Wednesday, September 5, 2012

RTW: Oldie but Greatie

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.


This Week's Topic


Back to school time! What's your favorite book that you had to read for a class?

Considering I graduated high school and college too many years ago, the choice should probably not be easy, but I do remember a lot of what I read and quite a bit about those books. I had a lot I enjoyed (Death of a Salesman, Ethan Frome, Of Mice and Men), several I didn’t like (Beowulf, The Iceman Cometh, The Stranger—in FRENCH), and I had a few that I loved, loved, loved (King Lear, Waiting for Godot, The Bell Jar), but my favorite?

That one’s EASY




A portrait of the Jazz Age in all of its decadence and excess, Gatsby captured the spirit of the author's generation and earned itself a permanent place in American mythology. Self-made, self-invented millionaire Jay Gatsby embodies some of Fitzgerald's--and his country's--most abiding obsessions: money, ambition, greed, and the promise of new beginnings. "Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that's no matter--tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther.... And one fine morning--" Gatsby's rise to glory and eventual fall from grace becomes a kind of cautionary tale about the American Dream.

It's also a love story, of sorts, the narrative of Gatsby's quixotic passion for Daisy Buchanan. The pair meet five years before the novel begins, when Daisy is a legendary young Louisville beauty and Gatsby an impoverished officer. They fall in love, but while Gatsby serves overseas, Daisy marries the brutal, bullying, but extremely rich Tom Buchanan. After the war, Gatsby devotes himself blindly to the pursuit of wealth by whatever means--and to the pursuit of Daisy, which amounts to the same thing. "Her voice is full of money," Gatsby says admiringly, in one of the novel's more famous descriptions. His millions made, Gatsby buys a mansion across Long Island Sound from Daisy's patrician East Egg address, throws lavish parties, and waits for her to appear. When she does, events unfold with all the tragic inevitability of a Greek drama, with detached, cynical neighbor Nick Carraway acting as chorus throughout. Spare, elegantly plotted, and written in crystalline prose, The Great Gatsby is as perfectly satisfying as the best kind of poem.


WHY is it my favorite? Well, it just IS. I know…hardly an explanation. But as I thought about it, I had a really hard time deciding why I choose to reread this book when my juniors study Gatsby every year, why my heart tingles when I read an update about the movie. Why I just love the story even though the ending breaks my heart every time I read it. But I’ll try to offer up a few reasons. J

1) The color schema: my English teacher made a big ado about it, and I’m so glad she did. WHITE = purity(Daisy’s face); yellow = greed (Gatsby’s necktie); green = hope (light at end of Gatsby’s dock)… I just thought the color symbolisms were so cool.

2) The time period. Alison is not a huge historical fiction fan, but put me in the twenties with the clothes and cars and the music (JAZZ!) and the architecture and…*swoon* I could take up permanent residence in West Egg, thank you.

Also: when my juniors read this, their English teachers usually celebrate the end of the unit with a Gatsby Day and give extra credit for dressing up twenties style. Man, do I want to be a flapper for a day, but haha—I don’t think that would go over to well.

3) The parties. The lavish, fast-paced lifestyle of the way too rich and famous. Yeah, again. Wouldn’t’ mind spending a summer or two (or five) in West Egg.


4) The movie: the 1974 Robert Redford version I watched spring of 1986? I remember LOVING it. So, I was a little nervous but a whole lot excited for the Leo DiCaprio version that was SUPPOSED to debut at Christmas and now I just feel ANNOYED that I have to wait until the summer of 2013. GRRR.

5) The characters. Characters I love and hate at the same time (DAISY). Characters I hurt for (GATSBY).  I even love the characters I hate (TOM). Gatsby contains a beautifully rounded COLORFUL cast. And my favorite? The narrator: NICK CARRAWAY. Won’t even try to explain why. He just IS.

6) Um...that COVER. Enough said.

7) The prose. Concise. Poignant. Breath-takingly beautiful.

I am slow-thinking and full of interior rules that act as brakes on my desires.

His heart beat faster and faster as Daisy’s white face came up to his own. He knew that when he kissed this girl, and forever wed his unutterable visions to her perishable breath, his mind would never romp again like the mind of God. So he waited, listening for a moment longer to the tuning fork that had been struck upon a star. Then he kissed her. At his lips’ touch she blossomed like a flower and the incarnation was complete.

So we drove on toward death through the cooling twilight.

If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity to the promise of life, as if he related to one of those intricate machines that register earthquakes ten thousand miles away.

For a moment the last sunshine fell with romantic affection upon her glowing face; her voice compelled me forward breathlessly as I listened - then the glow faded, each light deserting her with lingering regret, like children leaving a pleasant street at dusk.


SEE! Also, I refall in love with the word supercilious every time I read it. (Yes—Alison IS a word nerd)

So, what’s YOUR favorite book you had to read for a class? Did YOU read The Great Gatsby? Love it? Hate it? Tell me in the comments!

32 comments:

  1. Ahhh! Where was I when everyone else at school was reading these classics! It was never required reading for me! BUT I purchased this book last weekend so I'm going to read it asap. You having this as your RTW post makes me even more determined to read it!

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  2. Dude... I need to read this book, especially since my boyfriend Leonardo DiCaprio is staring in the upcoming movie. Love all your points about why GATSBY is awesome... Perhaps I'll hit up my library to see if they have a copy. Thanks for the recommendation, lady!

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    1. Yes, you DO need to read this one! Definitely check it out! I'm not a huge Leo fan (was actually a little wary about him for Gatsby), but after seeing previews, I'm sold. Can't wait!

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  3. Oh, yeah. Hometown boy. Love him.

    And love, love, love THE GREAT GATSBY. Someone wrote about this last week, too, and I almost pulled it out to read again. What you said about Daisy - yes, love her and hate her both.

    I've been to Newport, RI several times and had to go to all the places where they filmed parts of the Redford movie. Here's an interesting piece on the mansions of TGG: http://upstagedbydesign.com/2011/04/17/great-gatsby-movie-mansions-help-to-preserve-architecture-ceaselessly-into-the-past/

    I'm so loving this post right now. :) Thanks for brightening my day!

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    1. Aww..you're welcome! And I checked out that site. NEAT!

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  4. Oh, yes, I loved The Great Gatsby, too.

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  5. I did read The Great Gatsby in high school, and I loved it. I just reread it a few months back. The decadent parties and the beautiful prose win me over every time. Fitzgerald creates the most amazing images in my mind when I read. I love that a remake is on its way with Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Toby Maguire, and Baz Luhrmann!

    Some of my other favorite high school reads were Ordinary People, Flowers for Algernon, and Cold Sassy Tree.

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    1. Cold Sassy Tree has me at its title! And yay for Gatsby love! I'm excited for the movie too!

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  6. It has been a long time since I read this book, and I've been wanting to re-read it soon. I also LOVED the 1974 film, especially Robert Redford in his cream three piece suit. I try to be optimistic about the Leo remake. I like Leo, but...still.

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    1. I felt the same way about Leo, but the previews have me hopeful. I think I just picture Gatsby as Robert Redford too much. We'll see. :)

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  7. I respect The Great Gatsby for being the classic it is, but I honestly did not like it. I read bits and pieces in order to pass Gr.12 English, but that was it.

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    1. Not every one does like Gatsby, and I totally respect that because there are plenty of books that I don't really care for that tons of other people rave about.

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  8. I remember loving this book but I don't actually remember it. I downloaded it to my kindle to read it again, but haven't gotten to it. This is my second remember that I need to actually stick with it and read it again. Thanks!

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    1. Yes you do! And I hope you enjoy it the second time around!

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  9. Gatsby was awesome and also required reading in my high school, although of all the required books, To Kill A Mockingbird will always be my fave. Loved the Gatsby movie too. There's an eye doc near me whose sign reminds me of Dr. TJ Eckleburg.

    If you loved Gatsby, you should read "The Double Bind" by Chris Bohjalian, since Gatsby is treated as though it was a real event with real people.

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    1. I'll have to check that one out! Thanks!

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  10. I read Les Miserables last year, and I didn't dislike it a ton, so I guess that makes it my favorite school book so far.
    I just started reading Gatsby, on a rec from my sister. I'm only five pages in, and I'm not really enjoying it (is the narrator this obnoxious the whole book?) but I'm trying to plow through the beginning, because supposedly it gets better later.

    ~Riv Re
    Riv Reads

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    1. Give it time. And I SO hope you don't feel that way about Nick at the end! Love him!

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  11. I enjoyed Great Gatsby.

    I also love, love, loved Waiting For Godot. My husband and I even went to see a production of it...back when he would go see any play or movie with me...maybe it's that play's fault that he won't anymore;)

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    1. I did an entire research paper on the theater of the absurd after reading that play. I loved it!

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  12. This book was an acquired taste for me. I read it twice in high school and really didn't like it. Then I was assigned to read it two more times in college and by the fourth time I just fell in love and I fell hard! I can hardly wait to see Leo portray Gatsby soon!

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    1. So glad you read it that fourth time! I've read it several times now and just love it more every read!

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  13. GATSBY is one of my favorites, too. I haven't reread it in years, but a friend and I are planning to do a reread and discuss this fall.
    I'm really excited about the movie; boo to having to wait until next summer!

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    1. Yes! I want to hear all about that discussion!

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  14. Thank you so much for this post, Alison! I LOVE your book recommendations. I really enjoyed reading your post the other day about THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER (really want to check that one out!) and today's about THE GREAT GATSBY. I am embarassed to say I haven't actually read this one yet! I have always wanted to, but just never found the time. Now, I think I need to make the time for this classic. Especially after reading some of those lines you shared. I think a book that completely changed me in highschool was THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD by Zora Neale Hurston. It was on a list of books we could read for a book report, and I am just so thankful I ended up selecting it. The voice floored me. It still does. In fact, I really want to go back and read it again right now! I think it was the first time I realized that a book can sound like a peek inside someone's heart and soul, and that maybe the narrator is just as close as right next to you.

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    1. I have not read this one, but based on this, I think I need to fix that! And I hope you get a chance to read Gatsby. Soon. And I hope you enjoy it!

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  15. I still haven't read this one... *slinks away*

    But seriously, though, I'm pretty sure my sister owns it, so I'm going to have to borrow it from her when I go home in a couple weeks, because I've been trying to read this one since high school (only to have the library rudely snatch it away before I get to it).

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    1. Bad library! And yes, please snatch a copy from your sister. I hope you enjoy it!

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