Looking back on some of the books I’d been assigned in middle and high school, I realized that I didn’t fully appreciate a lot of them. They were usually classics, or harder-to-read books made to challenge us. We practiced noticing motifs, identifying themes, and writing thesis statements that we didn’t really take much pride in.
When my friend, Abby, suggested we cover F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby for our new podcast, Lit is Lit, I’ll be honest, I was a little nervous. I first read it as one of our required books in the eighth grade, and I became incredibly aware of the fact that eighth grade was about eight years ago. I barely remembered anything aside from the eyes of Dr. TJ Eckleburg and also something about a green light.
I’ve always been a slow reader, so often I wouldn’t finish the chapters we were assigned in class. I always felt rushed, and I never truly felt like I had a grasp on the concepts we were covering. I don’t blame my teacher for any of this, she had twenty other angsty eighth-graders to reign in. The point is, I’m a little embarrassed to admit the book didn’t sink in the first time I read it.
Now that I’m older and reading this for a podcast assignment, I’ve found that I genuinely enjoy this book a lot. Nick Carraway’s incredibly sassy, I’m having fun reading it as though it’s the commentary role on a reality TV show.
A lot of the tone and humor of the narration was lost on me when I was thirteen. Now, reading it, I find myself remembering more and enjoying it. I’m not saying don’t make eighth graders read it, quite the opposite. I can appreciate that an eighth grader reading it is going to have a much different experience than a junior in college.
Both are going to pull different meanings from the book. So I recommend really going back and re-reading some of the books you dreaded as a teenager. You might surprise yourself.
I won’t be re-reading Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose though. You couldn’t pay me.