Saturday, May 08, 2010

Book Review: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby
by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Trout Lake Media (Oct. 16, 2009)
Source:  Personal Copy (Audio) Description:
In 1922, F. Scott Fitzgerald announced his decision to write "something new--something extraordinary and beautiful and simple + intricately patterned." That extraordinary, beautiful, intricately patterned, and above all, simple novel became The Great Gatsby, arguably Fitzgerald's finest work and certainly the book for which he is best known. A portrait of the Jazz Age in all of its decadence and excess, Gatsby captured the spirit of the author's generation and earned itself a permanent place in American mythology. Self-made, self-invented millionaire Jay Gatsby embodies some of Fitzgerald's--and his country's--most abiding obsessions: money, ambition, greed, and the promise of new beginnings. "Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that's no matter--tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther.... And one fine morning--" Gatsby's rise to glory and eventual fall from grace becomes a kind of cautionary tale about the American Dream.

It's also a love story, of sorts, the narrative of Gatsby's quixotic passion for Daisy Buchanan. The pair meet five years before the novel begins, when Daisy is a legendary young Louisville beauty and Gatsby an impoverished officer. They fall in love, but while Gatsby serves overseas, Daisy marries the brutal, bullying, but extremely rich Tom Buchanan. After the war, Gatsby devotes himself blindly to the pursuit of wealth by whatever means--and to the pursuit of Daisy, which amounts to the same thing. "Her voice is full of money," Gatsby says admiringly, in one of the novel's more famous descriptions. His millions made, Gatsby buys a mansion across Long Island Sound from Daisy's patrician East Egg address, throws lavish parties, and waits for her to appear. When she does, events unfold with all the tragic inevitability of a Greek drama, with detached, cynical neighbor Nick Carraway acting as chorus throughout. Spare, elegantly plotted, and written in crystalline prose, The Great Gatsby is as perfectly satisfying as the best kind of poem.

My Thoughts:
The Great Gatsby was one of the books that I read in high school that I have been meaning to re-read, in an attempt to see whether it would mean more to me when I was older, than it did when I was young and easily bored.  I took an opportunity to download an expensive audio version of The Great Gatsby, and count this as my renewed experience with the book.
In my mind the book is still OK.  I agree that it shows countless flaws in the the character's pursuit of the American dream.  I'm not sure which errors in judgement were more pronounced in this story - trying to solve problems and win love through money, or the acts of infidelity themselves. 

I was left wondering what I would have thought if I had been in the position of the narrator Nick Carraway.  It seemed as if he moved to West Egg only to find himself in the middle of the affairs of Daisy and Tom Buchanan and then unexpectedly he became the confidant of J. Gatsby.  How strange it would have been to be expecting to start a new career and life, and to be caught up in so much drama.
In all, I enjoyed the story and I am glad that I took the opportunity read this classic again.

1 comment:

  1. I just saw this movie last night (read the book ages ago) and forgot what a fabulous story it is. If you can, try to watch the 1970s movie and relive the book you just read - Sam Waterston(e?), Robert Redford, Mia Farrow... amazing cast.

    BTW - found your blog through Manic Mommies' list of Escape attendees... I'm so excited about this year's event.