The recent death of Arthur Miller gave me a chance to think back to the days when I voraciously read many of The Greats. During 11th and 12th grades in high school, I read so much, I don't think I'll ever come close to matching that sort of reading volume again in my life. While the reading was required for my English classes, I actually read them for personal gain, rather than for an assignment.
Arthur Miller was one of the authors we read. I enjoyed both Death of A Salesman and The Crucible, but not any more so than the other novels we were assigned. It's funny, I was just commenting to a friend that I don't think I could read Death of a Salesman again, even though I could probably relate to it better now than when I was in high school. In any case, the play was something which really left an impression on me. It was mostly one of dread. Not dread for what life had in store for me, but dread for what might happen. And with my mindset back then, just the fact that the novel left a lasting impression meant it was good.
But like I said though, Miller's plays left less of an impression on me than the other novels I read during those years. In fact, those years were more than the sum of their parts; the individual novels we read left impressions on me, but most importantly, my mind raced at the thought of reading. I couldn't read enough, it seemed, and looking back upon those years, I'm proud to have read so much and read it all with an eye to trying to understand myself and life better.
I sometimes wonder if I could ever get to a point again in my life where I could read so much "heavy" reading. I read the occassional Dan Brown nowadays, but that's just fluff to read before bedtime. I keep telling myself to re-read some of these Greats to see how they feel now that I'm a bit older, but for some reason, I just never get around to it.
I've done some "heavier" reading since high school, but the selections were not quite as broad, nor as great. Coming out of college, I read a lot of Indian authors thinking that I'd understand my desi-ness more. I don't think the reading really helped me in that sense, but I certainly gained some perspectives.
But back to the high school days...the breadth and greatness of the works is what I think left the most impression on me. There's a reason they're many times referrred to as The Greats...the writing really is superior to much of the stuff I've read otherwise. Just a sampling of what we read during those 2 years: A Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man, The Great Gatsby, Wuthering Heights, The Scarlet Letter, The Catcher in the Rye, The Grapes of Wrath, Beloved, Farewell To Arms, The Sound and the Fury, Of Mice and Men, Catch 22, Great Expectations...the list goes on. We read something like 12-15 novels each year and I could have read many more.
And you thought I was just a space geek :)