I know I've spent nine whole posts nattering on about this book, delving into all the things I find interesting or odd or cool or confusing. But I'd like to do one final post to put down a few of my final thoughts on the book as a whole.
Why do I like this book? I didn't like it the first time I read it. I admired it the second time. But this time through, yes, I liked it. Quite a lot, really. Which is odd, because I don't really want to be friends with any of the characters, and that's what usually makes me like or love a book. That's probably what keeps me from quite loving it.
I realized while reading this that I am drawn to a specific sort of tragedy. I only truly like tragedies that feel inevitable to me. That don't give me a sense of, "Oh, if only the main character weren't being so stupid, this wouldn't have happened." This is part of why I love Hamlet, but not King Lear or MacBeth or Othello -- I can't point at Hamlet and say, "If only he hadn't been so stupid, none of this would have happened." If only King Lear hadn't been so blind to his daughters' true natures. If only MacBeth hadn't been so power-hungry. If only Othello hadn't been so insecure. But, like with Hamlet, I don't think I can point at Gatsby and say, "If only he hadn't been so stupid." Sure, he dreamed a dream that couldn't come true. Sure, he was into some illegal stuff. But the events in this are like an inevitable catastrophe, a natural disaster we can't stop, we just have to watch.
I'm not sure if I explained that well or not -- it's something I'm still turning over in my mind.
I also realized that I want to rescue Gatsby. I want to just hop into this book and grab Jay Gatsby by one arm, Nick Carraway by the other, and say, "Boys, let's go to California for a few weeks and let things here just cool down and blow away for a while." (I have a similar wish to whisk Hamlet away back to Wittenberg at the beginning of the play.) So, in that sense, I do want to be a part of the story. And I do wish I could prevent the tragedy.
The writing in this book still astonishes me with its vibrant, gauzy beauty. Fitzgerald is amazing.
Somebody asked me why I think this book is worth reading. Such a good question. All kinds of bad stuff happens in this, from lying to adultery to manslaughter to murder. There's some bad language. Why read it?
To me, it's worth reading because it is a very poignant meditation on what it means to lose a dream. We all have dreams. We all have illusions. And I think this book shows how important it is for us to recognize what is real and what can never be real. If we get so wrapped up in how we imagine life should be or could be, we run the risk of jeopardizing the people around us, our own lives even, in pursuit of something that isn't even real.
And yet, the message of this book isn't "Stop dreaming." Not at all. I think the message is that we need to be careful not to mistake our dreams for reality. That we need to be able to separate fact from fiction, to know what is and isn't possible. Dream, but be careful as you pursue your dream. Don't lose sight of what is while you're chasing what might be.
There's all kinds of other stuff going on in this, about class disparity and rich versus poor and East versus West, but I went into that a lot in the read-along and don't feel like repeating it.
I've already listed off dozens of favorite lines during the read-along, so today I'll skip posting favorite lines. I have many of them, so very many.
If This Was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG-13 for alcohol use, a traumatic death, implied sexual activity, extramarital affairs, and some language.
This is my tenth book read and reviewed for my second go-round with the Classics Club.