Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Re-Education of a Book Lover - Part Three - The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

I have loved to read for as long as I can remember. Recently, however, it has come to my attention that there are some G A P I N G holes in my literary education. For example: I have read every Austen and Bronte you can get your hands on, but somehow had never managed to read a Charles Dickens novel in its entirety. So, with a little help from my mom, the English Teacher, and a couple of good friend, the English Majors, I am setting a course to re-educate myself by filling in some of those gaps.

Next up - The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

originally published in April, 1925
160 pages

Synopsis from publisher -

Jay Gatsby is a self-made man, famed for his decadent champagne-drenched parties. Despite being surrounded by Long Island's bright and beautiful, Gatsby longs only for Daisy Buchanan. In shimmering prose, Fitzgerald shows Gatsby pursue his dream to its tragic conclusion. The Great Gatsby is an elegiac and exquisite portrait of the American Dream.

My thoughts -

I listened to this novel as an audiobook, read by the actor Tim Robbins, and blew through it so fast I haven't had time to do my normal post "style", so all my thoughts will just be in one long chunk.

I was surprised at how much I really enjoyed this novel. Although I've read a lot of classics, they aren't the novels I think of when I am looking for a "fun" reading experience. Usually it takes me a while to really become engrossed, due to the writing style, or the language, or the subject matter. Gatsby grabbed me from the very beginning, and hooked me in to this tragic story.

Fitzgerald does an excellent job of portraying his characters - none of them are particularly likable in any real way, and yet he manages to give them enough humanity that the reader isn't turned off. Gatsby is not a good guy - he is shallow, and impatient, and probably a criminal, but his demise is not something that the reader rejoices in.

I was most interested in Fitzgerald's portrayal of the lavish lifestyles of the Buchanans and Gatsby, and how hollow he wanted to make them seem. Daisy and Tom, and Jay himself, had attained everything that they could ever want, and yet each was ultimately lonely and bitterly unhappy. As one of the icons for that lifestyle himself, it seemed an interesting and telling depiction.

I completely understand why this novel is considered one of the greatest of American literature. I found it to be compelling and fascinating, and wished it could have gone on much past it's last sentence. If you haven't read it (and I know the odds are slim, but hey - I can't be the only person in the world!), I encourage you to pick up a copy. This is literature at it's finest.

Finished: 11/5/12
Source: audiobook from the library
MPAA Rating: R for adult situations, language, and violence
My rating: 9/10


Aarti said...

I read this in high school but I don't know that I fully understood it- I would probably appreciate it much more now. I also think the movie will be great!

Carolynn said...

I LOVED this book when I read it in high school- I can't believe you never did!! I'm pretty sure it was Mrs. Larsen who had us read it- and like most of the books she assigned, I just ate it up. She even made me love Great Expectations! Mrs. Larsen says it's good? Oh, ok!! :) I remember Gatsby feeling so glamorous and tragic, like you said. And, if you remember, I *was* a bit of a sucker for a great romantic tragedy. ;)