Good heavens, I’d forgotten how good this book was.
I mean, I had to read it in school. And it was okay, and all, but I had to read it. And everyone was so shallow and depressing. And now I go back and read it, and remember that they’re supposed to be shallow and depressing.
The Great Gatsby is one of the most brilliant, scathing social commentaries I’ve ever read. The entire book is about rich people going around breaking things and pretending to have feelings. And poor Gatsby is just so obsessed and so ambitious that it’s like he’s throwing himself against a brick wall again and again.
I’m not as good at comparisons as F. Scott Fitzgerald, clearly.
The Great Gatsby is a story about a poor guy named James Gatz who decides he’s done being a nobody. So he changes his name to Jay Gatsby, sails off with a stranger, joins the military, and then retires in splendor to a mansion he’s built with questionable business successes. He then spends the remainder of his life pining for his old girlfriend, Daisy, and eventually seduces her. This upsets her husband Tom, for obvious reasons. But for some reason, Tom doesn’t see the parallels with his own mistress, whose husband is rather upset that she’s been cheating on him. In the end, Tom and Daisy have trampled all over everyone, Tom’s mistress is dead, Gatsby is dead, and Tom and Daisy are “devastated” enough to shed a few tears, maybe. But not enough to go to any funerals, and certainly not enough to call off any parties.
If I remember correctly, Fitzgerald wrote the book to sound like jazz music. It has a gentle lull to the words, even when it’s describing things falling apart or people dying by the side of the road. The symbolism is slap-you-in-the-face obvious without being cliche. The characters are all a similar kind of shallow, but their different vices, obsessions, nervous tics, and apathies still match each person perfectly. Somehow, Fitzgerald managed to get the entire mood of the Roaring 20’s, while all of his words are a condemnation of the Roaring 20’s.
If you haven’t read The Great Gatsby since high school (or skipped the reading and went straight to the notes), pick it up. It’s brilliant. ♦