Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Great Gatsby

by F. Scott Fitzgerald
New York: Scribner, 1996 (originally published 1925)

Nick Carraway goes East, living on the portion of Long Island known as "West Egg," where he meets Jay Gatsby, his neighbor, a rich man who gives elaborate parties for a hundred guests, yet no one seems to really know him.

This read to me as a sort of "lives of the rich and famous" of the 1920s. Nick's crowd - his cousin Daisy, her husband Tom, their friend Jordan, and Gatsby - are all rich and cynical and somehow apart from it all. Nick especially, though he is our narrator, is an observer in this drama, leaving the reader removed, in a way, from the characters and events as they play out.

Regular readers of this blog may know that I very seldom write about book I didn't enjoy. Classics are my one exception. Truthfully, I didn't dislike Gatsby so much as I felt ambivalent about it. I didn't like most of the characters, and I didn't particularly like what they did most of the time. Perhaps I wasn't supposed to, because as I look back on it, they're all sort of self-absorbed and superficial, but for me it's really hard to enjoy a book when I dislike whom I'm reading about. The narrative does have themes that would be interesting to explore as a class or in a paper. I found myself wishing that I had read it for English class, as I really would have benefited from a little bit of guidance and the sort of analysis that comes with the need to write a paper on it. As it was, I finished the book feeling like I'd missed something. I'm glad to have read it, but it's not going to stand out as a favorite.

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