Was Gatsby Black?

Gatsby It’s a subject that has been explored in several novels: Passing, Kingsblood Royal, The Stain. What if a person appears to be of one race when they are actually of another, not as well-accepted, race. Then there are the others works which deal with the experience of racial inequality from the other direction, such as Black Like Me. But there is a third, and far more subtle, method of exploring the difference between the races and that is to say nothing and leave it all up to the reader to make assumptions from the text … assumptions that might not be true.

Early-on in my study of literature at the university the class was reading Faulkner’s Light In August. Obviously a very important book replete with textual difficulty and powerful themes. But in the midst of it all, the professor quietly asked: “What color was Joe Christmas?” He followed up reading a passage where a white scar is described as standing out on Christmas’s face … a white scar? Is the suggestion being made that Joe Christmas is a black man? If so, it changes the reading of the narrative and themes drastically. Is there reader prepared for such a shift?

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It’s Going To Be a Busy Month

bookstoreThis month I have slipped in a few new titles but I still have several books I want to read from the September pool so this new list might not be so exciting. As is usually the case, I find myself in the midst of three or four novels just as the month rolls over so, no matter how tempting the new titles are, I really must attend to finishing the old ones first. And this includes a couple of hefty tomes that may take quite some time to complete.

I’m still thrashing between trying to empty some space on my bookshelves by reading real ink and paper books but my iPad is just so convenient that I often start reading a new digital novel immediately after finishing the previous digital novel and never get to those hard-to-read paper things. Even when I schedule a real book to read, I often scurry around and obtain a digital copy beforehand and end up donating the physical book to the local Book Exchange (they love me … lots of essentially brand-new books for their collection).

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Are Any of These On Your Reading List?

ReadThis last month I took some time off to visit my daughter and her new (first) baby but I have tried to keep up with this site and to recommend possible reading selections almost every day. I have noted several recently published novels in my suggestions and, like most people, I will probably read them since I tend to follow certain authors, both for the value of their work and also to keep up on the zeitgeist of contemporary literature. I will read just about anything but there are a few authors relegated to my Ignore List … Stephen King, Anne Rice, and Ayn Rand to name a few. Are there any authors that you expect never to read in the future, either because of a lousy reading experience in the past or some other, highly personal reason?

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Should Reading Be a Pleasure?

classics It’s a old and tired controversy but an article from About.com started me thinking whether this question was more an evaluation of our society rather than a specific relationship between contemporary readers and their chosen texts. For the record, I have always contended that a person’s chosen reading material is highly subjective: you should read what you want to read. But the analogy is to food, eating, and nutrition: if you want to eat cream-filled sponge cake loaded with preservatives and lacking any food value, it is your fundamental right … but so is getting fat and having your teeth fall out.

So, following through with the analogy, are you happy because you enjoy the flavor of high fructose corn syrup or are you happy when you can bite into an apple and walk ten blocks to Otmar’s Iron Den (put another manhole cover on the lat machine).

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