Friday, May 13, 2016

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

When I saw that another book blogger read this novel once a year I decided to dust off my copy and give it a second look. (I hadn't read it since college 30 years ago.) While I loved the terrific writing, I couldn't help but be depressed by all the clueless people in this story.

It's 1922 and the mysteriously wealthy Jay Gatsby buys a house on Long Island, New York to be near his former girlfriend (now married), Daisy Buchanan. His neighbor, Nick Carraway, is a cousin to Daisy and becomes the link between the two. Carraway narrates the story as he goes from one wild party to another. I can easily see why it makes successful required reading for college-age students. As you read, you are breathlessly waiting for the proverbial train wreck and can't take your eyes from the scene.

Without one word of preachiness or finger-pointing, Fitzgerald does a fantastic job of showing the emptiness of wealth and worldly pleasures. They were careless people, Tom and Daisy - they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made. (p. 179)

I'm glad I re-read it, but don't plan to make it a yearly habit! Would I recommend this book? Yes, for all lovers of fine language, the tight, clean, prose is a delight.

He was a photographer and had made the dim enlargement of Mrs. Wilson's mother which hovered like an ectoplasm on the wall. (p. 30)

Describing Gatsby's decision to leave St. Olaf's College: He was dismayed at its ferocious indifference to the drums of his destiny. (99)

When dreams are destroyed: He looked up at the an unfamiliar sky through frightening leaves and shivered as he found what a grotesque thing a rose is... 161

This quote from Wikipedia sums things up pretty well: In many ways, The Great Gatsby represents Fitzgerald's attempt to confront his conflicting feelings about the Jazz Age. Like Gatsby, Fitzgerald was driven by his love for a woman who symbolized everything he wanted, even as she led him toward everything he despised.


Barbara H. said...

I've never read this because I knew just enough about it to think it would probably be depressing. But you're making me rethink that. I've been thinking I probably should read it some time just because it is a classic, but your comments about the writing make me want to read it more.

Susanne said...

I also remembered doing this in high school but when I went to the most recent movie adaptation of it I ended up leaving because I just couldn't watch it. Maybe the read would be better.

hopeinbrazil said...

Susanne, I've wondered about the new movie. The book is definitely not rated "R" since the liaisons are all implied. But I can see how a modern remake of it could be pretty heavy.

Carol said...

Another classic I've not read as I had the wrong idea about it. I've only seen the shorts of the movie & that was enough to put me off. Will put it on my TBR. Thanks for the review. PS Like your new photo!

Vintage Reading said...

I love this book and have re-read it many times. I especially like the scene where Nick sits on the grass roller at night an looks at the stars. You've reminded me to read it again!