Time always moves strangely to me. You have an idea, you start it, you work on it, but it is a long term project and you allow it to sit and flow over time.
The last time I wrote about this was almost a year ago! I promise I have since scratched some books off of the list, and there is more of this to come.
The premise here, again, is that like Denzel Washington’s character from The Equalizer, I am working my way through the list “100 books everyone has to read before they die.” The list can be found here.
Today we examine Pride and Prejudice, and The Great Gatsby. I am most likely going to make myself very unpopular here, but you do not have to read these. Keep in mind all things said here are just my opinion, and I am heavily influenced by what I would consider the bigger historical issues.
That is right, I said it. You do not have to read these, despite what the list says.
Let us tackle the Austen first. This is an amazing story, but as a text, it is difficult to chew through. I read the book. I have listened to the book. I have watched several versions of the movie, and an episode of ‘Wishbone.” This book’s relevance is rapidly becoming lost, in my opinion. Jane Austen wrote this during the Napoleonic Wars, and it is an excellent social commentary on the time. However, we have since moved on. We have moved far on. I am not trying to just kill off classics that are outside of their time, but unless you are studying 19th Century English Literature, or maybe on a looser level just English history, then these social issues will not fall into place I feel. As I said, I love the story, but I love it when it is acted out. When I read it, I would have to take breaks, and by breaks I mean read other books, or the time it takes to move to other states. People are going to hate me, and I will now watch my back for the members of the Austen Society, but I am scratching this off and replacing it with The Silence of the Lambs, by Thomas Harris. Maybe the novel would have stayed on the list had it gone into the larger issues of the Napoleonic Wars, but again this is colored by my views on history, and how it effects the modern world.
When I say that I enjoy the story, just not the book, I cannot say that in any way for The Great Gatsby. How this is considered “the great American novel,” I will never know. The novel flopped hard, and Fitzgerald went to his grave feeling forgotten. Later it was given to the soldiers who were going to WWII, and they connected with it, revitalizing the book. (Wikipedia, The Great Gatsby)
There is the point. The soldiers that connected with this novel, were the guys who had fathers and such who had been in WWI. They understood the social issues this book represents, and the times in which it was set. Just as soon as WWII was over, the depression era was dead and gone in America, we were in the post-war boom. It was a new era. The only thing stopping this book from being just as irrelevant as it began, was the brief moment it enjoyed. Time does not make bad things better, sucked then, sucks now. If this book was not as popular as it is, The Plaza would not have made a Fitzgerald Suite. Let this die, I beg of you old sport, let this fade back to where it belongs.
In exchange I offer you something else. Kids today need to understand how we got where we are, how the 20th Century culminated. They need to understand the events that led us to the 1990s, the 2000s, the last election. For your consideration, I give you, The Cold War: A New History by John Lewis Gaddis. It is not a novel, but it is relevant, entertaining, and coherent, all things that Gatsby is not.
Life is too short to read bad books.