"To write it, it took three months; to conceive it three minutes; to collect the data in it all my life." So said F. Scott Fitzgerald.
I just completed my third read of The Great Gatsby. I did this to help expunge the vacuous, blaring bludgeon that is the 2013 movie version from my head. This third trek through it had the added benefit of revealing even more texture and richness than I had previously experienced. This time around I understood more about Nick Carraway and identified with his ability to become a confidant, privy to others' secrets. He has complexity thrust upon him when he would rather look at life from "a single window" but ends up a forced chronicler.
Then there is the too obvious Daisy, "a beautiful little fool". This character is almost a disappointment. She comes across as a too-oft used stereotype until you recognize that every generation produces such women in liberal amounts. Her husband Tom is much more viscous than I recall. His frustrations result from protecting traditions he cannot live up to. Jordan Baker stood out in this reading like never before. Her dishonesty, the result of not wanting to be "at a disadvantage", actually reveals more about the period than any other character. Jordan's observations are both breezy and deep, "And I like large parties. They're so intimate. At small parties there isn't any privacy." and "I love New York on summer afternoons when everyone's away."
And what of Gatsby? He is so obviously a juvenile construct that it is amazing that people fell for him. However, money and self-interests are powerful tools for delusion and acceptance. Carraway's observation that Gatsby's biography was "like skimming hastily through a dozen magazines" is comically astute, yet he too gets sucked in. Gatsby's "Platonic conception of himself" is one he cannot evolve.
Fitzgerald said, "You don't write because you want to say something, you write because you have something to say." In this book he had something to say but most of it was in the form of a hidden joke for his own enjoyment. I cannot help but think he was having his own generation on by writing The Great Gatsby. One thing is for certain, he wrote one of the best closing lines to a novel ever.
on March 26, 2005
Gatsby's tale of love and life, the possibility of the moment realized and the crushing emptiness of a dream lost is so compelling that it continues to speak profoundly about the volatile experience of being both human and American in a world that is increasingly doing its level best to lure us away from the simpler selves we mean to inhabit. There are other themes and topics in Gatsby: greed, corruption, the Jazz Age, the American Dream gone sadly off course. But the compelling message of Gatsby is the romanticism within us all - that there is an incorruptible truth out there somewhere, if only we can maintain the focus to seek it out and the courage to embrace it when we stumble across its path. To read Gatsby is to rediscover the lyricism of the English language, enjoy a good story and be admonished to stay true to our dreams. If you're looking for another great book, try McCrae's "Children's Corner" with its jaw-dropping scenes and great writing style. Can't go wrong with that one OR Gatsby.
on February 27, 2005
"The Great Gatsby" is one of the most exquisite books I have ever read to date that deals with most if not all aspects of love and the challenges of life. There is so much to learn especially for us in this modern world where so many people use the word "love" without really knowing what it truly means. The author is so descriptive that I sometimes felt as if I was in the story. He made it easy for readers to penetrate the souls of the characters and relate to their lives.
The character development is prodigious, while prose is outstanding. I felt as much for Gatsby as I have for any other character. He had always had high aspirations, but his dreams were taken away from him by the fact the he had to fight a war, and he could never be the same again. Gatsby's ambition is to have his former love, who is now married to an unfaithful husband, a quest that saw outstanding twist and turns in the story to make it the great read we have heard so much about. This book is truly inspirational for everyone irrespective of race, gender, age or occupation. I highly recommend it along with:
DISCIPLES OF FORTUNE, THE USURPER AND OTHERS, THE SCARLET LETTER
on July 16, 2004
The Great Gatsby holds a special place in my heart. Like Nick Carraway, the narrator, I am a Midwesterner that ventured out East to Yale and returned somewhat disenchanted with the rhythm of life on the East coast. So there are personal reasons for me to identify with the novel, in addition to Fitzgerald's unusual brilliance and mastery of the English language.
This was not always the case. Many people-- some of them very intelligent- often faulted The Great Gatsby for being 'soft' or 'too easy to read.' This is not intentional academic snobbery-- how often have readers taken up a facile book without coming away satisfied? Indeed, the critics of Fitzgerald's time did not take him seriously for similar reasons-- I myself fell within this skeptic group until I reread the novel four years later after heavy exposure to the other literary lights of that time.
Having now read The Great Gatsby approximately twenty times, I have come to recognize the unique power of the novel. It is, as described in the introductory essay, a complete miracle. It is a miracle of social criticism as witnessed by the unsurmountable gap between old and new money; it is a miracle (one might almost say an inevitable result) of the modern schism between the age of hard-nosed science and pure romantism; it is a miracle of story-telling, combining Hemingway's lucid economy with Faulkner's innovation and power. The result is Fitzgerald's characteristic 'magic voice,' which has yet to be duplicated by any author since.
And above all, it is a good story. At the heart of the tale is the use of a partially-involved first person narrator (in the form of Nick Carraway), combining the power of the first-person POV with the sweep and scope of the third person narrative. This stroke of genius becomes even more evident as parallel story lines develop, resulting in the convergence of the two paths and the famous closing scene with the now-transformed Nick brooding on the deserted beach.
There is so much to this book that it is impossible to list all that I admire. Yet paradoxically, unlike other masterworks like Absalom! Absalom!, it is possible for everyone who reads The Great Gatsby to view the work in its totality. It is so natural that it is almost as if Fitzgerald did not write it, and rather, the work appeared completed and perfect of its own volition-- a masterpiece for everyone.
on June 30, 2004
Prepare yourself, because the following is a less than glowing review of a revered classic. Yes, it's true, I am making myself vulnerable to all sorts of negative votes to express an honest, yet negative, opinion on a "classic" book.
But first, a little plot overview. This is a tragic lovestory told through the eyes of Nick Carraway, a Midwestern transplant to New York who happens to live in a modest house in a very rich neighborhood. He is the narrator, but most of the action is happening with other principal figures, most prominently J Gatsby. Gatsby is a mysterious figure who has gained wealth quickly from questionable means and goes to great lengths to win the heart of the woman he loves...who happens to be Nick's cousin.
The story twists and turns and describes Gatsby's high-rollin' lifestyle -- which would make a great episode in today's world of MTV Cribs -- and melds together several love stories with a great description of the "bored rich" living in the 1920's. The story is very entertaining and moves you along quickly.
So, if this were a novel I picked up without knowing anything about it, I would probably be glowing and gushing all over the floor about it. But it's not. It is "classic" literature whose merits to fit into that category seem to be in debate. Well, here are my two cents.
Some of the arguments that I have seen for this book's greatness are its beautiful language, Fitzgerald's economy of words, and the portrayal of the Jazz Age. And to that I say, first, that yes, the language is very good and I liked alot of the writer's descriptions, but they simply did not blow my doors off like other classics seem to. My personal grade would be a B+.
Secondly, hey, economy of words is great, and I appreciate that an author is able to express him/herself succinctly (as opposed to many non-classic current authors,) but that in and of itself is kind of like an add-on benefit for me, like if the car dealer throws in some customized floor mats or something. That's great, but it's not a deal maker-or-breaker.
Thirdly, I appreciate the portrayal of this period in history. But I really don't care that much about the bored rich in that period of history. By reading some reviewers' comments, you would think that this would be akin to learning about the hardships of Western pioneers or the tribulations of flood victims or something. It's just not that captivating of a topic to me to carry a story, but I guess that is personal preference.
So, to summarize. I liked the book. I give it four stars. But it has a wagon-load of expectations that it is carrying, and I just felt like I was missing something when I was reading it. And perhaps that just means I don't have enough edgukashuns to "get it," but this feeling seems to be a common one among other readers, even those who have finished high school.
Go ahead. Commence with the negatives.
on June 15, 2004
By now, there's little dispute about "Gatsby" being the classic that it is. And if you're not a fan, if nothing else, you didn't have to invest a great amount of time inthe book, for it is not long. But the character of Jay Gatsby is quite unique. Jay Gatsby loves without judgment, without conquest or need. The sad irony is that the object of such noble sentiment is a shallow yet benign Daisy, a lethargic, bored, and wealthy philistine. Gatsby is not a wise hero, otherwise this novel would be pedantic and obvious. Gatsby shares the shallowness of modern society, and its belief system of material possession. Gatsby is, simply put, 'unaffected', pure, a blind unabashed dreamer. Jay and his friends, all rather crass and shallow except for our narrator and moral moderator, Nick Calloway, go back and forth between cocktail parties, driving under T.J Eckleberg's Eyes, an abandoned billboard optometry advertisement. Themes of T.S. Eliot's hauntingly prophetic Wasteland are echoed. When a drunken night of obliviousness ends in the death of Tom Buchanan's (a fierce egoist and staunch 'realist') mistress, the moral fiber of all those involved break down, and finger's begin to twitch and point.This book is jam-packed with insight about not only the 1920s, but the human condition in general. Filled with metaphors and poetic writing, Fitzgerald has given us one remarkable piece of literature for the ages.
Also recommended: BARK OF THE DOGWOOD and OF MICE AND MEN
on June 13, 2004
In American literature, there are two distinct "schools" that emerged from the Lost Generation of ex-patriates who lived in Paris after World War I. These are the Hemingway and Fitzgerald wings of political novelization.
Fitzgerald was a member of the East Coast elite, the Ivy Leaguers of the Hamptons known as the "idle rich." Hemingway represents a more red-blooded Midwesternism, tempered by the war and it phyical and mental horrors.
"The Great Gatsby" describes a con man from the lower classes of Middle America who remakes himself. He achieves fabulous wealth in the heady early days of the Roaring 20s, at time when the stock market was unregulated by the SEC and such things could be accomplished. In the manner of the Count of Monte Cristo, he makes a fantastic splash on High Society, a nouveau riche pretty boy, supposedly an officer in the Army during the Great War, who owns a huge Long Island mansion and holds enormous Summer parties.
The book centers on the angst of the idle rich, the love affairs of the morally ambiguous, people who must look for newer and more outrageous ways to tickle their fancies. Naturally, Gatsby's attractiveness among the gorgeous socialite women of the Hamptons stirs resentment among the old school boys, who question his validity.
Fitzgerald here describes a world from the standpoint of guilt; guilt at being rich. He paints a picture of people who have money without having earned it, who are not worthy of it in the entrepreneurial sense. This is an elite, liberal view - the opposite of the more hard-scrabble Hemingway world.
Political views aside, Fitzgerald is a fabulous writer who lends a distinct voice to the American literary scene. This is the proverbial Great American Novel.
AUTHOR OF "BARRY BONDS: BASEBALL'S SUPERMAN"
on May 25, 2004
Rich man Jay Gatsby has everything he could possible want, money beyond imagination, a waterfront house on long island sound, and parties at his mansion day and night. The one thing his life is missing is the one thing that he desires most-Daisy Buchanan. Fitzgerald's Great Gatsby tells the story of greedy upper class people who have only desire to get more and further distance themselves from the lower class. Jay Gatsby throws all his extravigant parties but has only one goal in mind-attracting Daisy. Her husband Tom is already wrapped up in an affair with low-life Myrtle. The Rich folks' treatment of each other and disregard for others is at the center of Fitgerald's novel. Other themes to look for are his use of weather to set the mood of the scenes, use of colors(especially yellow and green) to foreshadow upcoming events, and the disparity between the upper and lower class. I recommend this book to all young and old, as it is a classic read that everyone should experience at one point in their life.
on May 17, 2004
I am sorry to have waited so long to read this masterpiece. F. Scott Fitzgerald's crowning achievement is a relatively concise, easily readable gem of a story, which goes much deeper than the average genre fiction (obviously), but not in a dull way.
It is very easy to picture oneself as Nick, the protagonist, attempting to piece together this strange character, Jay Gatsby, and the elaborate world he inhabits. Character development is beautifully accomplished as the book progresses, and there is no wasted scenes or characters. In fact, there is a great deal of substance to the entire story, despite its focus on the lack of substance for the characters presented.
The Great Gatsby will help you understand the lives of the fabulously wealthy in the 20s, but more importantly it will help you begin to understand the real world, and what is really important. Gatsby's "Green light" is each of ours as well, if we would only see it.
If you have a soul, you will love this book, and either way, it will certainly make you think.
on May 15, 2004
I believe novels should be accessible to people of all tastes, from those who prefer history and biography (as I do) to those who prefer science fiction. Truly great novels transcend personal preferences and that is exactly what the Great Gatsby is-- a story of human nature, set in a time of recklessness and ambition that seems to parallel, in some ways, our world today. It is written with soft prose and vivid imagery-- the examples are too numerous to be listed here. As most know the plot, I won't delve into that, but just to add that, considering this shouldn't be a spoiler, one question I have always wondered (and wished to the contrary) is, "Why did Gatsby have to die?" Despite his surely illictly-garnered fortune and reckless nature, the reader cheers for Gatsby, who is far from perfect, but represents a small part of each of us. That is truly the magic of Fitzgerald's piece and I hope, especially if you've never read it before, that you find a little enchantment yourself.