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The Great Gatsby (Penguin Red Classics) Mass Market Paperback – 26 Jan 2006
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In 1922, F Scott Fitzgerald announced his decision to write "something new--something extraordinary and beautiful and simple, 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 be comes 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 s he does, events unfold with all the tragic inevitability of a Greek drama, with detached, cynical neighbour 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. Perry Freeman, Amazon.com --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
James Dickey Now we have an American masterpiece in its final form: the original crystal has shaped itself into the true diamond. This is the novel as Fitzgerald wished it to be, and so it is what we have dreamed of, sleeping and wakingSee all Product description
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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.
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.
I will say that I don't really understand why it's a "classic" as such -- it's good, but not amazing -- but then may that's why I'm not an English teacher :)
Worth reading for sure. Haven't seen any of the film versions.
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