Monday, July 8, 2013

The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald

Guys! I finally have my glasses!  (If you want to see them, click here.) I have not tested them out for a full work day yet, but here's hoping there are no more headaches!  That's the good news for me; the good news for you is a whole heap of posts headed your way.  I am currently five books behind (including this one) and very close to finishing two more.  I am reading at a ferocious pace this summer so you have a lot to look forward to, starting now...

Happy belated Independence Day!  I meant for this post to go up on the actual Fourth but, you know, the whole glasses/headaches deal.  I hope you had the day off like I did and got the chance to read some great books!  In celebration of American tradition, I thought today would be a great day to jump back to the 100 Best Novels challenge with some classic American literature.

Many call it the great American novel.  Now, personally, I would argue that title belongs to Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird, but we are not talking about that masterpiece today.  We are talking Fitzgerald.
This book has experienced a spike in readership lately, thanks to the movie released in May starring Leo DiCaprio as Gatsby, among others.  Even without the movie, thousands and thousands of high school students read Fitzgerald's most well known work every year.  I read it in high school.  At the time, I thought it one of the better books we read, but I certainly did not appreciate the beauty of the writing as I did this time around.

Fitzgerald's writing perfectly exemplifies the smooth world of the Jazz Age.  I was struck over and over again while reading at the mastery Fitzgerald had over the English language.  I truly think the best word to describe his style is smooth.

For those of you unfamiliar with the story of Gatsby (Bueller? Bueller?), it tells of a summer spent outside New York City in the 1920s.  Nick Carraway serves as narrator.  He rents a house in West Egg for the summer while commuting into work in the city.  Turns out, his next door neighbor is Jay Gatsby, a mysterious man who throws the most marvelous parties.  Across the bay in East Egg live Tom and Daisy Buchanan.  Daisy is Nick's cousin and he went to college with Tom.  As it turns out, Daisy and Gatsby have a history themselves.

Their lazy summer becomes thick with drama as fall nears.  (Warning: skip ahead if you don't want spoilers...but seriously, who doesn't know how this book ends?)  Gatsby and Daisy's affair is revealed and they race off to escape Tom's wrath.  On their journey back to Gatsby's mansion, they hit and kill Tom's own mistress, the wife of a local mechanic.  Due to a variety of circumstances, the mechanic ends up seeking out Gatsby for revenge.  Gatsby is shot and killed by the broken-hearted man, despite the fact that he had not been driving the car.  Daisy, in fact, was the driver who killed the woman, never knowing it was her husband's mistress.

I appreciated how Fitzgerald wove events together in a web which a lesser author would bungle into a mass of tangled confusion.  I have read plenty of books where this many layers of story end up being too difficult for the reader to track.  Fitzgerald, however, shows his plot clearly without spelling it out for the reader.  No avid reader enjoys having action spelled out for them.  Fitzgerald avoids this masterfully.

In rereading this work, I have identified why I did not fully appreciate the book in high school.  In addition to my immature view of literature, I read Gatsby on a surface level.  I missed the deeper, emotional level of the work.  The characters in Fitzgerald's work, Gatsby foremost among them, have everything the world could offer; and yet they each are searching for something to fill their emptiness. The juxtaposition of Gatsby's parties with his own searching and loneliness fills much of the book.    Fitzgerald offers so much depth beyond the plot itself.  Those depths make the book the classic it is today.  I hate knowing I missed so much of the good stuff in high school.  Thanks to the valiant efforts of my phenomenal English  teacher, I at least saw much of the symbolism of which the book is chock full.

I cannot recommend Gatsby strongly enough.  Few can.  There are legitimate reasons it ranks as number two on Modern Library's list of Great Novels.  There are reasons high school English teachers reach to its literary wealth so prolifically.  Fitzgerald is a master of words.  I look forward to reading his other book on the list, Tender is the Night.

I also look forward to seeing the movie.  Here's hoping it holds up to the standard Fitzgerald set.

Have you seen the new movie?  Is it worth watching?  How does it compare to the book?  What do you think the great American novel is?

Pages: 180
Date Completed: June 29, 2013

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