Can't be fairly compared to the horror novels of today, and that could go both ways. If you can sit down and shut out the world, slow down your own thoughts, and listen to the words, you will feel the anxiety building in layers, with even nature contributing to the ultimate madness and horror. The centuries old family castle is itself a creature conspiring to hold its inhabitants in a dark limbo. A short story with hardly a plot -- but simply, horribly, brilliant. Listening to Poe is like watching a great painter build his canvas stroke by stroke into a masterpiece.
How many books have you lived in; walked the streets waving to old ladies on their front porches, smelled pound cakes cooling on window ledges, knew which houses to give a wide berth when passing by, and missed when you left? Like Twain's enduring fictional classic Huckleberry Finn, To Kill a Mockingbird is a story so well told, so perfect, that you stroll through it and dwell for a while, coming away from it different for having been there. For many of us we visited Harper Lee's Maycomb to get our HS diploma, and it seems a natural progression to go back. I wonder if we miss those characters, or the healing balm of hearing a precocious little girl's voice cry out, "Hey, Mr. Cunningham. I'm Jean Louise Finch...I go to school with Walter; he's your boy aint he?"
As she shows so many times in her one and only novel, Harper Lee is a born story teller. The back stories of the characters are immense, yet told with an economy of words that contain volumes. You experience this especially your second time through...Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose, what have you suffered to become so mean; what has Mr. Dolphus Raymond learned about people that keeps him content to have townsfolk believe that's a bottle of whiskey, instead of a regular ol' Coca Cola, in that little brown sack; how has Link Deas kept his humanity; does every town spit out a Bob Ewell; and what is Miss Maudie's pound cake recipe? -- there's a not an insignificant character or event in this book. It is a treasure trove of stories and lessons. I'd love a couple hours of Calpurnia talking about the day old Tim Johnson, Judge Taylor's dog, came shuffling down the road, rabid and threatening, sending the neighborhood into their homes, barring their windows... But Lee left us with just this one brilliant book.
To Kill A Mockingbird was published July 11, 1960 and has never gone out of print. When contemplating whether to review this (what I think is THE perfect novel), I had to wonder "is there really anything that hasn't already been said?" In this case, *Sissy Spacek*; no matter how many times you have read this novel, or even listened, Spacek, with her sweet drawl, IS Scout, speaking back through the years, recounting her story. She is the perfect choice for a perfect novel.
Though it is cliché to say it, this beautiful novel feeds your spirit. The easy wisdom reminds us of the importance of having understanding and love for others, demonstrated without guile or pretense by the innocence of children. The moral integrity and gentle strength of Atticus brings tears to my eyes (and has inspired the line *What would Atticus do?*) just thinking that we as human beings have the capability of such grace. Quotes from this superb novel fill notebooks I keep, but it is always two words, repeated half a dozen time by Jem, when his father orders him to take Scout and flee the angry mob at the jail, that choke me up. They contain all that there is of love, courage, and strength...even a young boy's faith in mankind, "No, Sir." They get me every time.
*[Addressing the frequent use of the *N* word; quoted from Banned Books Awareness;
A worldwide literacy project to celebrate the freedom to read.: "The American Library Association reports that To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the most challenged classics of all time because of the racial slurs and discussion of rape and incest, and still ranks at number 21 of the 100 most frequently challenged books." "In 1968 the National Education Association placed the novel second on a list of titles receiving the most complaints from private organizations. The top spot belonged to Little Black Sambo."]
It's possible that the greatest common factor among audible listeners (besides that we all love books) is this statement: "I think we had to read that in high school...and I didn't like it." Seems like there are the *under-threat* readers of The Great Gatsby, and the ones that named the first pet they owned as an adult Daisy or Gatsby. With my basset hound Zeb looking on, I did finally read this as an adult, then made room on that shelf next to Huck Finn, Hester Prynne, Tom Joad, Ahab, Atticus (and Poe's Raven).
You couldn't have a Gatsby today because so much of our response to literature is based on our bias, beliefs, knowledge, and experience. Or at least not without an understanding of the incredible and tumultuous time in history, the Jazz Age, that Gatsby occupied. [Today--Jimmy Gatz would buy his status/identity--get a stylist and a promoter; instagram photos with celebs at his lavish parties, pay for celebrity buddies, show off his crib and million $ cars on TV, engineer the release of a sex tape, get a reality show, and finally win his love's heart with a 10 carat engagement ring. Daisy, famous for nothing, would be tripping over her 6 1/2" red-soled heels to get to him; she would then have a very public dirty divorce from Tom that would play out in all of the celebrity gossip rags-including plenty of selfies and pictures of his numerous mistresses, then maybe onto a stint on DWTS. When Gatsby finally realizes that Daisy is as shallow as the pool he is floating in, and--*of course you CAN'T repeat the past*--he would drown his crumbling dreams in booze, alcohol, and reckless behaviors, thumb his nose at the legal system, lose his money and fans, go through rehab several times...]
At today's pace, Gatsby would just be The Really Really Good Gatsby; the story would seem minimally inventive and somewhat trivial. But Gatsby in Fitzgerald's masterly hands is timeless.
If, from your previous HS experience, you doubt that this is one of the greatest American novels, you may be surprised by the broader insightfulness you've earned since those days. Fitzgerald lived both sides of the generation he judged. Like the very best authors, his stories pour out from his mind with an honesty and authenticity that shine with a superior genius, tempered with absolute artistic control of their craft. This is one of the few books that has defined my reading experience.
The narration is such a big factor with this version. I doubt there is anyone that could have given a more inspired reading than Gyllenhaal; he was amazing not only when he was in character, but he impressed me so much with his reading of the body of the story, as if he felt a reverence for Fitzgerald's words.
"That's the whole burden of this novel--the loss of those illusions that give such color to the world so that you don't care whether things are true or false as long as they partake of the magical glory." - - F.S. Fitzgerald on The Great Gatsby