My rating: 5 of 5 stars
**Warning, warning!! Review has some spoilers!**
In 1922, F. Scott Fitzgerald announced his decision to write "something new--something extraordinary and beautiful and simple and 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.
I guess it's not so much of a review, but more of a commentary and line of thinking into what I thought.
My track record with reading classics clearly has not been great. Unfortunately this has upset some people as the classics are apparently never EVER to be criticized. Don't think I believe that for one second. I'm just spouting back what has been written to me as hate mail and negative comments left on my blog. The classics are not untouchable. Unfortunately the pretentious people that think they are literary aficionados and God's gift to books will say otherwise. This really has nothing to do with my review of The Great Gatsby but it's something I needed to get off my chest. Just because I loved this classic does not mean I will love the next one. Be prepared, because my complete honesty will continue backlash be damned.
Fortunately for me, I truly did enjoy The Great Gatsby. In fact, this may be my favorite classic read thus far. And I'm also probably the last person to have read it. For some reason I never did have to read a lot of classics in school, or if I did I don't remember them. But I am 100% positive that I did not read this one. And truthfully, I'm kind of glad. I think waiting until I was a full grown adult helped me to appreciate the story, themes, and subtle nuances more. I think I would have missed these in high school and college. I wasn't as passionate about books then as I am now. Besides, making reading required is a necessary but sucky venture. Most students will never appreciate a book they were forced to read. So when I made the choice to attempt to read all the classics on my own, I think this was the best decision I ever made.
I don't think there ever has been or ever will be again a writer like F. Scott Fitzgerald. I have never seen words so beautifully and eloquently put down on paper. I suppose The Great Gatsby is his most famous work, but I intend to read everything that he has written at some point. I have Tender is the Night sitting in my reading stack.
What do I truly want to say about The Great Gatsby? It is truly one of the saddest books I have ever read. I don't believe I have ever felt as sorry for a character as I did for Jay Gatsby. I can't imagine devoting my entire life to one dream and then having it all fall to pieces because everything I believed in was an illusion. I felt that every character was unlikable except for Gatsby. Even Nick Carraway. But I think what I enjoyed even more than the events of the story were the subtle nuances and themes that were there if you had the patience and intelligence to look hard enough.
F. Scott Fitzgerald must have hated New York. I'm basing this on the way the book was written. NYC destroyed everything around it and so did the people that lived there. East Egg vs. West Egg. Daisy and Tom were just disgusting and pathetic individuals. And then there was Gatsby himself. He WAS the epitome of the American Dream and what can happen to it if you let yourself get sidetracked. How easily it can all be taken away. He let his love for Daisy dictate his entire life and everything he did ever since he lost her revolved around his love for her and this pedestal he had put her on. He started to believe he could live in the past and make things as special as they once were. But the problem with that was that Daisy was never the person he thought she was. She was kind of a shallow jerk. No wait. Not kind of. She was an AWFUL person. She married an awful person. And poor Gatsby never could get over his love for her. But that was kind of his own fault wasn't it?
And then there's this billboard on the outskirts of town that symbolizes the eyes of God watching his disciples make a mess of the entire world they have been given. Now I don't believe in God, but I thought the symbolism was magnificent.
And oh my God the ending. I saw it coming from a mile away, but still! That was pure insanity. Which is why I classify this book as an extremely depressing read. I was shocked. Shocked! But it was oh so good at the same time. Simply put, the people in this book were shallow, selfish, and psychotic.
I know most of what I said here didn't make a whole lot of sense, or maybe it did but I don't know the proper way to tie it all together, but I thought this novel was supremely divine. It is the true definition of a classic and deserves to be loved and cherished as much as it has been. But what do I know? I'm just a reader that loves reading. But at least I won't get any hate mail over this review.
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