I feel the need to unburden myself with a few bookish and writerly confessions. Don’t judge me too harshly.
I just finished reading The Great Gatsby (for the first time): Yes, I’m 32, an English teacher (American lit, even!), and a writer, and I just finished reading The Great Gatsby for the first time. I was never assigned to read it throughout high school and college. It’s one of those that I always intended to read but had just never gotten around to–until a few days ago when I had a student, who loves the book, ask me if I had read it. I was honest and said no. Her mouth dropped open (it actually did). “Are you serious?” she said. Imagine my shame. I picked up the book the very next day and began reading immediately.
I didn’t think The Great Gatsby was that great: Sorry. I just didn’t. There are some great qualities. I enjoyed its lyricism, and there are moments when the imagery/description is just so vivid, poetic and beautiful. While reading, it also occurred to me that the narrator, Nick Carraway, is gay or bisexual. He has an interesting and ambiguous encounter with a Mr. McKee involving some phallic imagery and underwear, and his love interest, Jordan, is somewhat masculine and androgynous. I did a little research after finishing the book and discovered that a great deal has already been written on the subject. This is one of the enjoyable qualities, by the way. I love peeling the layers of a narrative to find the less explicit narrative. For the most part though, I couldn’t get attached to the characters or their story. This is supposed to be one of the greatest American novels, and I just don’t think it stands up to other American classics such as Huck Finn or The Grapes of Wrath. It’s a good book with some good writing; I was just expecting more.
I’ve been book hopping: This happens to me periodically. I reach a point where I can’t just land on a book long enough to finish before my curiosity takes me to another. I’m deep into The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton, The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, and The Good Lord Bird by James McBride. I read The Luminaries until, honestly, I just couldn’t take anymore. So, I picked up The Virgins by Pamela Erens–finished it, loved it (you can read my review here). After The Virgins I moved on to The Goldfinch; I’ve been loving it, but there was a terrible few days when I had misplaced it and needed something to read and so I picked up The Good Lord Bird and got a good 200 or so pages in before I found The Goldfinch and returned to it. I had been reading The Goldfinch voraciously, but then I had my little Gatsby emergency–finished it and now I’m back to The Goldfinch. My plan is to finish The Goldfinch, go back to The Good Lord Bird, and then move on to a new book: The Revolution of Every Day by Cari Luna. I’m still unsure about going back to The Luminaries; I may write about that some more another time. (The Luminaries and The Goldfinch are both around 800 pages and not quick reads, by the way)
I had an impulse a couple days ago to start the Divergent series: I resisted, though. I try not to be too snobbish about my literature, but I do read mostly literary fiction these days. It was fantasy and science fiction that first brought me to reading, but I don’t read much young adult fiction. Occasionally I will–especially if it’s something that a lot of my students are reading and/or a book I may end up teaching. This stuff works well with freshmen or classes with lots of low-level readers. That’s not a criticism of anyone who reads or has read these books or others like them. For students who never read, and often say “I hate to read,” the intense, fast-paced plots pull them in and sometimes even hook them on reading; that’s definitely a good thing. And every now and then I just want to read something high-interest, fast-paced, and fun. But, as I just pointed out, I already have a few tomes waiting for me on my nightstand. I may still end up reading Divergent, though–perhaps over the summer.
I’ve been writing poetry: I consider myself a fiction writer. I don’t write poetry, but, well, I have been lately. I do read contemporary poetry and love it, but I haven’t really tried to write any until lately (other than an awkward phase in my first year of college). When I’m between stories–or can’t stand to look at a current project–I make sure I’m still writing by working on a poem. I would never submit these and I’m not sure they’re good, but it’s great practice (for any poets who may be reading, I am so sorry for referring to poetry as “practice”). Writing poetry keeps me mindful of purposeful diction, sound, and cadence; those qualities, I hope, are then more likely to work their way into my prose.
Thanks for reading; I feel much better now.