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Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Great Gatsby

At the risk of ruining my reputation as a serious intellectual, I will just throw it out there, it wasn't great, or really even close.  Every time I see a list of the supposed great books or classics, I think that I must be missing out and better read some more "great literature".  So, when I saw this on sale on ITunes, I decided I better get reading - actually, in this case, listening.  To me the mark of a great book is one that either completely fascinates me with it's story, or one that leave me thinking for a long time about the story, the characters, or the ideas presented.  It wasn't that is was horrible, but The Great Gatsby didn't do any of these.  

For those of you who weren't required to read it in school, here is  a summary of what you have been missing:
In 1922, F. Scott Fitzgerald announced his decision to write "something new--something extraordinary and beautiful and simple + intricately patterned." That extraordinary, beautiful, intricately patterned, and above all, simple novel became The Great Gatsby, arguably Fitzgerald's finest work and certainly the book for which he is best known. A portrait of the Jazz Age in all of its decadence and excess, Gatsby captured the spirit of the author's generation and earned itself a permanent place in American mythology. Self-made, self-invented millionaire Jay Gatsby embodies some of Fitzgerald's--and his country's--most abiding obsessions: money, ambition, greed, and the promise of new beginnings. "Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that's no matter--tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther.... And one fine morning--" Gatsby's rise to glory and eventual fall from grace becomes a kind of cautionary tale about the American Dream.
It's also a love story, of sorts, the narrative of Gatsby's quixotic passion for Daisy Buchanan. The pair meet five years before the novel begins, when Daisy is a legendary young Louisville beauty and Gatsby an impoverished officer. They fall in love, but while Gatsby serves overseas, Daisy marries the brutal, bullying, but extremely rich Tom Buchanan. After the war, Gatsby devotes himself blindly to the pursuit of wealth by whatever means--and to the pursuit of Daisy, which amounts to the same thing. "Her voice is full of money," Gatsby says admiringly, in one of the novel's more famous descriptions. His millions made, Gatsby buys a mansion across Long Island Sound from Daisy's patrician East Egg address, throws lavish parties, and waits for her to appear. When she does, events unfold with all the tragic inevitability of a Greek drama, with detached, cynical neighbor Nick Carraway acting as chorus throughout. Spare, elegantly plotted, and written in crystalline prose, The Great Gatsby is as perfectly satisfying as the best kind of poem. (Amazon)

Since reading the book, I have struggle to understand what it is about the book that makes so many people call it "the great American novel".  Honestly, I still don't get it.  The characters in the book are all very shallow and leave completely self indulged lives, but that wasn't even the problem for me - I have read several books where I hated nearly everyone in the book but still loved the writing or the story.  I think the real issue for me is that it was just utterly uninteresting.  A lot of people find the writing beautiful and ground breaking, but I just found myself bored.  I will dutifully check this off of my "must read" list, and move on to something a little more captivating.


Hansen Family said...

So after reading the book, "The Paris Wife" (a book about Hemingway, Fitzgerald and all their crew), I decided I needed to read Hemingway's "The Sun Also Rises." It was so incredibly slow and boring that I had to skim read it to actually get through it. I have no idea why it is considered a classic and such an important book to read. So I totally get your feelings about The Great Gatsby.

Monica said...

Kacey, I looked at The Paris Wife and saw a lot of reviews but couldn't convince myself that it looked interesting. Glad I'm not alone.