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I can no longer ignore the itch to write about the classics. They are, after all, books that I not only read more frequently, but read so often I can write about them with ease.
The first classic is my favorite: “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I am slightly obsessed with this book and, as a result, its author. When I watched the movie “Midnight in Paris,” my jaw dropped to the floor when F. Scott appeared on the screen. I felt like I was meeting a celebrity, or seeing a best friend who had passed away (this was quickly followed by a serious and sincere conversation with my husband on ways we could name a son - if we’re blessed to have one - “F. Scott”).
More than likely, you were required to read this novel in high school. I say to you now - go read it again. Then consider reading it again after that. I have read this novel probably 20 times or more, and yet I find something new and interesting every time I pick it back up.
Notice the way Fitzgerald characterizes people. Instead of the overdone “She was 5’4”, blue-eyed with brown hair, freckles covering her face,” he gives you one or two characteristics that magically transform into a character you can not only visualize, but feel like you know. For example, this is how Daisy is described when we first meet her:
“She laughed again, as if she said something very witty, and held my hand for a moment, looking up into my face, promising that there was no one in the world she so much wanted to see. That was a way she had. ... (I’ve heard it said that Daisy’s murmur was only to make people lean toward her; an irrelevant criticism that made it no less charming.) ... It was the kind of voice that the ear follows up and down, as if each speech is an arrangement of notes that will never be played again. Her face was sad and lovely with bright things in it, bright eyes and a bright passionate mouth, but there was an excitement in her voice that men who had cared for her found difficult to forget: a singing compulsion, a whispered ‘Listen,’ a promise that she had done gay, exciting things just a while since and that there were gay, exciting things hovering in the next hour.”
I mean, seriously. Pure beauty. Can’t you picture her? This girl with this voice ... that is all you need. The rest - how tall she is, what color her eyes are - are up to you because they don’t matter. At this point, you already know Daisy.
The language continues like that in his descriptions and even in his one-liners. His book famously ends with the quote, “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past” which is so true. But many people forget how the book begins: “In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. ‘Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,’ he told me, ‘just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.’” What great advice to live by.
I could keep going, but I’ll stop here (you can imagine what my classroom is like during the three weeks we read this novel). If you want to read a classic, let this be your first (and second, and third, and fourth...).
Coury Osbourne is an AP English teacher at Marion County High School. She is also the (patient) wife of Jesse Osbourne, Sun editor.
More of her book reviews can be found online at http://coco-cosby.blogspot.com.