30 August 2013

Literature rewards rereading

I recently reread F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby for a client project. (I know--big sacrifice!) It's one of my favorites, and I've read it every couple of years or so since high school. As I was going through it this time, I was struck by how much I enjoyed reading it, even after all this time.

When I was in college, I took a women's literature course. In one of our first classes, we had a discussion about literature vs. fiction. Specifically, we were trying to define "literature" as opposed to "fiction," to determine what makes a piece of writing worth reading.*

The professor gave a definition of literature that has stuck with me since then, and one I have used countless times in discussions with others. She said, "Literature rewards rereading."

I've always appreciated that explanation of literature, and I've found it to ring true in my own reading adventures. A good example of this is in The Great Gatsby.

Though I've read it several times, I've found that each time I read it, the story seems to contain some new depth or complexity I missed the time before, and each time, it makes me want to read it again. I learn something new about Gatsby or Daisy or Nick, and like them more, or like them less.

This time there was something that stuck out to me in Tom and Daisy's relationship that drastically changed my view of Daisy. I don't know why I didn't see it before. But that's what makes books like The Great Gatsby so rewarding. We bring our own baggage to our readings, and as our lives change, so do the lives of the characters.

Literature (as opposed to fiction) can withstand the changes in our lives and still offer us something valuable, something touching, something that makes us want to read again.

I've put Gatsby back on the shelf (well, in a box in preparation for the move) for now, but I imagine I'll pick it up again in a year or two. And I'm looking forward to what new things Mr. Fitzgerald has to teach me all over again.

*NOTE: The opinions in this post are my own. Everyone has different ideas of what is worth studying and reading based on their own tastes and interests. No judgment here.


  1. The ending of The Great Gatsby is very haunting and very beautifully written.

  2. I agree. Have you seen the Baz Luhrmann film yet?

  3. No, I haven't. Have you? If you have, would you recommend it?

  4. I haven't seen it yet. I hope to see it soon, though, now that it's available on DVD.

  5. I would be interested in seeing it, too. I wonder how faithful it is to the novel. But then you could say that about any film adaptation!

  6. I usually try to keep movies and books separate. It helps to look at them as different interpretations, at least for me.

  7. Yes, it does. I liked the Lord of the Rings movies, but I noticed so many deviations from the novels. But you are right. Movies and books are different interpretations.

  8. What stood out to you about Tom and Daisy's relationship? Their relationship is very interesting; that's for sure. I've read that book several times too. I like rereading books; it's like eating one of your favorite foods. Even if it's not the first time, it still feels good to have that experience.

  9. It was what happens between them after Myrtle is killed. I think because I read it from a different place in my own life, the conversation Tom and Daisy have after Myrtle's death (when Nick walks around to the back of the house and sees them) had a different impact to me.

    More than that, though, was the comment Nick made about how they use people and then retreat back to their money, move on, and find a new circle of people to exploit. So often I'd read the book and seen Daisy as a victim of circumstance and culture (she couldn't leave her husband because of society). This time, though, I see her as much more an equal partner. It was sort of a "they deserve each other" moment for me. I have far less sympathy for Daisy after this most recent reading than I ever have.


Add a little caffeine to my life...