Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

I tried to read this last year while traveling and couldn't really get into it. But I think it was more the chaos of traveling rather than the story itself. So, after gushing about This Side of Paradise last month, I knew I had to give The Great Gatsby another try, this time as an audiobook. I loved it.

What can I say about such a classic that hasn't already been explored and expounded upon? I remember reading this in high school a long time ago and thinking, meh, so what? I didn't see what was so great about a bunch of rich people wallowing in their richness. And symbolism! The curse of my sorry high school English career was having to cough up all sorts of *meaning* into what this and that meant. AS IF authors went to that kind of trouble {teenage eye-roll}. So this time around, by the time I came across the Eyes-On-The-Billboard and The-Blinking-Green-Light-At-The-End-Of-The-Dock imagery Fitzgerald so deftly weaves into this story, my sixteen-year-old self silently sent a high-five to Mrs Thompson from grade ten English. Aahh, yes, Mrs Thompson, I get it now.

What I'm getting from Fitzgerald's stories is that he speaks of a wealth and privilege he is obviously familiar with, but not so much as to want to promote the lifestyle. Jay Gatsby hosts parties, but he doesn't really participate in them. He doesn't drink and rarely mingles with his guests. 'Here it is', he seems to be saying. 'But don't read too much into it. Underneath all this shiny fun and glitter, we're just as insecure and full of angst as the next person.' I would even venture to say Jay Gatsby's parties and 'friends' were like the facebook of the day: it's all happening right here, right now, but don't count on any depth or staying power. Same idea, I think, just a different era. Every new generation thinks *they* are the ones who will be able to do it all and have it all -especially in the Jazz Age with its new wealth and automobiles and electricity and telephones- and it's always a little sad when the inevitable reckoning happens. Jay Gatsby's end is tragic; it really couldn't have been any other way, though, could it? He was propping up a house of cards that was bound to collapse.

The story of fabulously wealthy Jay Gatsby and his love for the beautiful Daisy Buchanan, of lavish parties on Long Island at a time when, The New York Times remarked, "gin was the national drink and sex the national obsession," it is an exquisitely crafted tale of America in the 1920s that resonates with the power of myth. A novel of lyrical beauty yet brutal realism, of magic, romance and mysticism, The Great Gatsby is one of the great classics of twentieth-century literature. (shelfari)

10 comments:

Esme said...

I first read this book in high school and have read it many times since-It is one of my favourites. Why I could not tell you it just grabbed me.

Trish said...

His writing and stories are crystal clear without ponderous embellishments. He is fast becoming one of my favorite authors. But, yes, it's like trying to explain a favorite food, isn't it? I don't know why I like it, I just do!

Alexis @ Reflections of a Bookaholic said...

I feel like this is one of those books that everyone enjoys but me. It just didn't do it for me.

Sam (Tiny Library) said...

I read this for the first time this year and liked it, but didn't love it. Liked you I picked up on the ambivalence Gatsby has for the decadence and party scene. Maybe I would like it more on a reread?

Trish said...

Alexis - I don't know if I would say I 'enjoyed' it but more that I appreciated what he was trying to say and how well he puts it all together. The story itself is rather depressing.

Sam - Since my first reading of this was so long ago, it really felt like this was my first time reading it. I had forgotten so much of the story over the years and my perspective has certainly changed! I would read it again in the future and perhaps focus more on Nick since I was so intrigued by his perception of all the people and events going on around him.

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

Loved this book a lot:)

Priya -Tabula Rasa said...

I think you have to read this book at just the right time to like it. I didn't enjoy it the first time I read it; I found it sad. But on my first re-read I realized I did quite like the way it was written, even if I didn't like the plot... Good review!

Laura said...

I've read this a couple of times, and I know I enjoyed it each time, and YET I can never remember what happens in it! I think I'm going to give it one last try sometime this year, and then maybe just give up on it and go and see the movie!

Trish said...

Diane - it's a good one, isn't it?!

Priya - yes, absolutely. I think it's a good book to read in youth and then reread every decade or so.

Laura - The movie trailer looks intense! The Jazz Age was such a spectacle - it'll be cool to see it on the big screen.

Arti said...

All the opulence and glamour in the Gatsby house is all to woo Daisy... they're only means to an end. And that's what I love about the character Gatsby. As you said, he doesn't seem like one who actually believes in the wealth and glitz for their own sake. He loves Daisy obsessively that if getting her needs him to sell everything he has I think he'll do it in a heartbeat. And the ending just reinforces what substance he has in his character. This book is one of my all time faves. And from the trailer of the new movie coming out in 3D, I've great reservation that Baz Luhrmann can convey the Gatsby behind the glamour. But of course, I'll go watch it come December. ;)