- Paperback: 216 pages
- Publisher: Scribner (June 1, 1995)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0684801523
- ISBN-13: 978-0684801520
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.5 x 8.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 6,453 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #158,074 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Great Gatsby Paperback – June 1, 1995
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In 1922, F. Scott Fitzgerald announced his decision to write "something new--something extraordinary and beautiful and simple + intricately patterned." That extraordinary, beautiful, intricately patterned, and above all, simple novel became The Great Gatsby, arguably Fitzgerald's finest work and certainly the book for which he is best known. A portrait of the Jazz Age in all of its decadence and excess, Gatsby captured the spirit of the author's generation and earned itself a permanent place in American mythology. Self-made, self-invented millionaire Jay Gatsby embodies some of Fitzgerald's--and his country's--most abiding obsessions: money, ambition, greed, and the promise of new beginnings. "Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that's no matter--tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther.... And one fine morning--" Gatsby's rise to glory and eventual fall from grace becomes a kind of cautionary tale about the American Dream.
It's also a love story, of sorts, the narrative of Gatsby's quixotic passion for Daisy Buchanan. The pair meet five years before the novel begins, when Daisy is a legendary young Louisville beauty and Gatsby an impoverished officer. They fall in love, but while Gatsby serves overseas, Daisy marries the brutal, bullying, but extremely rich Tom Buchanan. After the war, Gatsby devotes himself blindly to the pursuit of wealth by whatever means--and to the pursuit of Daisy, which amounts to the same thing. "Her voice is full of money," Gatsby says admiringly, in one of the novel's more famous descriptions. His millions made, Gatsby buys a mansion across Long Island Sound from Daisy's patrician East Egg address, throws lavish parties, and waits for her to appear. When she does, events unfold with all the tragic inevitability of a Greek drama, with detached, cynical neighbor Nick Carraway acting as chorus throughout. Spare, elegantly plotted, and written in crystalline prose, The Great Gatsby is as perfectly satisfying as the best kind of poem.
James Dickey Now we have an American masterpiece in its final form: the original crystal has shaped itself into the true diamond. This is the novel as Fitzgerald wished it to be, and so it is what we have dreamed of, sleeping and waking -- Review
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The Great Gatsby Review
Overall, I really enjoyed reading The Great Gatsby. I found it to be a very entertaining book about very interesting characters. The book could be very well described to be a commentary on the extravagant lives in which people lived, during a very economically prosperous time in the 1920s, in addition to a number of societal issues present during Fitzgerald’s time period. These issues include heavy alcohol use during a time when drinking was actually legal due to prohibition. In addition to these over the top social activities, there’s considerable mention of the extravagance that those with acquisition of recent wealth demonstrate through superficial showings of wealth. Fitzgerald offers his commentary on these throughout the book.
However, there is some reason to wonder whether Fitzgerald is a critic or a participant in the life of Gatsby. This really adds to the quality of the book. Jay Gatsby as a character has much in common with Fitzgerald’s own life and goals. Fitzgerald was fond of writing about the rich. In fact, in another story he wrote, (the Rich Boy, 1926) he actually started the story with one of his most famous quotes:
''Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me”.
Fitzgerald’s own life involved a steady fascination with wealth. He was descended from a famous family whose family fortunes were comfortable, but not rich. His wife’s family was reluctant to have him marry her because of his financial situation. He envied his Princeton friends whose families had more money. He and Zelda spent wildly while living in New York, forcing him to write short stories and borrow money from his literary agent.
Gatsby as a rich and tragic figure parallels Fitzgerald’s goals and his future life story. When he was a young man, he would introduce himself as “F Scott Fitzgerald, the well-known alcoholic”1, and he knew that his life would not be long. Jay and Daisy have many parallels to Scott and Zelda, including the long pursuit and the short time together afterward. Jay and Daisy lasted only day and Scott and Zelda had a short life together because of her mental illness and his alcoholism.
The strongest part of this book is the character development, as I see it. Fitzgerald was able to develop them so well because he basically knew them and lived them. More so than many books I have read before, by the end of this book I knew Jay and I knew Daisy and I also knew what the end of the story would turn out to be. It is no surprise that this book is seen, long after Fitzgerald’s death, as his best work. It captures the tragedy of the time and of the writer himself.
1. Goodwin DW The Alcoholism of F. Scott Fitzgerald. JAMA. 1970;212:86-90
The most common complaint I hear about this book is that the characters are too shallow, self-involved, etc. They definitely are, however using the narrative style of having an outside observer tell the reader about the characters, the lifestyles, and the events is perfect. The observer is not particularly shallow or self-centered, he is more like an anthropologist observing an unfamiliar culture; he is not condoning or condemning, he is learning. It's fascinating, and brilliantly executed.
The only thing I knew about this book before I started reading was that it was a shallow love story that ends with the girl dumping the poor, innocent guy....or something. And yes that is the plot, but I think the story can also be about the American dream and who it's really available to. What is the American dream? Is it just getting money and it doesn't matter how? Did we really get away from social inequality? I hadn't really thought about any of that before reading this book. It made me wonder what my American dream is. Do I just want to get lots of money, a big house, and tons of stuff? Or is there more to it than that? Without spoiling the end, I feel like Mr. Fitzgerald's opinion on the matter is that some people are born to live the American dream and some aren't - and there isn't much you can do to change it. The fate of Daisy and Gatsby really brings that tragic idea home.
The parties were unreal. I was drooling over the mention of all the food. I couldn't help but imagine the Dowager Countess from Downton Abbey coming to Gatsby's house and being appalled at what Americans called "a dinner party." My mind was buzzing with all the practical details and sheer amount of money that it would take to feed two dinners and tons of alcohol to that many people... But the parties and glamour are just covering up the fact that most of these people are shady, immoral, hypocritical and just plain unhappy. Especially Tom and his wife Daisy.
I loved the writing. It was simple, charming, and witty - an interesting contrast to the much deeper story going on. The last line about how we can't escape from the past points out that even though as Americans we say that anyone can achieve wealth, happiness and equality, the truth is we keep getting sucked into the rules of the past.
The only thing I thought was overdone was the symbolic Eye Doctor bilboard in the ash valley. Don't let the symbolic Eye Doctor Ad/God's Judgement fall on you on the way out.
Overall, a novel that got me really thinking about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in the context of a beautiful, tragic, and romantic story.