The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The book for our on-line readers for August is the American classic [sometimes called masterpiece] , the Great Gatsby, of the 1920 period . The novel features Jay Gatsby who had grand vision and a murky past - a sort of American Dream/tragedy theme. When I have finished reading it again I will add to my thoughts on it but feel free to start making comments whenever you wish. I enjoyed it very much when I first read it and recommend it warmly. It is colourful and very easy to read.
F. Scott Fitzgerald was a larger than life literary character himself whose tempestuous marriage to his writer wife Zelda has been the subject of various films and popular stories. - See also Sheilah Grahame, newspaper columnist who had an affair with Fitzgerald.
A current work which has received critical acclaim in the US and elsewhere - Netherland by Josph O'Neill - has been compared to Gatby in that it amplifies the theme of the American Dream and Tragedy.


Additional note from Faye
I am delighted to have read this again - it has well and truly stood up with a second reading for me. I think it is close to perfect prose. The first person narrative by Nick Carraway - the sympathetic observer of Jay Gatsby - is convincing and engaging. A fair bit of melodrama keeps the interest up along with the characterisation . The observation of nature and general description of the surroundings are both fantastic. J. B. Priestley writing fulsomely of Fitzgerald's talent in an introduction for the older Bodley Head Edition I have been reading says of his writing power he has " an uncommonly acute sense of time and place , and an unforced and easy and very economical power of what I can only call symbolic effect" This smallish novel book contains all of this yet remains a relevant and entertaining read.

The ending of Gatsby really blew my mind this time - I re-read the last 4 pars several times - they are magic. I realise i didnt really know what the American dream meant and now I do . It is a more complex and more expressive idea than I had realised or remembered. This novel hold your interest throughout with the story line and finishes as well as it starts. No wonder it sits there firmly in the pantheon.

7 comments:

John Kennedy said...

It must be thirty years since I read 'Gatsby' and I am looking forward to having anothe go. It is powerful and moving, but as Faye says, not too hard to read.

John Kennedy

John Kennedy said...

I have now finished re-reading 'Gatsby'. I fully agree with your recommendation of the book, Faye - it is beautifully written and very moving. Jay Gatsby is a flawed human being who clearly has obtained and maintains his wealth by very dubious means, and he is, after all, trying to break up a marriage, but it is impossible not to feel great sympathy for him. Maybe it is partly that most of us have a soft spot for a great romantic, but I suspect there is a bit of Gatsby in most of us, seeking for some ideal of perfection doomed inevitably to stay out of reach. The characters are briefly drawn, but Daisy, Tom Buchanan, the fascist before his time, and Jordan Baker are all vividly evoked. All behave badly, but almosgt innocently so: the possibility of being more than superficial is beyond their comprehension. Gatsby, despite his faults, is a vastly greater human being.

John Kennedy

Faye said...

I agree about the characterisations being meaningful despite the writing economy. Wouldnt it be good to write like that? Gatsby's father and Michaelis , who are relatively bit players, are well drawn and significant to the atmosphere ans autheticity. Admittedly there are a few stock characters such as Wolfsheim and the butler but mostly characters are clear and individualistic. I note however that the women overall dont come out of this book all that well - but I guess you cant have everything.

On Gatsby himself - his sense of longing and self improvement is so carefully and exquisitley set out in the plot - that yes I agree, one cant help but be sympathetic and understanding .

In chapter 8 towards the end Nick comments that Gatsby " ... paid a high price for living too long with a single dream" - it is all a bit on the melodramatic side but beautifully realised and expressed.

John Kennedy said...

I agree that the two main female characters do not emerge well. But Fitzgerald may in part be commenting on the restrictions society places on women. Daisy's comment that the beat thing for a girl such as her daughter to be is 'a beautiful little fool' may be relevant here.

Perhaps more worrying is the prominence of superficial and silly women in the descriptions of Gatsby's parties. I suspect Fitzgerald was not immune from the tendency towards a prurient fascination with excsssive drinking and abandoned behavious among women - a tendency we still see today in the emphasis on teenage girls' binge drinking (although the more solid evidence is that teenage girls engage in dangerous drinking far less than teenage boys).

John Kennedy

John Kennedy said...

Faye, I absolutely agree about the last few paragraphs. There are among the finest pieces of prose I have read, and like you I have re-read them a number of times. The only conclusion comparable that springs to mind is that of James Joyce's (longish) short story, 'The Dead' in 'Dubliners.

Faye said...

John, Thank you for the comments on the female characters - I think Fitzgerald was a man of his time in regard to sexism and I think I probably quibble a bit too much to be concerned about it regarding his female characters - i just love the book and find it informs so much about American literature and social understanding of what it is to be American. By the way the present situation in US politics with Obama talking of his dreams in his race for the Presidency seems to refer both to the general concept of the American dream as well as the King speech. The idea of the dream seems to be important to and renewed by every generation of Americans - even when it can be shown to have failed.

Also - thank you for the recommendation of Dubliners which i havent read and which I definitely will.

Joey Cool said...

A True Classic Novel