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The Great Gatsby Paperback – September 30, 2004
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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
About the Author
F. Scott Fitgerald was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1896. He attended Princeton University, joined the United States Army during World War I, and published his first novel, This Side of Paradise, in 1920. That same year he married Zelda Sayre and the couple divided their time among New York, Paris, and the Riviera. Fitzgerald's masterpieces include The Beautiful and Damned, The Great Gatsby, and Tender Is the Night. He died at the age of forty-four, while working on The Love of the Last Tycoon. Fitzgerald stands out as one of the most important American writers of the twentieth century.
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I myself found this novel to be very interesting because of the differences we see now. We see that the American dream of lower class people becoming rich is almost not possible within the terms of the law. I feel like this is still very true today. One thing that stands out to me even more is the fact that Gatsby was no longer accepted after his secret was revealed. Gatsby was an amazing man even though he had made a living bootlegging. This book taught me that people can be extremely selfish when it comes to money.
I just completed my third read of The Great Gatsby. I did this to help expunge the vacuous, blaring bludgeon that is the 2013 movie version from my head. This third trek through it had the added benefit of revealing even more texture and richness than I had previously experienced. This time around I understood more about Nick Carraway and identified with his ability to become a confidant, privy to others' secrets. He has complexity thrust upon him when he would rather look at life from "a single window" but ends up a forced chronicler.
Then there is the too obvious Daisy, "a beautiful little fool". This character is almost a disappointment. She comes across as a too-oft used stereotype until you recognize that every generation produces such women in liberal amounts. Her husband Tom is much more viscous than I recall. His frustrations result from protecting traditions he cannot live up to. Jordan Baker stood out in this reading like never before. Her dishonesty, the result of not wanting to be "at a disadvantage", actually reveals more about the period than any other character. Jordan's observations are both breezy and deep, "And I like large parties. They're so intimate. At small parties there isn't any privacy." and "I love New York on summer afternoons when everyone's away."
And what of Gatsby? He is so obviously a juvenile construct that it is amazing that people fell for him. However, money and self-interests are powerful tools for delusion and acceptance. Carraway's observation that Gatsby's biography was "like skimming hastily through a dozen magazines" is comically astute, yet he too gets sucked in. Gatsby's "Platonic conception of himself" is one he cannot evolve.
Fitzgerald said, "You don't write because you want to say something, you write because you have something to say." In this book he had something to say but most of it was in the form of a hidden joke for his own enjoyment. I cannot help but think he was having his own generation on by writing The Great Gatsby. One thing is for certain, he wrote one of the best closing lines to a novel ever.
There are four things I want from a novel and this has all of them:
- Richly developed characters, honestly portrayed with flaws, people we end up interested in, if not caring about. All the characters here are colorful, glamorous -- and shallow and flawed.
- Great writing that mostly is invisible, like background music, swelling occasionally to the point where it's noticed as a pleasant surprise. F. Scott is a master at this, with a constant bed of unusual, rich phrasing and images like no one else's.
- An engaging story.
- A theme -- a takeaway that triggers thought for a days and weeks afterward. I see myself in these broken characters -- how I have treated wealth and being accepted, the lengths we go to find love and when that's missing, to find a level of acceptance that suffices for love.
Overall, a must-read. (And it's not very long. Could read in a weekend.)