So Mr. Glenn’s wonderful idea of the year is to have his AP Lang class read 2 books at the same time; The Great Gatsby and As I Lay Dying. Now this tactic would be fairly plausible if these two books are very related and that they have a fairly uniformed plot theme. Now call me naïve, but I do not see how anything from any of these books is related. With that said this reading two books at the same time idea is just very confusing and inefficient.
Now before I could go on and rant about how reading two books is bad, I guess I need to qualify my assertion that these two books have nothing in common. The first difference is time. The Great Gatsby is set in a city in New York right after World War I (which is a time where there were lots of parties). Although it might be a little bit primitive by today’s standards, we had lights and some sort of electricity and a hint of modern civilization. Now regardless of when As I Lay Dying is set, the people are in the middle of nowhere, in a cabin, and has no electricity. The second difference is the plot. The Great Gatsby seems to be a novel about parties and people and emotions and this strange, mysterious guy named Gatsby. As I Lay Dying, on the other hand, is about family problems, what the mother wants, dead mothers, wagons, and maybe some hillbilly-esque stuff (and probably anything that doesn’t have to do with The Great Gatsby). Third is the theme. It seems to me that the only thing that these two novels could possibly share is the theme, but that obviously is not true either. It seems like The Great Gatsby is talking about trusting others or maybe something to do with relationships, while As I Lay Dying is perhaps something to do with the value to life (bottom line is that they are not really cohesive).
Now that that is out of the way, let’s get to some bashing. Because these two books are really different in style, theme, and plot, it makes it almost impossible to follow especially if the students were asked to read them in an AB pattern. It makes it really easy to mix elements of the plot and perhaps the theme and definitely cause more confusion. Even though these two novels are very dissimilar, that does not mean that the we could easily distinguish which plot or theme goes with which. I find myself (frequently) asking myself which event or phrase happened in which book. Also the sheer contrast in these two novels is another reason that reading them together makes it hard for the reader to remember the details of the stories, because we have switch to foreign gears too fast.
As it stands, I am obviously opposed to this idea, I think it makes us actually have to rush ourselves, which makes it really hard to retain information which in turn makes the reading very much ineffective.