I have managed to avoid The Great Gatsby since I was sixteen, even though it has been on the reading list at every high school I have ever taught at. It was also the only book that I only read once during my high school years, which brings the next statement as little surprise: I hated it sooooo much, as much as anything could be hated from the core of a 16-year-old’s being.
I think that I was a typical idealizing teen, anxious to label things and place them according to easily understood dichotomies. Having things agree to be right/wrong, white/black, night/day, bad/good, fascist/totalitarian brings comfort to most people, especially teens that have not had a chance to see or participate in all of the greys the world has to offer.
The one area that I could not or would not divide into two distinct camps applied to books and literature. I hesitated greatly to stomp on other people’s opinions and sentiments when applied to writing, whether it was their own or in what they read. Writing, I guess, has always been something that has not come easily to me and I appreciated anyone who could get published and read, even from my teen years. [The irony is that now, older and more willing to accept the greys (hair and otherwise) I am also more willing to call some books junk.] The best I could do was say that I did not understand something, or deferred judgment on what made literature good to someone else, more studied, more well-read, perhaps more refined.