The Great Gatsby

by

As a youth, I read a lot of books. Hundreds upon hundreds adorned my shelves. Nor was I a stranger to the school and public libraries. Naturally, I have an odd sensation when people talk about novels with an assumption that they are part of a cultural literacy and yet, I have never read them. Specifically, when it seems that everyone read something in a high school class. Perhaps my fascination with Science Fiction and fantasy novels is partly to blame. For one of my high school English requirements I took a class which required Dune, Lord of the Rings, Out of the Silent Planet, and numerous short stories from 60s pulp.

The Great Gatsby fell in this realm of hearing the name repeatedly, but only having the vaguest notion of its content. April 2006 brought me a step closer when I inherited the book through an odd means that is normal to my current living situation. I took over a teaching position from a friend moving on to his next adventure. Commonly, our jobs are tied to specific living arrangements, so I was required to move into his apartment. Having no TV nor stereo, I wanted to buy a few of his belongings. To my surprise, he wanted to sell everything he wasn’t transporting as a lot: Gatsby was resting amidst the miscellany.

Since then, he traveled with me in my next two moves. Preparing for my move on the 17th, I decided I should read some of the books I keep toting hither and thither. Here are some of my thoughts on this “Great American Novel”.

Upon advancing through a number of chapters, I was having troubles identifying the relation between events introduced; almost as if I were reading two novels. Further I found it hard to identify with most of the characters: rich, vapid, course, and without direction. At points I even wondered if I should read the whole work: after all, just because a lot of people are intense about something doesn’t mean it is for me (i.e., Harry Potter).

Had I set down the book, I would have missed out as all of the bits tie together well as the story progresses and the characters make sense as part of the story.

Fitzgerald has a very amusing way to describe scenes and I find his sentences very ‘full’. Much like eating pasta with a complex sauce, leaving the tongue to ponder what elements went into the preparation. At times I found him making cultural or literary references, which seemed esoteric to me, as if he expected any reasonable reader to know them. In practice this could quickly become tiresome; however, he salted us with just enough to make me want to learn more and not so much as to write him off as an arrogant boor.

Critics have complained that Fitzgerald confused his geography. One example was having the “ash heaps” on Long Island rather than across the water. However, I had no trouble with this at all. Certainly it was no accident, as the physical location requiring passage on trips to Manhattan is critical to this tale. He has created a mythical world that is very like a bit (or a couple bits) of our real world. Almost like fantasy, but easy to grasp because of its connections to reality.

A few details of the ending seemed a little hasty or forced to me; however, overall I found it an enjoyable read. Now, where can I find a copy of the Lord of the Flies?

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10 Responses to “The Great Gatsby”

  1. titus2woman Says:

    I have not read that, either. The story from my Step-Mom is that HER Mom was his illegitimate child. I think I remember Lord of the Flies being too much for me….

  2. Stefanie Says:

    I’ve read Great Gatsby 3 times for various occasions and can’t say that I enjoyed any of the readings. Lord of the Flies on the other hand, loved it.

  3. Teela Says:

    I haven’t read Lord of the Flies but I enjoyed the Great Gatsby. I wrote my paper on the portrayal of women in the book. What other “classics” haven’t you read… Catcher in the Rye?

  4. びっくり Says:

    @Titus – maybe I should heed your warning and not read Lord of the Flies, but just for cultural literacy perhaps I should. I was severely scolded by someone when I used it allegorically and they said, “That’s not what it was about at all.”

    @Stefanie – maybe I should read Lord of the Flies then, but I’m a little sensitive; I hope it isn’t too much for me.

    @Teela – definitely. Someone who ran with Hemingway maybe expected to have certain feelings about how men and women should be portrayed. I didn’t read the Narnia books until I was an adult. Haven’t read Catcher in the Rye, but may never read it – reviews of it haven’t compelled me. Read The Good Earth just a couple years ago. The list is long.

  5. Teela Says:

    The good earth was good. How about any Jane Austen books? 😉 Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde? I didn’t read it but at my school a lot of the english classes read A House on Mango Street. You should publish your list I would be interested to see which ones I have read and which ones I should consider reading 🙂

  6. びっくり Says:

    I read Jekyl and Hyde, Around the World in 80 Days, Time Machine, and many other Science Fictiony type books at a very young age. Given a chance I will probably read all of Jane Austen although I think I will prefer watching the videos over and over (of which I own more than any man probably should). I’ll have to Google “Mango Street”: is it a classic?

  7. Teela Says:

    I don’t know that Mango Street is a classic, its only from 1984 but it was just one of the books I remember our school using in their english department.

  8. びっくり Says:

    I’ll take a look and see. I graduated High School in 1983, so we didn’t study it.

  9. びっくり Says:

    And I thought my childhood was complicated…
    Mango Street character map

  10. Teela Says:

    Well and I’m pretty sure its all told in poems which makes it that much more complicated

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