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Author Topic: The Great Gatsby Complaint
Xann.
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So first off I am not asking for help with an assignment,I know that is frowned upon.

Today I was assigned an essay on why the Great Gatsby was a good book. Not on what I thought of the book, not even on what my favorite parts were, but simply why it is so great. His explanation was that this book, which has been around for so long and so highly praised is undisputily a good book. My problem is that I found it.... alright. It really didn't resonate with me.

My plan right now is a sarcasm filled paper, and since sarcasm doesn't come though well in text I will be able to both get the grade and not feel like a sell out.

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katharina
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You can write about the arguments for why Great Gatsby is great without agreeing with them. I suggest you do that instead - your teacher will not be impressed with sarcasm, nor should he be.

If you can elucidate and then refute the arguments for why others think it is great, that would be even better. If you can't show that you understand why people think it is great, then you don't deserve any credit for the assignment.

Arguing for something you don't personally hold to is called writing a position paper, and you should be able to do it. It's a fine assignment.

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Noemon
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What I would probably do is talk to the teacher privately about the fact that I disagreed with the premise, and propose that I write an essay discussing why it is so commonly thought of as a good book, and why I disagree instead.
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Vadon
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I remember I had that assignment as well in school. I also remember that exact essay prompt. I argued that it brings a historical perspective to American life in the roaring 20s. I also said it serves as an observation of humanity and what is natural in human nature. That's why I thought it was a good book. I then spent the rest of the essay saying how much I hated it. [Smile]

By the way, I had/have a very sarcastic style in writing, and some of my teachers loved it. Others rejected it as me attempting to mock the system and the works we were reading. They further said that by doing so, I was showing disrespect for not only the assignment, but the teacher as well. I'd suggest you make sure that your teacher would be cool with this kind of take on the assignment if you value your grade and your standing in their eyes. (For me, it depended on the teacher and I was willing to sacrifice a grade or two on principle. But I wouldn't advocate that for most people.)

ETA: I remember in my own personal experience I did privately bring up my problem with the essay premise with the teacher. They told me to essentially suck it up and accept that society has embraced the book and I had to say why.

That's not wholly unreasonable to ask of you. And I think that would probably be the best route to go. Talk about the significance of the book for modern literature and how, by that light, it is a great book.

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BlackBlade
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Perhaps you could consider discussing why "the literary community" as a whole considers The Great Gatsby to be such a great book. Try to find good quotes describing why, and just do a literature review on scholarly opinion.

I think that would work best.

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Xann.
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quote:
Originally posted by Noemon:
What I would probably do is talk to the teacher privately about the fact that I disagreed with the premise, and propose that I write an essay discussing why it is so commonly thought of as a good book, and why I disagree instead.

The thing is that I have done this, I came away with a C- on a paper on Waldo Emerson. Since then I have been writing position papers. I have never gotten anything under an A on something I agreed with him on, I have two C's on what I disagree. It just angers me that I can not write what I want without having to worry about my grade.

My plan is to either write why other people like it, through out it's entirety. Or Start with that andd move onto my views.

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katharina
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If by "agree" you mean "follow the assignment instructions", then the grades sound about right.

quote:
It just angers me that I can not write what I want without having to worry about my grade.
You can. You just can't get credit for it. But you can write it and post it here.
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Teshi
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Books that you like and books that are good are not the same set.

That said, this a lame assignment.

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Xann.
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I have never gone against what the assignment was, the Waldo Emerson essay was what we learned from him and our thoughts on him. I did that, I just didn't really like Emerson.
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Saephon
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Reminds me of Thank You For Smoking. "What makes America the greatest country in the world?"


Like the question in that movie, your assignment sports a poorly phrased essay question. You'll find that many English majors and writers take certain things for granted, and throughout your educational experience, people are going to be telling you that a book is "Great" or a "Classic."

Now, if you were to REALLY answer that question without penalty of a grade, you'd be perfectly justified in saying why you should not be expected to argue for a premise you do not support, at the threat of getting less than an A.

However, it is possible to read between the lines and write an A quality paper without compromising your opinion. Just do some really good research and write about why The Great Gatsby is considered a great book. No sarcasm, no subtle hints of disagreement, just find why so many people like it and state that. Nowhere in the question does it ask you why YOU think it's a great book, so there shouldn't be any penalties to omitting phrases such as "I think."


Sometimes in life you have to pick your battles, and sometimes you should maintain your integrity and beliefs. And when you're lucky and search hard enough, you may find ways to do both [Smile]

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Tatiana
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I agree that The Great Gatsby sucks. I have no clue why they assign it in hs. It's a stupid book about stupid people. If it were me I would tell what I think with meticulously researched detail to back it up and take my C. It's not worth an A to call a bad book good.
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theamazeeaz
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I'm going to third the notion that you write the essay without any reference to your personal opinion of the book.
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scholarette
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I think that the focus of the essay should be answering Tatiana's comment- why they assign this book in high school.
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Fyfe
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*loves The Great Gatsby*

(But that is a silly assignment.)

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Lanfear
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The book is terrible. Don't let write the essay.
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Itsame
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" They further said that by doing so, I was showing disrespect for not only the assignment, but the teacher as well."

When I was in HS, I didn't feel that the vast majority of teachers deserved my respect. Looking at the vast majority of students here who intend to become teachers (assuming they are representative of those who continue on, or at least most of them), I see that my initial opinion wasn't unjustified.

Edit: For clarity's sake, that isn't to say that I didn't feel that any of my teacher's deserved my respect. It just so happens that most of them didn't. Perhaps I went to a bad high school.

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adenam
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quote:
originally posted by Tatiana
I have no clue why they assign it in hs

Last year when my class read it I assumed it was because it's about the pursuit of the American dream which is something American highschools should discuss. I liked the discussions my class had about it much more than reading the book.

Sadly, that is the norm for most of the books I've read in high school (so far). Why can't we read books that are fun to read and have good discussion?!?!?!?

[hint] Ender's Game [/hint]

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Xann.
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I really wish I could not let write the essay, btu instead I have been watching lost and writing a list of pros and cons for the book, The pros part is pretty slim, mostly it's the "it's a classic" thing.
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Sterling
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Sympathies. I once got an assignment from a professor to write about the play she had just directed. It felt like looking down the barrel of a gun.
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Elmer's Glue
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You could write all the great things you could do with the book that would make it great, like to fix a wobbly table, paper weight, emergency toilet paper, etc.
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Tatiana
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Elmer, that's hilarious. [Smile]
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Elmer's Glue
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[Smile]
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Shmuel
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quote:
Originally posted by Xann.:
Today I was assigned an essay on why the Great Gatsby was a good book. Not on what I thought of the book, not even on what my favorite parts were, but simply why it is so great. His explanation was that this book, which has been around for so long and so highly praised is undisputily a good book. My problem is that I found it.... alright. It really didn't resonate with me.

I'm 100% with you on that.

But under the circumstances, I think Saephon's advice is best:
quote:
Originally posted by Saephon:
Just do some really good research and write about why The Great Gatsby is considered a great book. No sarcasm, no subtle hints of disagreement, just find why so many people like it and state that.

There certainly are people it does resonate with; some I know can recite long passages of it from memory. Your best bet may be to think of it not as "what makes Gatsby an objectively great book?"—which I agree is just plain wrong—but as "why do so many people love Gatsby?"

Far from being a cop-out, taking this approach is a significant challenge. Answering this question will probably require going beyond the text of the book itself, and looking for criticism, articles, or even blog posts from people who do like the book. But if you can, in fact, manage to wrap your head around that other point of view, that will be an impressive achievement. And the skill set you'll develop in doing so may serve you in good stead down the line.

I wish you luck.

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Elmer's Glue
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Twenty years down the line, are you going to look back and be glad you kept your head down and did what your were told? Or would you rather be able to tell others about the most fun F you ever got?

You don't want to write a paper that's a lie, so just do whatever you want.

Now, on the off chance that the actual assignment was to write about why you think it is considered a great book, just do the assignment.

[ March 05, 2009, 07:19 AM: Message edited by: Elmer's Glue ]

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AvidReader
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I completely agree with Elmer. Is whatever you want to do after school worth buying into the educational bureaucracy? Is your goal worth several years of other people telling you what to think and who to be?

You are the only person who can answer that question. You are the only one who has to live your life, every day of it, every second of it.

Either it's worth doing the essay or it isn't.

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Xann.
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I have decided to take both of my favorite ideas here and mix them into the essay I will write. I will start with why so many people find this to be a great book, such as its great use of color as symbols for fantasy and innocence and what not.

Then I will go on to why I think it was a great book, like the way my copy creaked exactly like a hard wood floor.

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Tresopax
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Writing a sarcasm-filled paper is just as much being a sell-out as writing a normal paper if you expect the reader not to realize you are being sarcastic. And writing a sarcastic paper is definitely not doing the assignment you were given - so you should not expect a good grade.

Why don't you honestly consider ways in which The Great Gatsby might be a great book? I've read it, and I can guarantee you can find things to like about it.

If you don't see any value in writing a paper to support a conclusion you don't agree with, consider what OSC has to do every time he writes a novel: His novels frequently have characters that think things that OSC, himself, does not agree with. That means, in order to write a convincing novel, OSC has to be able to write from a perspective he doesn't agree with.

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Phanto
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Tresopax, no offense about your OSC statement, but...
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BlackBlade
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quote:
Originally posted by Phanto:
Tresopax, no offense about your OSC statement, but...

I know this wasn't directed at me, but the obviousness of your statement isn't apparent to my mind.
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camus
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quote:
Originally posted by Xann.:
Today I was assigned an essay on why the Great Gatsby was a good book.... My problem is that I found it.... alright. It really didn't resonate with me.

I don't really see where the conflict is. Writing about the good aspects of something does not mean that you believe it to be completely without flaws, just that the explanation of the flaws is outside the scope of the paper's objective.

I really don't think that writing about the good aspects of the book means that you're compromising your principles, unless you truly believe that there isn't one good thing about the book. And I'm sure you'll eventually learn that while some principles are worth fighting for, many are not worth the bother, especially manufactured conflicts that don't really exist.

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Xann.
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While I whole heartedly disagree that I have "manufactored a conflict" I think that you are missing my problem. I am fine writing about a few good things about the book, but that is not what I am supposed to do. I have to write about "why this is a great book" with little to no space to write about it's faults.

I went and talked to the teacher today, and that is what he says the assignment is. No more, no less.

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Herblay
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I am a devoted fan of Mr. Fitzgerald, and I've ready most of his other works.

In my opinion, there are two types of people who think that Gatsby is a great work.

You almost have to understand the difference between Fizgerald and Hemingway to understand the book. They were good friends, but they had COMPLETELY different writing styles. Hemingway was very brusk and crisp, using basal word sounds to evoke the reader's own images and emotions. Fitzgerald was very verbose and very successfully imparted imagery and complicated dark emotions through complicated phrase. Each one was a master of his craft, but ultimately---they were very different crafts.

And you have to understand what The Great Gatsby represents. It's essentially two other Fitzgerald books meshed together: "The Beautiful and the Damned" and "This Side of Paradise". Paradise was almost a personal memoir, and Beautiful was a story of the downfall of man by the ego.

"The Great Gatsby" is the Hollywood rendition of Fitzgerald. It's vastly edited over his other works, very streamlined (if you will). I almost think that Fitzgerald was just trying to take "his" story (or the marriage of his life and his favorite tale) and gild them for Hollywood. He applied Hemingway's touches and severely limited his prose, trying to find a marriage of his style and Hemingways. He tried to take his glorious (but wield) prose and make it clean and crisp and bold.

In the end, the novel pleases two types of people. The first type feel that Fitzgerald was always too "wordy" anyway. They always liked Hemingway, but might feel that he's too distant from the human condition, or they value the way that Fitsgerald was able to "clean up" his own prose. And the second? The second type of person views Gatsby as a sort of "gateway drug". If you can get people hooked on the "easy book", you might get them to read something REALLY beautiful.

My opinion? I like Gatsby in the same fashion that I liked the Hobbit. Gatsby is to the Hobbit what Beautiful is to Lord of the Rings. If you want to read a beautiful book, read "The Beautiful and the Damned".

As far as the report? They just want to hear about the crisp prose, suffering, the human condition, and the loss of the "American Dream". Almost like an antonym of Ayn Rand.

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katharina
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I love the class conflict in Great Gatsby. That isn't as much the American Dream as it is an Old World conflict.

The most memorable is the characterization of Tom and Daisy Buchanan as "careless." They wreak destruction, but they aren't malicious about it. I love that Fitzgerald captured the casual selfishness of most people, and I love that he gave that trait to the leading lady.

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Xann.
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quote:
Originally posted by Orson Scott Card:
And by "great" I mean "stands the test of time." How much time? Let's put it this way: If nobody was assigning The Great Gatsby for literature classes, who would care? It was pop lit that had its day. Only because it became certified as "official literature" does it still endure.

I just thought this was funny [Smile]

P.s. I has been months and I have not gotten my paper back. [Wall Bash] Apparantly he disliked my paper that much.

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BandoCommando
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quote:
Originally posted by Xann.:
quote:
Originally posted by Orson Scott Card:
And by "great" I mean "stands the test of time." How much time? Let's put it this way: If nobody was assigning The Great Gatsby for literature classes, who would care? It was pop lit that had its day. Only because it became certified as "official literature" does it still endure.

I just thought this was funny [Smile]

P.s. I has been months and I have not gotten my paper back. [Wall Bash] Apparantly he disliked my paper that much.

Funny. When I read his quote, I had a sense of deja vu. I chalked it up to OSC repeating himself, but now I realize that the deja vu was from reading this thread.
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Teshi
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quote:
Last year when my class read it I assumed it was because it's about the pursuit of the American dream which is something American highschools should discuss. I liked the discussions my class had about it much more than reading the book.
I read it in Canada, where this argument doesn't really apply. I think they assign it because it's a reasonably approachable classic, sort of like Shakespeare and To Kill A Mockingbird. It has lots to talk about-- character, historical period, metaphor, imagery etc. All things English teachers love to talk about.

There are many more books which are significantly less approachable than The Great Gatsby.

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Omega M.
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I'm surprised at all the people who hate The Great Gatsby. When I read it in 11th grade I thought it was very lyrically written without seeming overdone. Also, it doesn't sound archaic as, say, Charles Dickens and Jane Austen do (which I don't say as criticism of them). I assume that the superficial characters in the novel are being criticized by Nick for being that way. Obviously some people will rank the novel higher than others will, but it seems higher than "pop lit that had its day" (in fact, I don't think it sold well when first published).

In any case, the question "Why is this book great?" is probably short for "Why is this book considered great, and do you think this assessment is correct?".

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theamazeeaz
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quote:
Originally posted by Xann.:
quote:
Originally posted by Orson Scott Card:
And by "great" I mean "stands the test of time." How much time? Let's put it this way: If nobody was assigning The Great Gatsby for literature classes, who would care? It was pop lit that had its day. Only because it became certified as "official literature" does it still endure.

I just thought this was funny [Smile]

P.s. I has been months and I have not gotten my paper back. [Wall Bash] Apparantly he disliked my paper that much.

Ah, one of the reasons I hated high school english class right there. Teachers never got around to returning things. Ever.
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aiua
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I went to a pretty awesome high school. Not only did they usually give us a few options as far as assignment topics were concerned, but they'd always intersperse those "great books" with actually great books. That's how I discovered Ender's Game.
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Shanna
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I just got done reading OSC's latest essay and I have to say, I would voluntarily read "The Great Gatsby" a dozen times over before I'd make it through the "Lord of the Rings." Its overpraised drivel in my opinion.

I disliked quite a few of the books I was required to read in high school. There are still a few I wouldn't re-read but for the most part I'm thankful for the all the novels I was introduced to. My brother recently brought by a box of books he intended to donate and I was thrilled to finally reclaim the school books I had handed down to him.

And papers can be a great way to rediscover a book you hate at first. Class presentations in college saved "Dante's Inferno" and "Crime and
Punishment" from my list of loathed books. Thank goodness for those "intellectuals" who forced Dostoyevsky on me.

And if you still hate the book after writing the paper, atleast you better understand the opposition's argument for future literary discussions.

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BlackBlade
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Dostoyevsky is probably not an author I think Mr. Card would say is overrated. But I think a solid Russian Lit class can amplify one's enjoyment of Dostoyvsky by several orders of magnitude.

In an Asian Lit class we read The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy, I would not have enjoyed it if my teacher had not been from India himself, with a very good knowledge of the culture of the state of Kerala. It's a very good book, but not very accessible without that sort of guidance.

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lolcats
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You can write about the masterful use of symbolism/repeating motifs in Gatsby. I think Gatsby is one of those books, like the Scarlet Letter, that if you look at it less like a -story- and don't try to get attached to the characters, it's better (because so many of the characters are symbols). It's a very good analyze-these-themes book, and from that perspective I really like it. There is poignant writing in there too.
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Bokonon
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You know, I think I liked Kurt Vonnegut's version of The Great Gatsby better than the original.

-Bok

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by Shanna:
I just got done reading OSC's latest essay and I have to say, I would voluntarily read "The Great Gatsby" a dozen times over before I'd make it through the "Lord of the Rings." Its overpraised drivel in my opinion.

QFT. Lord of the Rings is one of the most incoherent, rambling, awe-inspiringly painful books I have ever attempted to read. It honestly remains one of those things about my own society that I completely fail to comprehend. That and Pepsi. I mean *common* people.
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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by BlackBlade:
Dostoyevsky is probably not an author I think Mr. Card would say is overrated. But I think a solid Russian Lit class can amplify one's enjoyment of Dostoyvsky by several orders of magnitude.

In an Asian Lit class we read The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy, I would not have enjoyed it if my teacher had not been from India himself, with a very good knowledge of the culture of the state of Kerala. It's a very good book, but not very accessible without that sort of guidance.

I also read God of Small Things in an India English course, taught by an Indian woman. It was meh, but I did gain an appreciation for dialectical approaches to English that I had not considered before, and that stood me in good stead for studying and analyzing music, actually.
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Scott R
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RE: Lord of the Rings...

"Overpraised," maybe.

"Drivel," never.

Stodgy, boring, muddled, and often meandering, I can agree with, but LOTR wasn't drivel.

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BlackBlade
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quote:
I also read God of Small Things in an India English course, taught by an Indian woman. It was meh, but I did gain an appreciation for dialectical approaches to English that I had not considered before, and that stood me in good stead for studying and analyzing music, actually.

I can see how that would be useful for analyzing music.
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