Saturday, April 20, 2013

"The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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.

Silly me.

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.


  1. Okay, so we just read Gatsby for book club last year, and you just made me want to read it again so I could enjoy the movie more when it comes out. That means you did a GREAT job of reviewing it, Rachel! I think it's the kind of book you can read several times and enjoy it more each time.

    1. Fortunately, it's short! Shouldn't take long for you to reread :-) Thanks!

  2. I read this in high school literature class, and I loved it! Several of the mandatory readings of that class bored me to tears, but "The Great Gatsby" was not one of them.

    I rarely watch current films, but the upcoming "Great Gatsby" is one I am interested in seeing. Have you seen the Robert Redford version? I adore that one.

    1. I haven't seen the Redford version -- I like Redford okay, but I don't seek out his movies. I was really pleased by the trailer for this one, though, as most of the dialog sounded straight from the book! And I've liked every Baz movie I've seen so far (and I've seen all his feature-length films except Strictly Ballroom.)

  3. "If Hemingway's writing is a pair of worn leather work gloves, then Fitzgerald's is a silk evening dress with a long train." That's beautiful. And so true! I think I'll try to convince my book group to read this; it's been a long time since I did.

    1. Aww, thank you! I hope you get your group to read it -- maybe the fact that there's a new movie will have them interested?


What do you think?

Comments on old posts are always welcome! Posts older than 7 days are on moderation to dissuade spambots, so if your comment doesn't show up right away, don't worry -- it will once I approve it.

(Rudeness and vulgar language will not be tolerated.)