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View Diary: Contemporary Fiction Views: Zelda and Scott and novels about real people (42 comments)

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  •  I am deep into rereading "The Great Gatsby" (6+ / 0-)

    right now and stumbling upon your diary hits the spot!  

    Wish I could share your enthusiasm for the biographical fiction, but I am not a fan.  What I like to read are novels and I like to read them cold; that is, with no knowledge of the writer or the backstory.  I don't even read the author's own forward.  Greedily, I jump into the novel and, with luck, savor it to the end.

    This allows me to appreciate the text as a work of art (or not), and to judge it on its own merits.  After I have done that,  there is plenty of time to dip into the author's life or a study of the period.  However,  this nearly always changes how I feel about the novel and I often wish I had spared myself the knowledge.  

    It's like learning how the sausage is made and it usually isn't pretty.  On the other hand, if you are going to be knowledgable about sausage you need to know what goes into it...

    Of course, you can't really know Fitzgerald without knowing about his life with Zelda.  He used her diaries as a direct inspiration for his novels, and he frequently used her as a model.  God knows, they were interesting people.  Sad, but interesting.  

    It's the Supreme Court, stupid!

    by Radiowalla on Wed Apr 03, 2013 at 09:04:47 AM PDT

    •  Reading Gatsby again has been on (4+ / 0-)

      my "I mean to do this" list for far too long.  How is it proceeding?

      Although I do believe each work has to stand or fail on its own merits, I also am one of those who loves to make connections and using those to add to my ability to understand and enjoy each new work read.

      This can go too far. Using amateur psychology about the bare basics of an author's life as a way to deconstruct his writing is shallow at best.

      It's the difference between wondering how deeply Hemingway was hurt by his mother's treatment when encountering his female characters and if that had anything to do with an individual character, and deciding, for example, he hates females because of the way his mother treated him and therefore his female characters demonstrate his hatred for all women.

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting.

      •  It is proceeding very well, thank you. (4+ / 0-)

        I made the mistake of reading some biographical materials at the same time and I found it was spoiling the experience.  What is so extraordinary about this novel is the language, the amazing lyrical rushes that pop up and then disappear.  I found that the biographical stuff began to intrude on my enjoyment so I set it down.  Only when I have finished will I go back and consider how his life influenced his writing.  

        (as an aside since someone mentioned Hemingway, I read that Hemingway advised Fitzgerald to dump Zelda before she became entirely insane.  I can't find the quote and have to go out now, but if I can dig it up, I'll post it.  Imagine Hemingway giving advice on marriage!  Wow!)

        It's the Supreme Court, stupid!

        by Radiowalla on Wed Apr 03, 2013 at 10:41:08 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  My philosophy and methods of reading are just like (4+ / 0-)

      yours:

      What I like to read are novels and I like to read them cold; that is, with no knowledge of the writer or the backstory.  I don't even read the author's own forward.  Greedily, I jump into the novel and, with luck, savor it to the end.

      This allows me to appreciate the text as a work of art (or not), and to judge it on its own merits.

      I agree, and I hate spoilers, too. I figure any part of the story worth telling, the author can tell better than a review can. I try to turn half my brain off, when I read (or watch a movie), so that I'm just immersed in the work of art. If it's good, I'll be full of questions and eager to learn more once I'm through.

      Until recently, I basically never reread books. There were so many more completely fresh ones waiting for me! But two years ago, I reread The Great Gatsby . . .

      which Fitzgerald was very proud of, for all the craft he packed into it.

      When I first read it, it was an enjoyable and easy read. But I came back to it with much more experience and knowledge of books. The second time, I saw about four times as much there - but 3/4 of the book is implicit: in characters' life histories that are sketched but not filled in, unless you really watch for every clue; in the different characters' levels of awareness, what some pick up on and others miss; in the tragic undercurrents of all the romance; and in the symbols and myths and American dreams which jump out at an experienced reader.

      That deeper second read of The Great Gatsby got me thinking about all the levels and richness in books, and how hard and long we might have to dig to find it. I mean, I wasn't digging at that one text, but I spent a couple of decades reading widely, learning more about novels and language, America and human nature. Then I came back to the book, and found much more there.

      "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

      by Brecht on Wed Apr 03, 2013 at 11:33:37 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I think "Gatsby" is just the kind of book (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        RiveroftheWest, helpImdrowning

        that rewards the reader, over and over again.  As you say, each reading has new levels to discover.  
        For me, the gift of "Gatsby" is the language, rather than the plot which is rather improbable.  I am always drawn to the youthful narrator and his journey of disappointment.

        I'm glad to know I'm not alone in my reading style!

        It's the Supreme Court, stupid!

        by Radiowalla on Thu Apr 04, 2013 at 08:46:55 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

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