly appreciate Shakespare and Meville...and now I can't get enough of them.

I think, instead, literature should be taught to teens by starting them off with Contemporary works..on subjects that are certain to interest and entertain them. And then work backwards. So if you like Hunger Games or The Life of Pi or Twilight or whatever...then it's easier to get them to read things like kazuo ishiguro or A.S. Byatt or other modern authors...then go back a little more and you are into the Hemingways, Faulkner, and Fitzgeralds, etc. Then go back even further and you got Joyce, Kafka, and Proust...and so on and so forth, until you at the end of the course, you finally get to the root of all the literature you have come to love and enjoy...Shakespeare, Aeschylus, Homer, etc.

Anyway, all this to say Luke is right; sometimes Teachers try to hard to make you like books. Books sell themselves. They don't need a used car salsman trying to tell them how good it is. Just let kids read the right books in the right order (because it's the right time for them)...and see what happens.

Cheers!


message 36: by Lily (last edited Mar 19, 2012 07:48PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lily Anthony wrote: "Just let kids read the right books in the right order (because it's the right time for them)...and see what happens...."

Anthony -- Sounds like you ought to get involved with the syllabi constructing organizations of your state!

(I was once encouraged to do so, but didn't pursue it.)


Anthony Cardenas Aditya wrote: "Anthony wrote: "May I share a story?"

Thanks a lot for replying. What a reply. Fantastic. You gave me the perfect answer I was seeking for when I was writing this post. After I read your reply I g..."


I'm glad my words helped, Aditya. You know, I was looking at the title of this particular thread...and i thought, "You know it shouldn't be 'Why I hate the Great Gatsby'...but maybe rather "Why am I trying to love it" instead. I think many of us try to love things (books, movies, even people!) not because we want to but because we feel that we should because of reputations or what other people say about them.

I appreciate your honesty in wrestling with this particular work of literature. Most people wouldn't admit to having trouble with a book or even specify why. So your thoughts and feelings on the subject are quite relevant, and I can tell are not just yours but shared by a great many people it seems.

But like many have said here...no one book is for everybody. And people's tastes change over time, so that today you may hate something that ten years from now you will come to love. Such is life.

But there are probably millions of books out in the world in many different languages on a wide variety of subjects...plenty to go around for everybody. :)


Anthony Cardenas Lily wrote: "Anthony wrote: "Just let kids read the right books in the right order (because it's the right time for them)...and see what happens...."

Anthony -- Sounds like you ought to get involved with the s..."


I would have jump at the opportunity to influence young minds. I did not have a very good scholastic experience. I fell in love with books and writing through my own curiosity and talent, both of which school always threatened to squash and squander at every turn it seemed.

Aside from how to teach literature to kids, I also feel that we are deficient in one other important area of life: How to manage money.

Yes, they have Economics classes, but they are so abstract and useless that they have no bearing on what a normal everyday person goes through in the workplace. What should be taught the basic essentials about fundamental money management...influence people to buy rather than rent, to invest in vehicles that have higher rates of returns than a savings account at a bank, how to budget your money, etc.

Another way to get high school kids involved in the managing their own financial security would be to somehow (someway, maybe through a form of taxes or some other mechanism), to have scholastic Grades and good behavior directly tied to some sort of financial merit system, so that the higher your grades, the more money you accrue, so that there is an actual financial incentive to doing good in school. Sports, arts, and extracurriculars also contribute to one's accrued wealth. And then at then end of your scholastic cycle, you have a balance of money that you can either cash out and use to start your life but with tax penalties...OR you can use that accrued wealth pay for college tuition with no tax liabilities, etc. etc.

If we pay adults to work, why not pay kids to learn. At least they would be accustomed to getting something out of all the hard work they put it in. Of course, Mom and Dad might start charging them rent...! :)

Anyway, I'm loaded with crazy ideas. I better stop now. This is about Gatsby. Gatsby! they are going to make a film version staring the wonderful Carey Mulligan in the role of Daisy. How awesome is that?


Jeanie Anthony wrote: "Luke wrote: "I'm with Anthony. That was a great reply.

I think part, if not most of the problem lies in how it's taught. Teachers often stress every sentence, trying to wring meaning out of every ..."


This is an excellent point. I remember joking with a colleague that the classics should be forbidden to anyone under the age of thirty because they just don't have the life experience to understand or appreciate them. While they weren't in any of my curricula, I remember hearing older students--high school to my elementary--speaking with utter distaste of having to read such "awful" works as Silas Marner, Ivanhoe, or Bleak House. I felt lucky to miss them. Until, that is, The Lord of the Flies was assigned instead. Later in my life, after age thirty coincidentally, I chose to read them. And wow was I ever blown away. I couldn't believe Ivanhoe was ever looked on with dread by any kid, but I was forgetting that even Robin Hood is less fun when required reading and that the more complex prose of a Sir Walter Scott can be daunting and even incomprehensible to the young.

What I discovered when reading for myself was that I really liked many of the classics, especially nineteenth century, but my tastes simply didn't include much of the literature of the twentieth century. Well, I don't like zucchini either, but I hear a lot of people really enjoy it. There's truly no accounting for taste ;P


message 40: by Adi Narayan (last edited Mar 20, 2012 03:02AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Adi Narayan Mandalemula As the Originator of this Post I say that the best reply award goes to Anthony. Kidding. Really you sound like you have vast amounts of experience in reading and discussing books. That - Let children read books in their own comfortable order is a very good suggestion. Really valuable advice Anthony. And I'm going to change this Post's title.


message 41: by Adi Narayan (last edited Mar 20, 2012 03:39AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Adi Narayan Mandalemula Jeanie, you are right. We appreciate some great books only when we have grown up. A lot of children find these classics very boring. No, not boring. Frustrating. Like what I went through with Gatsby. Ha, I realise I'm still at that level in reading. And regarding 'forbidding the high quality books to youngsters' I hope that is really just a joke. If Classics are forbidden for the kids, kids like Matilda won't be able to read great books. Thanks for the reply.


message 42: by Adi Narayan (last edited Mar 20, 2012 03:50AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Adi Narayan Mandalemula Julia, I completed Crime and Punishment, and I didn't complete reading Anna Karenina (Richard Pevear translation) and War and Peace, but as far as I read them, I can very well say that I had no problem at all reading and understanding them. Not only that but I was enjoying them incredibly well. I have no complaints against their status as literary giants. Dickens and Steinbeck, I read and enjoyed too. As you said, I understood what Fitzgerald was basically trying to convey with this Story and I enormously respect it, but he totally totally totally frustrated me with his prose.


Adi Narayan Mandalemula Ray wrote: "I like living in yuppy hell with the SUVs and golden retrievers, but there is something of the hippie in me. I like that Nick figures out that his rich friends are full of it, that there is more to..."

Took me a while to understand what you wrote, but when I did I liked what you said. Especially your comparisons of Gatsby book with Wizard of Oz is a very interesting observation. That opens up a whole new paradigm for me towards this book. Yeah, it's not just Gatsby's story, but also Nick's and Daisy's story as well. Well said Ray. Your grasp over Fitzgerald's prose is admirable. But I feel bad that 'this book speaks to experience and imagery not everyone shares'. When you read about such unexperienced descriptions, you'd like it better if he explained it more clearly. Tolkien's Middle Earth and Rowling's Hogwarts, I never visited, but by the time I finished those books, I'm as good as I visited them.


Anthony Cardenas Aditya wrote: "As the Originator of this Post I say that the best reply award goes to Anthony. Kidding. Really you sound like you have vast amounts of experience in reading and discussing books. That - Let childr..."

I am honored.


Julia Anthony wrote: "Luke wrote: "I'm with Anthony. That was a great reply.

I think part, if not most of the problem lies in how it's taught. Teachers often stress every sentence, trying to wring meaning out of every ..."


Anthony wrote: "Luke wrote: "I'm with Anthony. That was a great reply.

Anthony, enjoying books for their own sake. Yes, yes, yes. I love the idea of beginning with contemporary works and moving backward. There is so much great young adult fiction, some of which have movies attached or in the works. I think it would be great to do a book/film class for young adult literature. Then move on to a book/film class for some of the classics. Any related homework should be experiential rather than analytical.
Like you, my love of books developed outside school. I now work in a library, so I'm surrounded by book lovers. I don't understand how there is such a surplus visiting the library and such a shortage of these happy passionate readers teaching our kids! It really makes all the difference! The first truly wonderful English teachers I had were in college. The first was a tiny, wrinkled, wizened little professor for British literature who had us all spouting in iambic pentameter by mid semester, and having fun doing it. The second was for Literature of the Non Western World. The best college course I have ever taken. We read African, Indian, Iranian, South American, Vietnamese,and Japanese authors. I fell in love with these books, and began a life-long exploration for more "non-western" authors. A whole new world of reading opened up to me with that one class. I am so thankful for these teachers! But why did I get to college before I had teachers like that. There are wonderful books for all ages!
Anyway, back to Gatsby...Thank you Aditya for beginning this wonderful discussion. Sometimes, hating a book is much more interesting than liking it!



Anthony Cardenas Julia wrote: "Anthony wrote: "Luke wrote: "I'm with Anthony. That was a great reply.

I think part, if not most of the problem lies in how it's taught. Teachers often stress every sentence, trying to wring meani..."


You know, to be fair to high school teachers, they are primarily constrained, I think, by the curriculum that is set by the School District, and ultimately by the government who says "you have to teach the test". So teachers aren't really at liberty to do what they want or even do what makes sense...they have to stick to the way the English Literature books are formatted (ancients first, modern last) or are following the pre-set curriculum.

College/university level professors though have no such constraints, and can format their classes as they see fit (to a certain extent, I'm sure). Which is why many people typically "discover" literature later in life. But not everybody is able to pursue higher education, and so there is a deficient of Readers in the world, who appreciate great literature.

And yes, I also believe that sometimes hating a book has value, too. At the very least it tells you what you don't like and solidifies what you do like. Also, as a writer, i can say, i learned probably as much or more from reading "badly written books" than I did from just The Greats because it showed me what NOT to do, and so actively and conscientiously avoided writing styles like that like the plague.

Goodness...this discussion has really evolved, hasn't it?


Adi Narayan Mandalemula Julia wrote: "Anyway, back to Gatsby...Thank you Aditya for beginning this wonderful discussion. Sometimes, hating a book is much more interesting than liking it! "

My Pleasure Julia. It's our discussion. Looks like it's coming to an end. Nice to be in a discussion alongside Ray, Anthony, you, Jeanie, Lauren, Troy, Tina, Licha, L.S, Wendy, Lily, Heather, Maria, Luke, Marisa, Midwestocean. You all made this a wonderful discussion.


message 48: by Adi Narayan (last edited Mar 20, 2012 09:09AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Adi Narayan Mandalemula Anthony wrote: "Goodness...this discussion has really evolved, hasn't it? "

Yes, it really has Anthony. And we owe it to the mysterious book F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote.


message 49: by Licha (new) - rated it 1 star

Licha Anthony, you bring up a very good point about high school kids not being taught correctly. I am with you that kids should be taught such things as real life finances, even autoshop (I say this becauase as a female, I wish I was at least somewhat knowledgeable in this area so I wouldn't get taken advantage of). The way classics are presented is why I think a lot of people either hate them or are intimidated by them. Kids are forced to write essays that are sometimes obscure and not direct topics, which adds to the panic a student ends up feeling about reading the classics. I am glad I was "forced" to read these books, because I know I would have never picked them up on my own. But a lot of times, what I have noticed now, as an adult, is that I either have little recollection of a book or probably missed the whole point of a book. As an adult now, I know I would take on a different view of a book and a different understanding and hopefully enjoyment of it. High school may be too early for kids to tackle on the classics. Not impossible, but I think it won't be a full understanding of them.


James Powell There are several strands of thought in this thread. I'd like to pull on two: the judgment of the novel and the use of the novel in teaching literature in high school.

Whether one likes or dislikes a novel is not a measure of its greatness, if that word is even appropriate. One must consider the impact of the novel on all other readers and all other writers. I propose that any novel still being read 80 years after it was published has some claim to a value beyond mere entertainment. I suggest that the reader's goal might be to work to discover why that is so, then judge it by asking the question, "What is literature for?" rather than, "Do I like this novel?" One might still reject the novel, but at least the experience of it will be more rewarding.

The question of whether the novel ought to be studied by high school students is more relevant to me because I am a high school English teacher. I've used Gatsby once and I cannot say it felt like success. But I would use it again if I ever get another group of students who are capable of reading it. (My students are usually the 'way behind' kind who struggle to understand newspaper articles.)

Using a particular novel to teach literary analysis in high school is less about the 'greatness' of the novel or even the novel itself than it is about whether the novel is useful as a teaching tool. After all, we don't have to love the car to learn to drive it.

I should add that I don't like the idea of using the same book for a whole class. I like to give the students choices. It isn't that the student has to love the book to learn from it, but if she hates it, then I'm making my job more difficult by insisting on it. And, too, the choice itself is part of the learning.


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Books mentioned in this topic

The Great Gatsby (other topics)
Tender Is the Night (other topics)
The Late Gatsby (other topics)
F. Scott Fitzgerald's the Great Gatsby (other topics)
Empty Roads & Broken Bottles; in search for The Great Perhaps (other topics)
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Authors mentioned in this topic

Charlotte Eriksson (other topics)