on March 28, 2006
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.
KATZENJAMMER by Jackson McCrae and CATCHER IN THE RYE by Salinger
on October 6, 2012
I think, or I glean, that American high school students are required to read this book, held up as a shining example of national literature. Perhaps because I’m not American, this novel wasn’t on any lists when I studied English in high school and university. Just as well; I mightn’t have appreciated it then.
It’s understandable that The Great Gatsby would be taught; it’s damned good. It’s tight, compact, linear, and practically every sentence is a work of art. I bought the audio book and listened to it twice. Then I picked up the novel and read it in a couple of days. It’s excellent; there’s no way around it. It’s also rather different from Tender is the Night, also good, perhaps more evolved, but not nearly as flash or impactful.
If someone employed Fitzgerald’s style today, their prose would likely be labeled too ornate. A shame, because it’s poetic and powerfully descriptive.
Troy Parfitt is the author of Why China Will Never Rule the World
on June 2, 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.Recommended stories are DISCIPLES OF FORTUNE, THE USURPER AND OTHERS, THE SCARLET LETTER, WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS, in the sense that they go to add to this rich theme
The story of Jay Gatsby is narrated by Nick Carraway. Carraway had graduated from New Haven in 1915, had participated in the Great War and, returning restless, decided to move East and learn the bond business. In the spring of 1922, he rents a house in West Egg, Long Island next to the mansion of Gatsby - a mysterious host of large and extravagant parties.
It seems that few people know anything about Gatsby, so speculation is rife. Gatsby is wealthy and powerful, and knows how to get things done. And yet, while many flock to his parties, he seems to have no friends, only business associates. A man of mystery.
Nick Carraway's second cousin, once removed, is Daisy Buchanan. Daisy and Tom (and their daughter Pammy) live on the more fashionable East Egg side of Long Island. Nick had met her husband Tom at New Haven and Nick calls on them soon after moving to West Egg. During his visit, Nick also meets Jordan Baker who tells him that Tom has a mistress, and finds that here as well that Gatsby, his parties and his wealth are a topic of discussion. There is a lot of restless energy here, as well as a sense of dissatisfaction, of boredom and of wanting more from life.
Myrtle Wilson, Tom's mistress, lives with her husband Tom near an expanse of land known as the Valley of Ashes. A wasteland of sorts, between New York and Long Island, constantly under the view of an advertisement for an oculist.
`But above the gray land and the spasms of bleak dust which drift endlessly over it, you perceive, after a moment, the eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg.'
Through Nick and Jordan, Daisy is reintroduced to Gatsby. She had been engaged to him before her marriage to Tom, back when he had no money. Gatsby still loves Daisy, and hopes to recapture this past romance.
``Can't repeat the past?' he cried incredulously. `Why of course you can.''
Unfortunately, for Jay Gatsby, he cannot repeat the past. And a series of unfortunate coincidences and tragedies obliterate his future as well as that of the Wilsons. It's of no consequence to Tom and Daisy, the destruction that they cause and retreat from. They live in and for the moment, without loyalty and without care.
`They were careless people, Tom and Daisy - they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made ...'
`Her voice is full of money', he said suddenly.' And money talks in this novel, but it has to be the `right' sort of `old' money. There is no place for a parvenu like Gatsby, and there are few mourners at his funeral.
It's been forty years since I last read this novel, and while I remembered the story fairly well, it had a different impact this time around. The first time around I wondered how people could be so fickle and shallow, this time I was more focussed on how Fitzgerald manages to complete such an unsettling story within fewer than 150 pages. All versions of the early 20th century American Dream portrayed in this book are flawed: those who can see the flaws can do nothing and those who strive to live it are doomed to fail. Equality is not realisable.
And if I read it again? Who knows what I'll think of it.
on December 3, 2012
Nobody can drop it like Fitzgerald - he truly is an original. 'The Great Gatsby' is proof.
We start out with a reflective Nick Carraway (great last name, by the way), as he tries to sort out a summer experience where he met the infamous Jay Gatsby. Time and again we're shown Gatsby as he partakes in the party life of the Jazz Era, only we're not shown Gatsby. He eludes readers until the final two chapters of the novel. Fitzgerald structures the book by withholding the precious details until the very end. Why does he? Because he wanted to write one of the great pieces of prose in Twentieth Century literature, and he succeeded.
Repetitions characterize a lot of what goes on in the book. Really, the plot isn't so much captivating as is Fitzgerald's writing. It's beautiful. And you'll love it even more for getting to meet Daisy, Tom and others in such a classic way.
I recommend 'The Great Gatsby' to everyone--looking into the Twentieth Century could never have been better!
on December 18, 2012
As a reader, I gravitate more towards sci-fi/adventure novels, usually written more recently than this book was. But I knew I should read it, for I knew it was a staple of every library. So I picked the book up with low expectations, and boy, did it prove me wrong.
The writing is just great, and the book is a page turner, with only the power of relationships, backstory, and tension to keep the reader on the edge of their seats. I never thought I could be so riveted by a simple conversation. The fact is that this book has so many layers, with every line, and every conversation. It is a truly great book, worthy of all its critical acclaim. For someone looking into delving into the literary genre, or just someone who hasn't experienced many books from behind their time, this is a really great novel to read, and it's truly absorbing.
"The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald touches on the delicate issue of an affluent man named Jay Gatsby who has the option to buy the finer things in life. Gatsby is very much in love with Daisy Buchanan, but she is married to someone else (Tom Buchanan). A layer of complexity grows as both Daisy and Gatsby end up interacting with similar circles of people. "The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald also happens to be set in the prosperous time of what has been called the "Roaring Twenties."
on October 7, 1998
It truly is. I am quite sure that Fitzgerald is more than capable of writing a work of art. Unfortunately, this is not it.
The plot is very tiresome and the book gets boring FAST. The dialogue is simply the hobnobbing of a bunch of snobs.
All of the characters are quite one-dimensional which allows for minimal character growth and even less character depth.
The only redeeming quality of this book is its use of "color symbolism". But not even a great literary technique can salvage this novel.
In short, DO NOT READ this.
on July 4, 2009
"The Great Gatsby" is a sad book. But perhaps the saddest thing of all is that F Scott Fitzgerald's tragic, moving portrayal of the American Dream demonstrates that the typical American's pre-occupation with the yearning for wealth, class and an easier life can ultimately be so empty, so meaningless and so utterly unfulfilling.
When Nick Carraway left what he saw as a comfortable but mundane existence in the Midwest, he moved East to a magnetic New York City to learn the bond business. Renting a "weather beaten cardboard bungalow" in a town called West Egg on Long Island, he met a distant cousin, Daisy Buchanan; her husband, Tom, struggling to live up to the brilliance of a university football career in New Haven; and his next door neighbour, Jay Gatsby, an enigmatic man whose wealth had originated from mysterious means. The many rumours hinted at everything from Prohibition rum-running to murder.
The actual plot of the story, told through the eyes of narrator Nick Carraway, is so utterly pointless and virtually directionless as to leave the reader wondering how such simplistic, almost mindless melodrama manages to be so compelling and so captivating.
Nick tells the story of his move to New York City. We learn that Jay Gatsby had fallen in love with Daisy Buchanan several years earlier, at a time when he was an impoverished nobody and couldn't hope to marry someone like her. After Gatsby leaves to go to war, her subsequent marriage to Tom Buchanan is ultimately unsuccessful as Tom has an affair with Myrtle Wilson, the wife of a local mechanic. Jay Gatsy, now wealthy almost beyond imagining as a result of his involvement in criminal activities - the details of which are never fully disclosed in the story - asks Nick to re-connect him with his former love as he seeks to have Daisy admit that she had never stopped loving him since their first affair many years earlier. Gatsby desperately wants Daisy to confess she had never actually loved her husband at all.
The reader witnesses a non-stop whirl of debauchery as the shadowy Gatsby hosts an endless string of decadent, liquor-soaked bacchanales at his Long Island mansion. The readers are left to question Gatsby's motives as he is portrayed as an observer who never truly participates in his own parties. Indeed, the majority of his guests are clearly pretenders to his acquaintance and wannabe seekers of the trappings of wealth who have never even met their host and wouldn't know him to speak to him on the street.
The climax of the story arrives after a tragi-comic confrontational gathering of virtually the entire cast of Fitzgerald's tale - Tom and Daisy, Jay Gatsby, Nick Carraway and his erstwhile lover, tennis player Jordan Baker - sitting in a steamy, overheated, hotel room sipping on iced mint juleps casually discussing whether or not Daisy's future rests with Tom or with Gatsby.
The brim of the cup that is "The Great Gatsby" runneth over with licentiousness, hypocrisy, greed, amorality, false friendship and weak-kneed love - in other words, a veritable cocktail of moral turpitude to sip or swill and digest while pondering its base flavours plus a variety of notes and subtle overtones.
In hindsight, it is also worth considering the irony that, as a bond trader on Wall Street in 1925, Carraway would have had but a scant four years remaining before encountering the Wall Street Crash and the utter collapse of his fantastical New York world. Perhaps F Scott Fitzgerald was prescient as well as a brilliant writer who would have us take away the message that it might be worth a moment to reconsider the true meaning and value of every American's fondest "American Dream"!
on March 28, 2015
The Great Gatsby is the swingy title that, almost a century after its composition, is still adverted to by those who wish to introduce to others what the roaring twenties were like. This is because it captures the ways and spirit of that age, at least concerning the young American elite of that day. The story takes place around 1922 (p. 60.) The speech takes us right into the society of that time, when women spoke like this: “But if I hadn’t met Chester, he’d of got me sure” (p. 36.) A 1940’s Hollywood dialect is prefigured: “We’re getting sickandtired of it” (p. 161.)
Jay Gatsby is the icon inside the iconic tale, the man of ‘heightened sensitivity’ and ‘romantic readiness’ (p. 8.) He knows, even before 1937, How to Win Friends and Influence People. He “understood you just so far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself” (p. 49.) He is the man of means. Both he and his means are seemingly from nowhere. Being so much a man of the world, it’s as if he’s from everywhere. His type is almost, if not completely and always, an anti-hero; even his name is false (p. 94.)
The atmosphere swirling about the inner-circle whose nucleus is the great Gatsby himself, may be summed up in two words borrowed from page 143: ‘cheerful snobbery.’ This is a world in which the snob can afford to go “drowsing asleep at dawn with the beads and chiffon of an evening dress tangled among dying orchids on the floor beside her bed” (p. 144.) Before long, though, in this tale (is it not true to life?) the snob’s world in the ‘enchanted metropolitan twilight’ turns into a ‘haunting loneliness’ (p. 57.) We are getting close to what this book is about when we see this revolution in the context of becoming aware of “wasting the most poignant moments of night and life” (p. 57.) The book is not about snobbery, though it is full of that. It’s not about bootlegging, though this is the fuel that runs the snobbery through its ‘drug-stores’ and ‘gonnections’ (pp. 104, 115, 127, 163.) It’s not about the great moral that eventually unfolds: the tragic pitfalls of loose morals and easy-living. It’s not even about aggrandizement coming to calamity. And the book may be the book of an age. But truly, this book is about age. It’s about the sentimental twenties teetering on the edge of the sensible thirties. Thirty is so threatening from this precipice as to prophesy “the promise of a decade of loneliness, a thinning list of single men to know, a thinning brief-case of enthusiasm, thinning hair” (p. 129.) The more matter-of-fact sort might not identify with this fear. Thirty might not be to him such a number to cringe from. But to those most alive to the romance of being young, the sight of thirty is like a recognition that romance is ready to vaporize into empty reality. It’s as if that exuberant decade, like Tom's wife and mistress, once ‘secure and inviolate,’ is now ‘slipping precipitately from…control’ (p. 119.) This is a book written in the twenties about the twenties and about being twenty-something. The twenties are desperately but deftly snatched at by Fitzgerald in order to save from there, if only so much as ‘a fragment of the spot’ (p. 145.) This is about the anxiety of losing that great thing that all who live must lose: youth.
Plainly put, this book is about trying to maintain “that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer” (p. 10.) But only rapturous language is able to do justice, finally, to what that fairest age is like that no one wants to see slip away. “Out of the corner of his eye Gatsby saw that the blocks of the sidewalks really formed a ladder and mounted to a secret place above the trees—he could climb to it, if he climbed alone, and once there he could suck on the pap of life, gulp down the incomparable milk of wonder” (pp. 106, 7.) This is almost purple. Some might even call it so. But a passage like this does begin to articulate what the unspeakable attributes of youth feel like. Fitzgerald captures something of youth’s instinct and intensity.
In a broad sense, the composition evokes the idealistic, irrational vision of youth. This can only be pulled off by the style hitting the mark in its most particular aspects. There must be very little unintentional self-sabotage, either by disharmony, ill definition, cliches, or failed attempts at flights of fancy. The ‘unquiet darkness’ (p. 25) is carefully put in to harmonize with the croaking of frogs farther up the page. A careless writer would have slipped into disharmony by stating the commonly mistaken assumption that darkness must imply quietude. The grandiose illusion that begins to invade the inebriating brain is excellently defined (p. 48.) And cliches no doubt were first to recommend themselves before Fitzgerald settled, after much reflection, for the unexpected. ‘Deplorably sober’ (p. 53) is unexpected, and fits the naughty humor of Fitzgerald’s characters. The taxi ‘feeling its way’ (p. 138) along the dark road is the unexpected that inspires the right mood. That someone ‘inhospitably died’ (p. 97) is the unexpected way of expressing the disruptive character of death. And the ridiculous affirmation that time, and therefore youth, can be wound up all over again is the unexpected creed that is nevertheless tailor-made for the book’s message and attitude. “’Can’t repeat the past?’…’Why of course you can!’” (p. 106.)
I have never read a review of this novel. I suspect that pessimistic comments, at least by paid reviewers from the recent past, are few. Discrimination is hardly popular anymore. I will dare to say that F. Scott Fitzgerald sometimes fails to hit his eloquent target. “He had lost the old warm world” (p. 153) falls kind of flat. “Her porch was bright with the bought luxury of star-shine” (p. 142) is a poor piece of poetry. Three whole sections, as well, short ones thankfully, do not seem to fit in with anything at all (pp. 39, 53, 110.) The third commandment is often broken, either by outright cursing or by the use of the word ‘God’ for exclamatory purposes. Since the adulteries and other illicit relations are merely intimated in the context of an ultimate reaping of rewards, there is no bone to pick with that. The cursing, too, should have been only hinted at. It sits on the page as the foul speech, not only of fictional characters, but of the author who is no doubt okay with an open display of blasphemy for all to see and perhaps even copy.
This novel is not so marvelous or prodigious as to warrant Fitzgerald his high situation among the literary greats. But it is a star of more than average magnitude. It takes us back to what was and might have been, albeit with some bad language. The tone of an age, and of age, is on the page.