Rereading Old Classics Made Him Learn New Lessons, Says Writer Kevin Smokler
Writer Kevin Smokler says that when he reread books that he was assigned to read in high school he learnt new lessons.
While Kevin Smokler may have received a few A's in school because he knew answers his English teacher was looking for, he didn't quite understand the whole meaning of the books he read back in high school, reveals the author.
Hence in 2012 went back to rereading those books after writing to few of his professors a complying a list of books.
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"I think I might've gotten a few A's because I understood what an English teacher was looking for," he tells NPR's Neal Conan. "But if you're asking if that A was any reflection of my understanding of the book, the answer would be no. If it was being graded upon that, I don't think I would have left high school."
Through this expedition of revisiting old classics, Smokler read more than 60 books and listed 50 of them as worth his while.
One of his first picks were J.D. Salinger's "The Catcher in the Rye"
"If you had asked me a year ago how many siblings Holden Caulfield had, I would've said two: his older brother D.B., the screenwriter, and of course, as we all know, the younger sister, Phoebe. What I didn't realize is Holden Caulfield had a third sibling named Allie who has died when the book has begun. And in an absolutely key scene - one scene before he meets Phoebe outside the Museum of Natural History - he is wandering Park Avenue, feeling, I believe the quote is, 'so lonesome and sad,' and muttering to himself every block: 'Please, Allie, don't let me disappear. Please, Allie, don't let me disappear."
"And I remember just putting the book down when I read that. And I said, God, I really thought that Holden Caulfield was just a bratty teenager, and I didn't have any reason to look at this book after I was no longer a bratty teenager. And when I read that, I said, my God. This is really, in a large way, a book about sadness and grief and finding oneself after a terrible loss."
Another pick was F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby"
"I actually read it in college, and I remember loving the costumes and the booze and the parties and the Jazz Age. And I remember completely missing what is brought home so beautifully in the last section ... where you realize that Gatsby is very much a book about acceptance of loss and things we cannot get back, and what Robert Penn Warren called the awful responsibility of time.
His third pick was Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter"
"When I was putting it together, it was by far the most controversial choice to include in this book. I probably had four dozen conversations with people about this project, and they all said, 'You're not going to include The Scarlet Letter, are you?' And that, of course, is the indication that I had to."