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The Great Gatsby (Pulp the Classics) Paperback – 23 Apr 2013
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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.
"The Great Gatsby remains not just one of the greatest works of American literature, but a timeless evocation of the allure, corruption and carelessness of wealth...a gilded society intoxicated by wealth, dancing its way into the Great Depression." (The Times )
"Gatsby is a connoisseur's guide to the glamour and glitter of the Jazz Age, but it's also a nearly prophetic glimpse into the world to come. Writing at the height of the boom, in the midst of the Roaring Twenties, Fitzgerald detected the ephemerality, fakery and corruption always lurking at the heart of the great American success story... A haunting meditation on aspiration, disillusionment, romantic love - and a blistering exposé of the materialism, duplicity, and sexual politics driving what Fitzgerald calls America's true "business": "the service of a vast, vulgar, and meretricious beauty"" (Sarah Churchwell, The Times )
"It is a marvellously suggestive novel...a parable of modern America, and by extension of modern life" (An Wilson, Daily Telegraph )
"The first and greatest modern novel, it has beautiful women, lavish parties, romance, betrayal and murder woven together in an intricately structured plot. A prescient comment on the dying days of a gilded age that is brilliant entertainment with a very eloquent insight" (Mirror )
"His masterpiece, an elegy for the American Dream, the greatest lost cause of them all' - --Los Angeles Times
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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.
Fitzgerald brilliantly captures both disillusion of post-war America, the moral failure of a society obsessed with weather and status, and the disappointment of the American dream. Fitzgerald re-creates the universal conflict between illusion and reality but chronicling Gatsby tragic pursuit of his dream.
In the beautiful but vacuous Daisy, and Gatsby himself - both an illusion and the victim of his own self-constructed illusion - Fitzgerald embodies the qualities of his age, but this is also a prescient book which speaks to a twenty-first century audience just as pressingly. With its investment banker narrator, its nascent idea of celebrity in Gatsby, and its catalogue of material things (motor cars, yachts, lavish dinners, legendary parties, mansions, swimming pools) this is as relevant today, almost a hundred years after it was written.
What makes this book stand out is Fitzgerald's tenderness: it would have been easy to have written this as a satire on wealth, on materialism, on the religion of possessions but he is a more nuanced writer and has a more subtle moral vision than that. For all that Gatsby may be a modern Trimalchio, as he is named in chapter 7, he's also a tragic figure, a victim of his own idealism.
My personal favourite Fitzgerald is Tender is the Night but this is perhaps the more accessible, and more tightly crafted text.
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