on January 25, 2008
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).
on August 24, 2001
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.
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. Not a word is wasted, and the author's economical handling of such a potentially complex plot is a technique I wish were more frequently replicated today. Most of all, I simply enjoy the book because it does not portend a greater significance eighty years later. It is a classic tale that provides vibrancy and texture to a bygone era. It is well worth re-reading, especially at such a bargain price.
on January 25, 2003
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.
on September 28, 2005
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.
on October 9, 2003
I question whether I should even write a review of a book I dislike which most people, even most of my friends, seem to adore. What it comes down to, for me, is that all the characters, even the best of them (namely Gatsby) are amoral, and the worst of them are vile. I ended up reading this book for school twice. The first time, in high school, I finished it and thought, "I must be missing something," so I bought and read through the Cliffs Notes, and then said, "Well yes, I knew all that, but so what?" In college I was assigned to read it a second time, and that time I got more substance out of it. The book will never be one of my favorites, though. I just haven't got enough cynicism in my soul (at least not yet, anyway) to look into a moral vaccuum and find much enlightenment there.
Perhaps I should read it a third time; it's a short book, after all. I'm older now, and I do get the point in a way I couldn't have then--Gatsby falls in love not with a real woman, but with his own dream vision of her, and confrontation with the real thing shatters him. (Then again, Don Quixote did the exact same thing without making me dislike him.) The equating in Gatsby's mind of love with money is also worth understanding as a very American hang-up, but it does just make him seem pathetic. And yes, I know that's the point.
I also concede that one reason I disliked it was the sheer glut of tragedies I was forced to read in school. I find that I have more patience for unhappy endings in fiction now that they're not being forced on me. (Heck, I read Dostoevsky for fun, now). But unhappy endings need not be the same thing as nihilism. Gatsby's universe is a highly nihilistic one, a world so far gone that even the saddest ideals seem priceless simply for being ideals.
Perhaps it's the kind of cynicism the book represents--it's not "grumpy old man" cynicism like Vonnegut or Twain, which at least feels earned and honest. No, this is youthful "look how worldly I am" cynicism, the sort that drives us as kids to write bad poetry and wear lots of black. Perhaps that's inevitable--the characters ARE all young, and the book is about decadence.
It may also be the humorlessness of the book that sets it aside from Vonnegut and Twain. I enjoyed de Laclos's "Dangerous Liasons," where the protagonists are both insidiously evil, but at least the cynicism there is laced with black humor. Gatsby carries an unrelenting air of "I'm writing something important, dammit!"
It's not my cup of tea. You're free to like it. Most folks do.
on October 3, 2000
I'm troubled that many young people in these reviews don't seem to appreciate this novel. Even when "forced" to read it in high school, I loved it. I've read it for probably the tenth time recently and I can say that every single time it's better than I remembered it. I was prompted by the character is Haruki Murakami's book Norwegian Wood who carries it with him and reads it to cheer him up. This narrator calls it the most perfect book ever written and says that you cannot find a page that's not perfect. I have to agree -- it's not just the plot, it's the beautiful writing and incredible characters and scenes that stay with you years later. Even after years, who can forget the scene when Gatsby shows Nick all his custom made shirts, or Nick describes his first vision of Daisy by comparing her posture to someone balancing something on his/her chin, or any of Gatsby's parties, or the broken nose -- you get the idea. For some reason, rereading this book reminds me of picking up a relationshp with an old friend. It's so very comforting to read the best prose you can find in English and find that certain passages are almost committed to memory. Don't miss out on this one. If you didn't like it in high school, try it again when your reading tastes mature.
on November 21, 2012
Reading The Great Gatsby in high school almost seems like an American rite of passage. When I read it years ago in high school, I didn't care for it. Actually, I hated it. But after seeing that title pop up over and over again among lists of the greatest novels, I wanted to try it again. Did I like it any more the second time around? Nope.
First, there is the language. Most people will tell you that that is what they love about the book, that The Great Gatsby is the prime example of exquisite and beautiful language. Maybe it works for you, but reading Fitzgerald's words leaves me scratching my head wondering, "What is he trying to say?"
Let's take a relatively unimportant line from Chapter 1 as an example. Fitzgerald writes, "Conduct may be founded on the hard rock or the wet marshes but after a certain point I don't care what it's founded on." Okay, what does that mean? I get the second half of the sentence - that the narrator doesn't care how one's conduct, i.e., one's behavior, is founded - that it doesn't matter whether you were brought up with great advantages or if you were brought up without them. But why hard rock? Why wet marshes? What does that mean? Hard rock? Wet marshes? Maybe you have a great answer for me, and I'm just not getting it. That's entirely plausible. But without a straight answer, I'm just left struggling. And this happens all over the place in this novel - words that conjure up images that float in the sky without any meaning to ground them.
Second, there are the wholly unlikeable characters. What more needs to be said? The characters are wholly unlikeable. All of them.
Third, through the narrator Nick Carraway, we are treated to a love/hate relationship with the wealthy class of the time period. We are to be in love, in awe, and in constant fascination with this one percent (to use today's language) for no reason other than the fact that they have lots of money. We are to be envious of and hopelessly attracted to high society. And although Fitzgerald paints these one percent characters as wholly unlikeable, he falls short of actually condemning their behavior. It's not a scathing satire. In the end, you still see the glimmers of attraction. And this, I cannot stand. I cannot stand the pathetic fawning over of the one percent. Cue eye roll. Get a backbone and find some self-worth. Please.
Why two stars instead of one? My hatred of this novel bordered on obsession. I kept wondering why I disliked it so much. Those thoughts kept churning and churning in my head. And so, two stars instead of one, because evoking this level of obsession is worth something.
on November 26, 2004
I like to think of myself as an open-minded person, willing to embrace any good story that comes into my life, as long as there is some meaning behind it. Hell, there doesn't even have to be a profoundly deep meaning hidden within a novel for me to like it, just as long as there is some redeeming value to it all. The Great Gatsby has neither enjoyment nor meaning, despite what all the critics and analysts may think. Of course, that is only my opinion and I can't tell others what to think.
When I began reading The Great Gatsby, my opinion of it was entirely neutral, (as it goes with every novel I read). I knew that it was considered a masterpiece. I saw that it was number two on the Modern Library's 100 greatest novels. Yet, I didn't roll into my reading with extremely high expectations; I just let the book speak for itself, as the pages unfolded in front of my eyes.
The Great Gatsby is told from the point of view of Nick Callaway, a middle class man who moves back East into a wealthy neighborhood. The book opens with him at his cousin's house. A small get together is in progress, and we are introduced to some of the main characters. We meet Tom, an athletic, hot tempered, adulterous man. We meet Daisy, Tom's wife, a cheerful and rather innocent girl. Finally, we meet Jordan. Jordan is Daisy's good friend, a rather gossipy and dishonest woman. They drone on about nothing in particular and the first scene ends.
In the scenes that follow we encounter Jay Gatsby, who is supposedly the hero of the story. He is the American Dream. He is the typical "rags to riches" story some of us might envy. He is a very mysterious man, and rumors fly in every which way about him. Rumors such as how he inquired his money and where he came from. He throws large parties and invites Nick to them, along with countless other shallow people whom Gatsby has no interest in.
The reason Gatsby engages in all these parties and hoopla, is an attempt to win back the love of his past, Daisy, (Tom's wife). He has acquired all this money and attempts to take her from her husband Tom. Tom, meanwhile, has a mistress across town that he uses for sex and is quite abusive towards.
Well, all the parties and conversations eventually lead up to the climax at the end of the novel. I won't reveal too much except for the fact that a lot of sparks fly between Tom, Daisy, Tom's mistress (Mrs. Wilson) and the mistress's husband, Mr. Wilson. If I were to say anything else it might ruin it for you. Although by that time, if you are like me, you won't really care. The narrator, Nick, meanwhile just fades into the background and tells us the story in an offhanded kind of manner.
The Great Gatsby fails on so many levels. I don't know where to start. The novel is supposed to be highly symbolic. I have nothing against symbolic novels, I usually adore them, but in this case it was different. I read the Cliff Notes and it still did not change my opinion. What good are symbols when their meaning doesn't really add to the depth or meaning of the story?
Another major failure is the dismal writing style. I couldn't stand it. To me, it seemed Fitzgerald just wanted to show off his vocabulary. I don't have a problem with that, but he mixes words together in a rather strange and incoherent fashion, which does not make a whole lot of sense or add any power whatsoever to the story. Another failure: The characters are extremely one dimensional. I didn't feel like I really knew any of them by the time the novel was complete, and I certainly did not care about them.
That brings me to my final failure of the novel that I will mention: the ending. I have said this in other reviews I have written. How am I or why should I care when tragic events occur to characters that I don't even care about? It is impossible. I really didn't care about anyone in this book, because the author did not shape and mold them into the vivid, memorable characters we read about in so many other masterpieces. Endings like this always worsen the overall credibility of a novel when adequate preparation has not been put in place, as if the author is trying to manipulate us into thinking how grand of an ending it was. Tragedies are great, if they have been properly framed and constructed from the beginning of the novel.
The Great Gatsby has been said to mean things varying from "Social Stratification" to "Religion", to the seven deadly sins, and so on. Rest assured that I don't rely on others to tell me whether or not a novel is great. I did not hate this book, but as a "classic", it fails miserably, and it was not enjoyable to read. In my eyes, it is a shame that a book so mediocre can place number two on any list, let alone be considered one of the greatest books of all times. If I had to some up The Great Gatsby in one word, it would be "empty." If I could have one more word it would be "hollow." You be the judge. The only thing more mysterious than Jay Gatsby, and his infamous title, is the fact that this tale could be considered great by anyone.
on June 30, 2005
This is a marvelous look into the green-eyed monster of sexual jealousy. It's ripe with symbolic imagery from Fitzgerald's personal agony over his wife adulterous affair.
Everyone knows the superficial lit class interpretation of the novel; idealistic Gatsby pursues fortune in vain attempt to dazzle and win golden girl, only to have her reject him. Conclusion: classic condemnation of the hollowness of upper class materialism. Rubbish!
The story is not political. It is personal pure and simple! It would have taken place anytime, any place those two particular personalities came together. In real life Fitzgerald won his Zelda. But he then promptly and insouciantly cheated on her. She got him back by cheating on him. In his journals Fitzgerald wrote that something died at this time. Shortly afterward the couple moved to Paris.
Does this not parallel George Wilson's reaction to his wife's affair in The Great Gatsby? Yes, Wilson is also Fitzgerald, the tortured, jealous part of Fitzgerald who mourns the loss of his wife even as he realizes her for what she is. Myrtle is the low class floozy that Zelda has become in Fitzgerald's eyes by cuckolding him.
Wilson tries to hold on to his wife by locking her up until he can transact a business deal (buying the coupe) and thereby have the money to take her "west", something they had long talked about but which he is now going to make her do.
Analogously, Fitzgerald sold short stories (seeing himself as stooping to low class laborer by writing for commerce instead of art's sake?)to pay his and Zelda's way to Paris, removing her from her paramour's proximity.
Who actually kills Gatsby? The symbol of idealism and optimism (Gatsby)is killed by the symbol of grief and jealousy (Wilson). Fitzgerald was disillusioned by Zelda's adultery not class materialism.
Who does that leave Daisy/Zelda with in the end? Tom, the lout, the woman beater, the snob. Realizing, to his relief, that Daisy will never actually leave him, Tom becomes smug. Go ahead, he tells Gatsby (or any man who now idolizes Zelda), flirt with her all you want. She'll always come crawling back to me! If Gatsby is how Fitzgerald wants to be, Tom is the husband Fitzgerald actually is.
Daisy, Myrtle and Jordan are all Zelda; Daisy the debutante on a pedestal, Myrtle the common floozy, Jordan the sophisticate pursuing her own identity and career. But Jordan has no address of her own. She lives off other people and cheats on her golf game, just as Fitzgerald claimed that Zelda stole from him material for her own writing career.
This is the world as seen through the eyes of a self-centered, tyrannical egoist, but with one saving grace, Nick the observer, the recorder. Nick is the writer in Fitzgerald, and for all his faults as a man, Fitzgerald was one heck-of-a-writer.