“You like to read? So what’s your favorite book?”
I went a long time constantly answering that question with “well, right now it’s insert book I just read here.” I didn’t really have a favorite book of all time. Every time I read something wonderful, it became “my favorite book.” I typically will only read a book when I’m pretty sure it’s actually going to be good (or if it was assigned to me for class). It’s rare I read a book all the way through that I really didn’t like.
Insert recruitment. That changed everything for me. It only took one person to say “I love reading too! What’s your favorite book?” to make me panic. I have to prepare myself for small talk. I have to be ready with answers, and for this question I simply didn’t have one. Rambling ensued.
Until I remembered that I did.
I’ve always liked The Great Gatsby. It’s one of the few books I brought with me to college. I used it for a creative writing assignment calling for “the most beautiful sentence.” And when I first read it, junior year of high school, it was the first assigned book I couldn’t wait to read every night. My friends and I would discuss each readings’ events like it was a soap opera, rushing to each other every morning to replay the last few chapters.
But it wasn’t until I read it a second time that I realized it was, quite honestly, the best book I’d ever read.
It was before the movie came out, and my family went on quite the Great Gatsby kick. We all reread the book, then watched the two older movie versions, and for the grand finale, my dad made a Great Gatsby feast from the newspaper, featuring dishes such as “Daisy’s Lemon Bars” (the BEST lemon bars I’ve ever had, too).
As I reread the book, with fresh, college educated eyes, I realized just how beautiful the language is, just how spectacular the characters and plot and scene are. I was amazed at the talent in that short, 180 paged book. And just like that, I had an answer to the recruitment question (albeit, five months too late ;)).
Here are just a few of my favorite quotes I’ve highlighted in my copy:
“It was the kind of voice that the ear follows up and down, as it each speech is an arrangement of notes that will never be played again.” Chapter I
“There were twinkle-bells of sunshine in the room…” Chapter V
“So he waited, listening for a moment longer to the tuning-fork that had been struck upon a star.” Chapter VI
“[Her voice] was full of money- that was the inexhaustible charm that rose and fell in it, the jingle of it, the cymbal’s song of it….High in a white palace the king’s daughter, the golden girl….” Chapter VII
Fitzgerald has this way of making words sing for him; they don’t compose a sentence, but a song. I only hope that one day, my words too can sing like that, and make each rereading even more musical.
I’m sure most of you know what the story is about- doomed love, wealth, the inherent flaws of people- but that’s not the most important part of The Great Gatsby to me. The most important part is how Fitzgerald makes all of those things happen. How his words inked on a page not only create a story, but a reality.
If you’re still with me at this point (yay for long posts!): favorite books may, yes, come and go. Just like when I was a kid, you never know when the next best book will come to you. But it’s nice to have that one book you can always count on, the one book you know you’ll always enjoy reading (even if it’s the fifth time…).
So we beat on…