I read this once before, probably about ten years ago, when I'd been out of college a couple of years and was catching up on all the things I felt I should have read, but hadn't had time for before. I didn't care for it. At all. But I think that's because I'd read that Fitzgerald and Hemingway were friends, and so for some weird reason, I thought it would be kind of like Hemingway's books.
If Hemingway's writing is a pair of worn leather work gloves, then Fitzgerald's is a silk evening dress with a long train. Hemingway's writing is solid, grounded in reality, sometimes brutal in its honesty. Fitzgerald's is ethereal, concerned with how things are and aren't and should be, and full of wistful longing.
This time around, I knew more of what to expect. This time around, I really dug The Great Gatsby.
Okay, anyway, The Great Gatsby is about a guy named Nick Carraway who moves into a cheap little house next to a mansion owned by a mysterious guy named Jay Gatsby. This is in the Roaring Twenties, near NYC, and rumor has it that Gatsby is a bootlegger. Or a murderer. Or a spy. No one knows for sure. He throws fabulous parties. He stares across the water at a green light glowing on the end of a pier by the opposite shore. He befriends Nick, sort of. He pines for a girl he loved years and years earlier, and thinks that somehow he and she can still be in love and have a life together. Basically, Gatsby is living his entire life inside a self-created dream, getting other people to dream it with him whenever he can.
Fitzgerald turns out delicate phrases that make me catch my breath. I had to read parts of this very, very slowly, particularly the first few chapters, sometimes pausing multiple times per page to savor a line or phrase. I'll list lots of them here, as they're so exquisite I must share them.
Yes, I'm looking forward to Baz Luhrmann's movie adaptation, which opens next month. I'll review it over on my Soliloquy once I see it. I just saw the trailer in the theater again this morning, and it looks sleek and glittering, like it should.
If this was a movie, I would rate it: PG for alcohol use and innuendo.
Particularly Good Bits:
Instead of being the warm center of the world, the Middle West now seemed like the ragged edge of the universe -- so I decided to go East and learn the bond business.
I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.
At the enchanted metropolitan twilight I felt a haunting loneliness sometimes, and felt it in others -- poor young clerks who loitered in front of windows waiting until it was time for a solitary restaurant dinner -- young clerks in the dusk, wasting the most poignant moments of night and life.
When he realized what I was talking about, that there were twinkle-bells of sunshine in the room, he smiled like a weather man, like an ecstatic patron of recurrent light, and repeated the news to Daisy. "What do you think of that? It's stopped raining."
No amount of fire or freshness can challenge what a man will store up in his ghostly heart.
I was thirty. Before me stretched the portentous, menacing road of a new decade.
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.