This is a good comment in our ongoing conversation about books, education, and maturity:
Just about every "great book" or author that I was forced to read in high school I didn't understand until I was old enough to get it. I was assigned to read Walden over a winter break my freshman year in high school (very small, very liberal arts high school) and I dealt with that impossibility by just not reading it, and learning to skim in class and pick up on the discussions and cite the text right along with everyone else. We also "read" The Stranger, the Odyssey and Iliad, Siddhartha, and a number of other great books that I'm not sure I had the capacity to understand, even with the discussions and papers we had to write on them, and even if I didn't fail to read them mostly because I was being forced to read them at someone else's pace.Now, I'm a poor student, and I'm not trying to imply that kids shouldn't be taught tough books, because they should. My response isn't going to be everyone's, and even for the people who have that response, it's still a great exercise. I'm much better at discussion and argument as a result of being forced to cite a text I had not actually read before entering class. But there's no way I could appreciate those books then like I can now that I've lived what I've lived. I've totally ignored great books that I didn't understand when I was being forced to read them.Only recently have I started picking those books back up, and it's been quite the experience. I just started reading The Stranger recently, and I don't recognize it at all. There's no way I could have understood it, and in fact my memories of the book in high school are just mental pictures of the book, like it was encrypted text, I didn't understand a word. The great books I've come to later in life have not had that problem. There have not been first-impression scars that I've had to dig through to get back to them, I can just read them. I read 100 Years of Solitude recently, after years and years of people telling me I should read it, and I'm glad I waited, because I know I would have tossed that book aside and never looked at it again.