Sometimes it can be enlightening to revisit a book. Your tastes and preferences certainly change with more experience. You can develop more patience for some aspects of a story or text even as you solidify definite likes and dislikes.
And so every once in awhile I’ll re-read a classic or a favorite from my youth. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby qualifies as the former more than the latter. I remember plowing through this book in high school, being vaguely impatient with the pacing and more than a little annoyed with the main characters. Unsympathetic, selfish and rich and not all that interesting. Even Gatsby himself, man of mystery seemed pretty boring in his single-mindedness… In truth, I likely scanned the last third of the book in my younger days – just get through it enough to know the material for the test. And if it seemed more like a history lesson back then than a study of literature, well, that’s education for you.
Reading Gatsby again over the last week was a lot more exciting for me. Not because of the story, but those sentences… That Fitzgerald could surely string together some sentences. The lovely and brittle little descriptions. Such economy and insight through the dialogue. Even when the narrative sways towards maudlin, the writing rings true. So even though I still found Gatsby, Daisy, and Carraway unsympathetic and annoying, even though I still view the story as highly predictable and overwrought, I did enjoy my reading. The telling of the tale can be worth the price of admission. Somewhere, an English teacher is nodding in agreement.
It’s enough to make me curious as to Fitzgerald’s aims and goals with the story (if he had any other than the writing). What was he really trying to do? What did he say or write about it later? With the book’s status and importance, I’m sure I’ll have no trouble tracking this down.
The next question is what the next re-read could be. I have enough new material I want to get to it could be some time before I get around to it, but I’m now a little more inclined to retry a classic.