I do have one question: Does the current edition of "Gatsby" in print, the trade paperback with no introduction, represent the earlier "authorized text" edition, or is it a strict reproduction of the first edition (well known to have several errors because Fitzgerald was making corrections all the way to the last day before the book went to press)? Can't seem to find out. If anybody knows I'd be most grateful for an answer.
Either way it is the greatest novel of the 20th century. By the way.
It has been the better part of a year since your post, I would think by now someone or yourself have alerted you to Matthew J. Brucolli's "The Great Gatsby - A Literary Reference." This excellent reference contains the answers to most all the questions you could ever have re Gatsby.
Sure, it has good character development ... and the Gatsby's home, as a setting, has great character development in the following way: When the story starts out the Gatsby's home is bustling, the place to be if you were Mrs. This or Mr. That, or even if you wanted to be the Who's Who of the high life. However, in the end, the Gatsby home was empty, a huge clunk of dead cement and brick, with Gatsby dead in the pool. What happened to all those people? Gone! Brilliant character development of place. It grew, just as humans do, and sadly it died, just as humans must.
However, as far as the STORY is concerned, it found it rather boring. The prose, for as simple as it was, never appeared to flow. I'm not a fan of stories being told in 1st person either.
So, overall, good story, but classic, ...uh can anyone help me out with this?
Gatsby's mansion and his opulent parties are overshadowed by: 1. You can never go back. 2. You can't buy happiness. 3. New money versus old money. 4. Failure of people with old money to be accountable for their actions. This is a very brief response and intentionally so, to determine if there is any interest; if there is a desire to pursue this further I will be happy to expend on each of the hypothesis. Many regard The Great Gatsby as THE Great American novel.
Can you tell why the Great Gatsby is considered a classic.
I simply found it boring. Why was it putting me to sleep during the first 50 pages?
I may not be the quickest thinker on the block, but I'm not that slow. There were some fireworks in the book.
I did think Gatsby coming right out to Tom and telling him that he loved his wife, straight to his face, was indeed scandalous. And the fact that Mr. Wilson actually shot Gatsby, and to find out later it may have been because of what Tom told Mr. Wilson that enraged him so to go and kill Gatsby.
But that makes it a classic? If not, what is it that so many people see in this novel?
Are there no novels being written today that are just as good if not better?
I may be way off base here, but I think Gatsby's classic status comes from ideas that don't hold water with society anymore. William Thor gets it right - his list is the reason why Gatsby's resonated down through the years, but I don't think people see that Gatsby was a failure. I think the book is read today, and in the years since 1950 or so, as 'Gatsby the Tragic Hero'. I believe Fitzgerald meant for it to be 'Gatsby, the likable but naive and pathetic fool'.
Many of the events in 'Gatsby' are only a means to an end - the end being Fitzgerald's theme of Gatsby's failure, hence the American Dream's failure, if the American Dream is the pursuit of money. Perhaps Gatsby was Fitzgerald's figurative 'shot across the bow' of American Society at the time. Interestingly enough, he didn't recieve much recognition for the novel when it was first published - and why should he? He was chewing out his contemporaries for their 'Anything Goes' predilictions. It wasn't until after WWII that 'Gatsby' began to find an audience. I can see how Jay Gatsby's success would impress the new hordes of middle and upper middle class people struggling to improve their social and monetary standing - Gatsby was their patron saint, and still is. People are more money mad now than ever. Unfortunately, the pursuit of money is still a dead end - just as in Gatsby, money doesn't purchase the past, or buy your way into society.
Classic, yes - Well-crafted, yes - Greatest American Novel...I don't think so. Perhaps the Greatest in the first half of the twentieth century (maybe. I really like Dos Passos USA trilogy, but comparing the two is sort of an apples and oranges thing). There are other books I still have yet to read that I think are probably more relevant to the human condition, and have even deeper themes than money. But I don't think a person can go wrong by picking up Fitzgerald's book. No matter where it ranks, it is *one* of the Great American Novels.
I guess I'm just used to reading so many books published recently. The argument you make is perfectly acceptable...I don't think the book made this argument as clearly.
I mean, all that you just explained about the American Dream gone bad (that was the bigger picture) .... you know how I saw it? Some sly guy, trying to get ahead, keeping up with the Joneses if you will, tried to steal another man's wife right from under his nose. Then he gets shot for running over running over Mrs. Wilson [where did that come from ... a bit contrived if you ask me?] then Mr. Wilson shoots Gatsby in his pool. Wow, talk about last minute twist. Out of all the streets they could have taken, Gatsby picks the one Mrs. Wilson is on and winds up running her over. But whatever.
The point is, novels today make their cases in a much more convincing manner. The novel is like the human mind trying to resolve a problem or inequity, and it makes and grand argument as to why one path was better or worse than the other.
Basically what I'm saying is that novel's nowadays do this 10 times better, at least in commercial fiction, they make their case, and that way you can either sympathize or empathize with the characters.
D. Parker: When you read Gatsby again, you must look beyond the printed page, to what Fitzgerald is saying between the lines. Go to CLIFF'S NOTES OR SPARKNOTES websites and download excellent, insightful analysis of Gatsby. These are a must when dealing with the classics. Bill Thor
Well, I don't know if you need a re-read, but there is one thing - Gatsby didn't run over Mrs. Wilson, Daisy did. That's why I say people see Gatsby as a tragic hero - his love for Daisy is his flaw. But I think Fitzgerald makes the point that Gatsby was a fool for trying to protect Daisy, and Tom knows that Daisy ran her over and fingers Gatsby to Mr. Wilson. And I think that there was (physically and metaphorically) only one street that he could have taken.
Anyway, there's certainly nothing wrong with *some* of today's novels, but different times have different ways of communicating - not necessarily better or worse, just different. I enjoyed Gatsby, but as I said, I wouldn't rank it #1.
Man, that's a tough question. As weird as it sounds, I'm not sure I've read the best American novel yet. I'm not sure I even know how to *describe* the best American Novel. I recently read Cormac McCarthy's 'Blood Meridian', and I have to say, it absolutely blew me away.
I've been trying to catch up on all the classics that I missed (I just recently read 'Gatsby' myself), and I've sort of been playing around with the Modern Library's list of 100 best novels of the 20th century. Not all of those are American, but there are definitely some heavyweights there. Actually, I like Radcliffe's rival list (which does put Gatsby at #1). I think Modern Library picked a lot of books that they sell - which doesn't mean they don't list good books, but it seems pretty suspect to me.
Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that 'Gatsby', while distinctive, didn't seem to have the power required to be *the* greatest American Novel. As I mentioned before, I think Dos Passos' U.S.A. trilogy is at least as good, if not better. There are several other American books in my queue that come with sterling reputations that I still have to read - some Faulkner (which has always been difficult for me but maybe I'm finally at the right age for), Delillo's White Noise, Toni Morrison's Beloved to name a couple.
Books that I've really liked, but seem to be too specific to be the great american novel are Catch-22, Cat's Cradle, One Flew Over the Cookoo's Nest, and Catcher in the Rye (I must like mentally disturbed narrator's - sort of Freudian list). Probably the closest thing to 'Gatsby' is 'Bonfire of the Vanities', as far as dealing with the state of America related to the time it was published.
Meh - these books look like they came out of a list compiled by Newsweek. I'll stick with 'Blood Meridian', 'the U.S.A. trilogy', and an unacknowledged masterpiece by Steinbeck called 'To a God Unknown'.
I actually have a Dennis Lehane book of stories on my shelf to read - 'Coronado'. I know it's unfair to judge an author by the movies made from his books, but Mystic River and Gone, Baby, Gone are not very good advertisements for what Mr. Lehane might be capable of. If 'Coronado' sparks and interest, I'll definitely check out 'The Given Day'.
Bryan: I will check out the Steinbeck and Blood Meridian, thanks for the recommendation. Some literature I am very big on: Hemingway: A Farewell to Arms and Old Man and The Sea Potok: The Chosen (a lesser known gem.) Bradbury: Fahrenheit 451 Fitzgerald: The Last Tycoon (this could have been another Gatsby -- but its unfinished. You liked Gatsby so it follows you should enjoy this as I have. What is there plus the potential it displays is will be well worth your time. I totally agree with you on Faulkner being a tough read, I'm still not committed to doing anything further with him for the moment.
In a slight case of synchronicity - only pertinent to this thread - Dennis Lehane is a guest reviewer for Cormac McCarthy's 'The Road'.
Anyway - yes, McCarthy's 'Blood Meridian' is fantastic, but I'd strongly recommend someone read some of the reviews of it first, as it is incredibly violent and filled with prose as challenging as Faulkner's. Steinbeck's 'To a God Unknown' is more of a meta-physical novel, but I found it extremely enjoyable, and far deeper than 'Eden' or 'Grapes'.
I've also got some Hemmingway on my shelf (I have a lot of things on my shelf waiting for me), I think it's 'The Sun Also Rises' which I may have read many years ago, or at least part of it. I have found that as I have grown older, I have more patience for these type of novels, where when I was in my twenties and early thirties, I just wanted a captivating story. That's why I think I may finally be ready to read Faulkner.
I should re-read Farenheit 451 again, but I did recently re-read 'The Martian Chronicles'. The Chronicles probably aren't as good as 451, but man, what a nostalgia trip that was.
I've seen Potok's book but don't know much about it. I'll have to give it a closer look. Have you ever read any Saul Bellow - I've only read his collected short stories, but I think he is also fantastic, though difficult. He's difficult in a different way, in that his prose isn't so hard to follow, but not much ever happens - it's all interior.
If you like short fiction, Alice Munro is also excellent (I have to admit that I had a prejudice against women writers for a long time. Alice Munro, Flannery O'Connor, and Jhumpa Lahiri cured me of it.) I've also heard that Eudora Welty is a very intelligent writer.
I'd also had a prejudice against the *Classics*, whatever that means exactly. I felt that if so many people liked it then it couldn't possible be deep enough for me. What a load of baloney that was! That's why I've only recently read 'Gatsby' - I'm trying to correct about 35 years of boneheaded literary decisions. Well, at least I've got a lot of quality reading ahead of me.
Other lady authors and works of theirs I have read and can recommend: Harper Lee: To Kill a Mockingbird Virginia Wolf: Mrs. Dalloway Kate Chopin: The Awakening No Saul Bellow yet, don't know why immediately, but I'll get back.
To Kill a Mockingbird is great - you know, come to think of it, that could be a contender for greatest American novel too.
I also have some Edith Wharton that came highly recomended, but I have no idea when I'll get around to her. the other ladies I've not read, but Virgina Woolf makes all the top 100 lists so there's got to be something there. Same with Kate Chopin. Most of my reasons for avoiding these authors is not so much that I don't think they can write, but that I wouldn't be as involved with what they are writing about. The other women writers I mentioned in my earlier post have sort of been a wake up call - not all women writers are going to suit my interests, but not all male writers do either.
Good point but I find the novel has modern relevance. Gatsby is a believer, he moves toward material sucess because he has no other option to realize his romanic dream of obtaining Daisy; He is not a materialist. I think you overlook that Gatsby is an ambiguous character as he is read through Nick's lens. Gatsby, Nick says, was ok, that is, compared to the others around him (the rich, those who have obtained material success). It is important to see what happens to gatsby in following his romantic dream (the platonic conception of himself); it leads him to the city of ashes (modern life) where not only does he not obtain Daisy, he is betrayed by her, and no one really cares, no one goes to the funeral, who would have known about Gatsby's noble attempt to find love. Without Nick, You would have obtained knowledge of Gatsby life though the modern media, thrashy newspapers or a Fox serial special. In a sense tis tragic that such a noble vision(like that of the sailor's who first came to America) leads to death. There's no room in the modern world for a romantic dreamer symbolized by gatsby. And you would have never heard this story. For sure, the modern world, the city of ashes would have made a mockery of his existence. A more important question to ask, is what does nick get from this experience? He, himself was gravitating toward the east(dream) with its mystique. He turns his back on it and returns to the midwest. But if he now sees with adjusted vision (note the eyes in the book), the lesson perhaps is not to become a Gatsby. But, then what do you do in the world? Nick it seems, becomes a writer, writing the "story of Jay Gatz" finding a sublimated way toward reality in the city of ashes without participating in it, becoming part of it, or leading him to death.
Great post, Michel, and you bring up some good points.
It isn't that I don't think Gatsby has any relevance any more (I think there are loads of relevance in the book), but that modern readers may have trouble picking it up.
There certainly seems to be a preponderance of people in this country who are willing to do anything for money. That's not a modern quirk - obviously it's been around as long as money's been around. But not only are people willing to do anything for it, society has come round to the idea that you SHOULD want to do anything for it. Casinos, Lotto, Publisher's Clearing House Prize Patrol, idiotic game shows, reality TV, the list goes on and on. And when we see somebody on Fear Factor eat a milkshake made up of fly maggots with a smile on their face, I have to wonder if, as a society, we not only condone, but are in love with people who will do anything for money.
I don't know if it was always like that or not. In the forty years I've been around, it seems like at one time there was a limit - there was a point where normal everyday people could say "no, I will not do that for any price," and society respected them for that stand. Maybe the difference is subtle, but I think now society looks at a person like they are a fool if standards and ethics stand in the way of picking up the money that's laying there to be taken.
Okay, so what'sthat mean for Nick, and his experience with Gatsby? The 'East' of Gatsby was filled with the bondsmen and brokers that drove the boom that led to the crash of 1929. That's why Nick went East in the first place, to be a success in bonds. While there he sees (like Doctor Eckleburg) the valley of ashes, and the two sides of monied success - those who are born with it and those who have acquired it by hook or by crook. All of these people (except Gatsby, but we'll get back to him in a moment) are shallow corrupt people in the sense that money has twisted and formed their ethics and standards. When Nick finally heads back to the mid-west, he is leaving that lifestyle behind and, I hope for his sake, returning to a world where money has its place, but doesn't turn people into monsters.
Gatsby, on the other hand, was not affected by the money he made. He acted most of the time as if he didn't really even realize he had it. It was simply a means to an end - to purchase Daisy. The reason the money didn't have the soul-twisting effect on Gatsby was because that agent got trumped by his romantic love for her. As Nick says in the first chapter, "Gatsby turned out all right at the end." Money didn't affect his ethics and standards - when his father shows up at the funeral and shows Nick some of the boyhood items that Gatsby had left at home, we see that, essentially, Gatsby was still that bright, energetic boy. Naive, inexperienced, dreamer - fed upon by the vampires that attended his parties and destroyed by the manor born.
Nick, and thus Fitzgerald, rejected that whole movement in society. The attitude in the east (symbolically the valley of ashes) before the crash of '29 was make as much money any way you can. Nick decides that 'anything goes' is not for him after all - which he had thought it might be at first, hence his apprenticeship to the bond trade.
What's Nick get out of it? He escapes with his soul to a place where other values are held in higher esteem than the acquisition of money.
At least that's how I see it. Sorry for the long post
And the East of 'Gatsby' is a neat stand-in for our whole country now. Just as Jordan Baker couldn't really understand why Nick left her and the east, America doesn't understand someone who would turn their nose up at easy money. There is no longer any escaping to an imaginary heartland where it isn't okay to do anything for money. Sure, there are certainly still people with ethics and standards, but our society as a whole excuses people whose only standard is to make money money money money, make money money money money.
And that's why I think modern readers of Gatsby may have trouble picking up Fitzgerald's theme. The idea that making and having buttloads of money may not be the best thing for a person is an anethema to today's world. Show me the money! It's all about the benjamins.
Money still doesn't fix anything, doesn't buy happiness, and won't bring back the past. But nobody really believes that, or at least they want a shot at proving it to themselves.
Bryan's post foreshadows my contribution. Daisy told Gatsby up front, "rich girls don't marry poor boys." Gatsby, obsessed with Daisy. acquires money -- a great deal of money, just to achieve his end -- acquiring Daisy as well. What Daisy should also have told Gatsby up front is "old money girls don't marry ANYONE who isn't old money. Gatsby was a fool to waste his spirit and life on such an obsession. Money is not the full measure of a successful life. I am sick to daath with my beloved Alma Mater's monthly pitch for gold and their offensive recognition of alumni success by one criterion -- MONEY. Success may be measured in many different ways-- but this is not the forum for such diatribe -- let's get back to a great American author and his great American novel? It has elicited this entire discussion -- must be a good candidate for NUMERO UNO!
Yes very good understanding of the relationship of money to the world and I think this plays a major part in the novel. The valley of ashes stands side by side with the American Dream. Romantic notions of the world become fused with a Darwinian social universe. Nick returns to the midwest. Does he return with his soul or is this just a withdrawing from the realities of the world. One does not see Nick's life after his return. Nick stands back with this vision of the duality of dream and reality: the dutch sailors being thrown back against the waves. But does Fitzgerald tell us what to do with his and Nick's insight? I've recently read, twice, "tender is the night" which I think might shed some answer to this question. But of course my interest in the text goes beyond the historical understanding of the novel's time and place. In tender is the night, the major character is the son of a preacher who becomes a psychiatrist and like Gatsby is drawn into the modern world and is destroyed by it. But unlike Gatsby, Dick Diver's attempts to play a part in helping a create community for those who have left Americia and perhaps the city of ashes. Perhaps I'm taking this too far. Has any one out there read both Gatsby and Tender in the Night and who has some feeling about this relationship of the two novels?