Wednesday, December 15, 2010
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
My edition: 186 pages, published 1974
Originally published: 1925
Nick Carraway has just settled on a career in New York City following the Great War. He finds himself living on West Egg (in reality Great Neck) living next to a mysterious man named Gatsby who frequently hosts extravagant parties.
Across the sound lives Nick's cousin, Daisy. Through Daisy, Nick becomes reacquainted with her husband Tom Buchanan (a brute who is rich enough to do nothing much more than play polo) and their friend Jordan Baker (a golfer who Nick begins dating). One day Tom and Nick decide to head into New York and stop at a garage, ostensibly to talk to the owner about a car. But the real reason Tom wants to stop is to have Nick meet his mistress, Myrtle. When Myrtle joins them, Nick discovers that the pair have an apartment in the city and gets stuck at a party that only ends when Tom breaks Myrtle's nose.
Eventually Nick attends one of Gatsby's parties and finds that even the people that attend the parties regularly know very little about the man. Some said he had killed a man, some said he had made his fortune as a bootlegger. At the party, Gatsby pulls Jordan aside and a few days later Jordan tells Nick that Gatsby and Daisy were once in love and that Gatsby would like Nick to reunite the two. Which he does. Which results in the two of them having an affair. Which results in very bad things happening.
I bought this book right after I saw the movie (36 years ago), which I loved (mostly because of the aesthetics and, let's be real, Robert Redford). I didn't love the book then and I didn't love it this time either. I agree that it's a brilliant examination of what comes of great wealth without responsibility. I agree that Fitzgerald has crafted a work that paints a great picture of a time and place and that he's worked in a lot of interesting themes. These are all things that I love to find in one book. Which is what puzzles me about my reaction to this book. Maybe it's because I just didn't care what happened to any of the characters. Maybe it's because I was so hoping to find that reading it as an adult would be a transcendent thing. But it wasn't. It was just a really good book. Which, in fact, is definitely worth reading.