In my younger and more vulnerable years my English teacher gave me some advice that I had bitterly ignored until now.

"Whenever you are reading a challenging book," he told me, "take your time to read it slowly, ponder it, feel the rhythm of the author, re-read difficult passages and give those words the time and space to grow - don't rush through the book just to get your assignments done and dismiss it as pretentious literary drivel. Good books only get better with time."

He didn't say it just once, but he repeated it every time we had to read a challenging book. 'The Great Gatsby' was one of those books and despite the short length it took me considerable time to rush through - considerably more than it took me to read 1984 in the same year! - and subsequently dismiss it as pretentious literary drivel. My favorite writers at the time were Stephen King and Dean Koontz, and F.Scott Fitzgerald's writing was just too detached from the literary world I knew and loved (I felt the same way about Shakespeare and Tennessee Williams - Two writers I've come to love since.)

A decade after I graduated from high school, I got tired of reading bestsellers and best-selling non-fiction books (Malcom Gladwell and the bunch of "non-fiction" writing he has inspired since 'Blink') and I found a couple of Shakespeare plays from high school. I opened the first page of Macbeth and read the still familiar names on the list of characters. A strange curiosity arose. I turned the page to the first scene and - thanks to the annotations of the Cambridge School Series - read the whole play in one sitting. Macbeth's famous monologue that ended with:
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.
left me stunned. I silently re-read the whole monologue, not fully comprehending the meaning behind the words but I felt that I had just witnessed a monumental moment in history.

I would have to lie if I told you that I read Macbeth, saw the light and went on a classic literature binge thence. It took me time to slowly approach the classics and embark on a journey through world literature, all the while still enjoying books like Harry Potter and the occasional King. And I have to confess that there are a lot of classics that I still can't comprehend (James Joyce, Hemingway), but I've grown rather fond of the diversity of voices and styles literature I have discovered since I re-read Macbeth. A lot of the classic writers have a distinct voice and a sense of beauty in their prose I'm missing in most modern writing. Oh, and I've re-discovered Ray Bradbury whom I dearly loved as a kid. To my own surprise I appreciate his stories even more as an adult.

And finally, to come to a close to this rather long-winded introduction: Upon reading Murakami Haruki quoting 'The Great Gatsby' as the most important novel in his life, I read it, fell in love with it, listened to the audio book read by Frank Muller and loved it even more and googled for a discussion on this book and landed here.

I immediately felt at home.