11 March 2013

Review of The Great Gatsby

Finally!  After a year of talking about it, I finally write a review for one of my Classics Club books.  Given my historical interests--early 20th century US--it was only fitting that this be my first Classics Club review.  A tale of love, of drinking, and of flappers.  Three of my favorite things!


Title:  The Great Gatsby
Author:  F. Scott Fitzgerald

Very Brief Synopsis:  The story of the fabulously wealthy Jay Gatsby and his love for the beautiful Daisy Buchanan, of lavish parties on Long Island at a time when The New York Times noted “gin was the national drink and sex the national obsession,” it is an exquisitely crafted tale of America in the 1920s.

I'm just not even sure where to begin with sharing the love of this book!  This was a reread for me.  I first read it for fun back in the 8th(ish) grade and really enjoyed the story.  I read it again in the 10th grade.  And in college a couple of times, when I didn't enjoy it so much, but that was probably because of the professor...With it being Modernist March and all, I decided that the time was right for a pleasurable reread of this Jazz Age classic.

I can understand why and how Fitzgerald became the voice of the 1920s.  He was able to fantastically and richly capture the tone and climate of the 1920s.

I can see why Hemingway got so pissed at Fitzgerald for drinking away his talent.  He could write a very deep and symbolic novel in less than 200 pages.  You can read the story.  And you can read the story and think about the deeper meaning of what he writes about--the colors, the eyes, the names.  So rich!

As much as I disliked the professor from college (in retrospect; I was a disciple at the time), I think his focus on identity, and self-knowledge, was a really good angle for this novel.  Personal choices and personal representations make up such a large part of this story.  Like Nick, we all want to believe we're able to stay pretty even keel and give people a fair shake, but that's not true.  Inevitably we learn too much and we can't stay objective.  Like Gatsby, we all have a version of ourselves that we want to portray to the world.  Thinking about self-perception gave me a lot to ponder as I read this novel.

Much like Huck makes a fabulous narrator for Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Nick Carraway makes a fantastic novel here.  He starts by painting a picture of himself as a person to whom people always wind up confessing their deepest secrets.  He wishes they wouldn't, but they do.  He's well-off, but not wealthy like Gatsby, the Buchanans, or the other characters.  This means that he can be part of their world, but he will always remain an outsider.  His outsider status and general demeanor make him an honest, objective, and compelling narrator.  And then he gets involved.  And the whole thing is just a whirlwind.

I also love the critique on society that goes on.  These people were so rich and focused only on surface things that they never took the time to get to know a person.  They all cared about the parties.  They cared about their money.  They hid behind their alcohol and their wealth and never had to deal with the real life.  (Sounds an awful lot like college today...)  F. Scott saw these things, appears to call society out for it, and yet that was the life he took a part in.  Maybe his point was that, to a certain extent, we're all hypocrites.  Maybe?

I spent my whole time rereading this underlining the symbols the stuck out to me.  The important passages.  The foreshadowing.  I had a fabulous time interacting with this book.  As I work on figuring out the future, I think that this was a good point for me to revisit this old favorite.  It was a very quick read.  It was a fantastic start to Modernist March because it got me into the 1920s.  Oh, to have been a flapper!

Five stars for an old favorite.  (I say stars; I don't know if this whole ratings thing will be a thing, but in case it does, at least I started with it)