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Having reread this book for the first time in 20 years, I can confirm that there's a reason that it's considered one of the very best American novels. However, my reaction to the story was different than when I first read it in high school. I recall that back then I was hoping that Daisy and Gatsby's love story would ultimately yield a happy ending. Now, I found them both to be such shallow creatures that they inspired no pity. While I considered the characters to be emotionally stunted, that dooesn't mean I was not impressed with Fitzergerald's skillful rendering. As in most forms of art, in literature it is more difficult to accurately and interestingly portray nothingness than to describe a richly endowed subject. At this more cynical age, I found Daisy to be a remarkable emotional void, and Gatsby's quest to pour all of his hopes and dreams into such a shallow cauldron only confirmed his own vapidity. One thing that hasn't changed in all these years is my amazement at Fitzgerald's ability to set a scene. His descriptive passages are truly poetic, and his command of word choice in unparalleled. All this made for a stimulating and delightful read.
There are two Kindle editions of The Great Gatsby, both at the same price.
Unfortunately the edition I bought, from Old Landmark Publishing, has a number of minor transcription errors. The most notable is the occasional
insertion of multiple paragraph
breaks within a sentence. There are also occasional misplaced paragraph breaks in dialog paragraphs, which sometimes leads to confusion about which character is speaking.
I downloaded the free sample of the Scribner Edition and although that is only a short sample, it appears to be a much better quality transcription.
So since there are several Kindle editions available, you might want to avoid the Old Landmark Publishing Edition (the one with the car on the cover) and try the Scribner Edition (the one with the dark blue cover with a face superimposed).
It's difficult to give any even-handed critique F. Scott Fitzgerald's standard-setting Jazz Age novel since it was required reading for most of us in high school. However, if you come back to it as a full-fledged adult, you'll find that the story still resonates but more like a just-polished cameo piece from a forgotten time. At the core of the book is the elaborate infatuation Jay Gatsby has for Daisy Fay Buchanan, a love story portrayed with both a languid pall and a fatalistic urgency. But the broader context of the setting and the irreconcilable nature of the American dream in the 1920's is what give the novel its true gravitas.
Much of this is eloquently articulated by Nick Carraway, Gatsby's modest Long Island neighbor who becomes his most trusted confidante. Nick is responsible for reuniting the lovers who both have come to different points in their lives five years after their aborted romance. Now a solitary figure in his luxurious mansion, Gatsby is a newly wealthy man who accumulated his fortunes through dubious means. Daisy, on the other hand, has always led a life of privilege and could not let love stand in the way of her comfortable existence. She married Tom Buchanan for that sole purpose. With Gatsby's ambition spurred by his love for Daisy, he rekindles his romance with Daisy, as Tom carries on carelessly with an auto mechanic's grasping wife. Nick himself gets caught up in the jet set trappings and has a relationship with Jordan Baker, a young golf pro.
These characters are inevitably led on a collision course that exposes the hypocrisy of the rich, the falsity of a love undeserving and the transience of individuals on this earth. The strength of Fitzgerald's treatment comes from the lyrical prose he provides to illuminate these themes.Read more ›
Scott Fitzgerald, a monumental talent who only occasionally got things working right, made Gatsby great by the extraordinary invention of Nick Carraway. Carraway as narrator provided the exact perfect pitch: more awestruck than he would admit, more moral than it was fashionable to reveal -- always objective and distanced and subtle and charming, genuinely decent and impeccably well mannered, a little dangerously smitten himself by the lovely but corrupt Jordan Baker.
Alexander Scourby, one of the greatest reading voices of his era (overlapping Fitzgerald's enough to know and feel it all) here does Carraway in a way that cannot, therefore, again be quite equalled. Imagine having a recording of a great contemporary actor reading Ahab's speeches in Moby Dick, and one begins to appreciate the gift that we only now have in recorded sound, something we are already quite casual about. But there is much more here than historical accuracy. Scourby's voice wraps around every phrase of Fitzgeral's text with both an actor's professionalism and a good reader's care, making it not only uncannily his own monument but also a monument in audio book history. It sets the bar, and anyone interested in the recorded voice as an art form should own this for repeated learning.
I listened to this book over a few nights with my wife, after having read it first some sixteen years ago. It is a masterpiece, and known widely as such, but what surprised me on hearing it was how the book I'd remembered as terribly romantic was actually rather clear-eyed and dark. My wife, who had never read it, listened spell-bound, and at the end burst into tears at the sadness of it. A word about Scourby as reader - he is restrained but emotional, captures the personality of each character with a slightly different tone, and - most importantly for me - brings out the fact that the closing pages, which are often quoted out of context as deeply romantic, are in fact painfully cynical, a voice of disenchantment about the cost of America, not its promise. A masterpiece on the page and on tape. Can't recommend it too highly.
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