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The Great Gatsby (Penguin Modern Classics) Paperback – 24 Feb 2000
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Jay Gatsby is the man who has everything. But one thing will always be out of his reach...Everybody who is anybody is seen at his glittering parties. Day and night his Long Island mansion buzzes with bright young things drinking, dancing and debating his mysterious character. For Gatsby - young, handsome, fabulously rich - always seems alone in the crowd, watching and waiting, though no one knows what for. Beneath the shimmering surface of his life he is hiding a secret: a silent longing that can never be fulfilled. And soon this destructive obsession will force his world to unravel.
From the Inside Flap
Now the subject of a major new film from director Baz Luhrmann (Romeo+Juliet, Moulin Rouge!), starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan, The Great Gatsby is F. Scott Fitzgerald's brilliant fable of the hedonistic excess and tragic reality of 1920s America. This Penguin Classics edition is edited with an introduction and notes by Tony Tanner.
Young, handsome and fabulously rich, Jay Gatsby is the bright star of the Jazz Age, but as writer Nick Carraway is drawn into the decadent orbit of his Long Island mansion, where the party never seems to end, he finds himself faced by the mystery of Gatsby's origins and desires. Beneath the shimmering surface of his life, Gatsby is hiding a secret: a silent longing that can never be fulfilled. And soon, this destructive obsession will force his world to unravel.
In The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald brilliantly captures both the disillusionment of post-war America and the moral failure of a society obsessed with wealth and status. But he does more than render the essence of a particular time and place, for - in chronicling Gatsby's tragic pursuit of his dream - Fitzgerald re-creates the universal conflict between illusion and reality.
Like Jay Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940) has acquired a mythical status in American literary history, and his masterwork The Great Gatsby is considered by many to be the 'great American novel'. In 1920 he married Zelda Sayre, dubbed 'the first American Flapper', and their traumatic marriage and Zelda's gradual descent into insanity became the leading influence on his writing. As well as many short stories, Fitzgerald wrote five novels This Side of Paradise, The Great Gatsby, The Beautiful and the Damned, Tender is the Night and, incomplete at the time of his death, The Last Tycoon. After his death The New York Times said of him that 'in fact and in the literary sense he created a "generation" '.
'A classic, perhaps the supreme American novel'
John Carey, Sunday Times Books of the Century
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Whilst the story is intricate and follows complex characters, with a technically flawless writing style and plot, occasionally I found myself bored while reading it. The shallow and careless characters are difficult to empathise with. Although, for a Classic, I found this to be accessible. I have gleaned more enjoyment as I’ve reread this novel – for example the subtle homoerotic tendencies of the narrator “Nick”.
If you found this review helpful, please do rate it as helpful – really helps me out!
The book is famous for its descriptions and I must admit that they are superb. There is not a great deal of action but there is a great deal of the characters talking about each other and principally about Gatsby. The story is seen through the eyes of one Nick Carraway, a young man who works in New York's Bond market, and who lives in a small house next to Gatsby's huge mansion where Gatsby is renowned for holding lavish parties. Thus all the descriptions and the motives attributed to the characters are made in Carraway's own words. This means that the reader is entirely dependant on his judgement about the validity of the events in the novel as they unfold.
The book is very readable and the plot held my attention right to the end even though I knew the outcome having seen the films. However, I am yet to be convinced about the greatness of the work and if it indeed it is worthy to be considered a great American classic. But please read it and decide for yourself.
This didn't feel like a 122 page book, and it took much longer for me to read than I thought it would. The story is intricate and the characters complex, and occasionally I found myself bored while reading it. The writing is dripping with social commentary and cynical truth, which I enjoyed, I imagine this was ahead of its time and has stayed ridiculously relevant to modern society.
For a Classic, I found this to be pretty accessible, but there were still times when I struggled with it. Based on Fitzgerald’s writing style and certain plot points in this book, I can’t technically fault it, but based on my enjoyment levels?.. By the time I finished it I felt more than a little deflated. It wasn’t what I was expecting based on the number of people who RAVE about this novel, and adore it so much. While it didn’t blow me away as much as I expected it to, I have a feeling it may grow on me over time, and I’ll likely reread it to see what else I can glean from these pages.
Tom and Daisy Buchanan are from a privileged class of bright young things. When we first meet Daisy she is lounging in a room with all the curtains open doing nothing. This fanciful idea of the curtain billowing, the ladies reclined with their skirts caught in the wind, as if being carried away in a balloon, fits perfectly with Daisy’s personality. “I’m paralyzed with happiness.” are the first words we hear her speak and reinforces the idea of doing nothing. Physically he gives the reader the description of, “Her face was sad and lovely with bright things in it..” The excitement in her voice was “a singing compulsion, a whispered ‘Listen,’ a promise that she had done gay, exciting things just a while since..” This flamboyant, effervescent character is both carefree and careless. The way she changes subject mid conversation to ‘you must see the baby’ suggests a lack of attention and a distressed mental state. She also suggests it is better for women to be a pretty fool, a social comment on the way women of her class are seen in Fitzgerald’s world.
Tom equally indulges in the pleasures of life, not just his horse riding and cars, but keeping a mistress in the poor district between his mansion and the city. He suffers a crisis when Daisy admits to loving Gatsby and he finds out his mistress is being taken away by her husband. Suddenly everything he has is slipping through his fingers, he is losing control.
Gatsby himself is a mystery. In the beginning we are told that no one is ever invited to Gatsby’s place they just turn up. This makes the invitation to the narrator equally strange. Then when Nick meets Gatsby he has to mysteriously disappear to answer a phone call. This is the first clue that Gatsby’s business is not strictly legitimate. He has made and maintains his fortune on prohibition. Yet everything he has and does is to impress Daisy, to be and belong in her world. He has a man in the city send him shirts, so he knows what to wear, the nouveau rich fitting in. The idea of him taking the blame for the car accident, when she was driving, is perfectly in keeping with his character.
Why is he called great? I think Fitzgerald was creating the ultimate American icon. The self made man who never gives up no matter what. As one reviewer suggests, Fitzgerald is creating the American Dream before the term was even used. Gatsby also has this insatiable positive attitude which never gives up hope that there is something on the horizon, just out of reach, all you have to do is keep striving. Encapsulated in the famous closing lines, “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 further...” Again this pre-figures the American Dream that if you work hard enough you will succeed and those who fail, didn’t strive enough. It’s a recipe for tragedy, mental illness and loss.