But I write for myself, for my own pleasure. And I want to be left alone to do it. - J.D. Salinger ^(;,;)^
O'Connor was ruthless in her vision. The struggle of Tarwater and his uncle Rayber against their joint destinies and the pull of fundamentalism and secularism is fully realized in this short novel. The Violent Bear it Away is biblical, American and absolutely brutal in both its imagery of destruction and language of redemption. I can only think of a handful of writers who seem to grab both my brain, my spine and my gut at the same time. O'Connor can't be over-appreciated; she was an absolute genius of passion and power. So brilliant and terrible was this novel, that I still exceedingly fear and quake.
I am a ravenous reader. I consume books (audio, electronic, and paper) by the pound and byte. I RARELY go back and reread a novel I've read before. It just seems a waste of time, a waste of an opportunity for another book, another story. The Great Gatsby, however, is one of those handful of books, those rare literary jewels, where this rule of thumb is consistently bent and re-broken. For readers of good literature, this novel is like scripture. IT is something you read to enjoy the page, the paragraphs, the sentences, the words. It draws you back. It haunts future books you read. It invades you.
For American Literature, The Great Gatsby stands with 'Moby-Dick' and 'Huckleberry Finn' as a monument of not just literature but the uniquely American experience. It captures the excess, the energy, and the decadence of the 'Lost Generation'. Other Fitzgerald books are amazing, but Gatsby is one of those novels that seems to have surprised everyone, even Fitzgerald.
Finding the right narrator for any book is an art form (often misunderstood, almost always ignored). Certain books require a certain type of reader. Gyllenhaal was an inspired pick for the Great Gatsby. He has the range to subtly capture the different characters, but the charisma and the energy to embody the dialogue of Gatsby and the easygoing narrator Nick.
My first exposure to Henry James was this tight little psycho-drama of a ghost story. 'Turn of the Screw' is one of those amazing little stories that twists the reader back and forth between the extremes of believing the narrator is legitimate in her fear of actual ghosts or believing she is simply mad. James' story turns on this dilemma. One slight rotation to the right and all bets are off.
For a ghost story, I was far more creeped out by the two 'angelic' children, the vacant setting, and the remote English country house. Anyway, while not blown away by the story, I still found it compelling, creepy and rich in its ambiguity.