Well, this book certainly seems to be like marmite. My stance on it is, however, the opposite of my stance on that delicious glossy black, salty spreaWell, this book certainly seems to be like marmite. My stance on it is, however, the opposite of my stance on that delicious glossy black, salty spread. I hate it. I read of people who work themselves into ecstasies over this as teenagers and then come back to it later and realise it's a load of old bollocks. Well, I read this when I was 16 or so and I could not stand it. I don't pretend to have been a particularly mature teenager, but this book certainly is not 'the universal depiction of the teenage mindset', or whatever people want to call it, because although I have been an insufferable know-it-all teenager of course, I was never so conceited as to really believe that I was graced with some special understanding of the world that my poor fellow human beings just didn't see. And I never thought that my own adolescent troubles were really all that serious, in the grand scheme of things you know. I had read The Gulag Archipelago. I mean, Christ, even the famously scorned David Copperfield has a harder life than Holden Caulfield. Salinger's callous narrator desperately needs some sort of perspective. The main character is exactly the sort of arrogant, self-obsessed, pseudo-philosophical, 'nobody understands me' teenager that I laughed at when I was that age, and I laugh at now. I sympathised with him, because he was clearly a neurotic little bastard of a drama queen, destined for a life fraught with problems of his own making, but I could not empathise. I think the best literature is based upon an desire to understand your fellow man, whatever failings we may have as a species, not to scornfully deride them all as 'phonies' whilst painting yourself as the only one with sufficient insight to see through all their crap. Holden Caulfield is, to put it crudely but accurately, a complete dickhead. I mean, he's almost worse than Morrissey. Actually, Morrissey is exactly what Holden would have grown up to be like. I have no patience with people who talk about him like he's the fucking messiah for the 20th century....more
It didn't really have an ending... Which I suppose is part of the point, but the abrupt stop still left me feeling a bit flat. I really enjoyed most oIt didn't really have an ending... Which I suppose is part of the point, but the abrupt stop still left me feeling a bit flat. I really enjoyed most of it though - the subversion of Western myths and culture was very funny....more
This is the book to read if you want to understand the Irish Question, and the fact that there really was no answer to it. I read it when studying 19tThis is the book to read if you want to understand the Irish Question, and the fact that there really was no answer to it. I read it when studying 19th century British political history, mainly from the perspectives of Peel, Gladstone, Disraeli, all the key players in English politics, but this novel really gave me a deep insight into the perspectives of the Irish Catholics, the Irish Protestants and the Anglo-Irish aristocracy. It's not about 'the evil English' vs the poor, oppressed Irish; that's a simplistic reading that completely misses the point. The problems of Ireland were a hopelessly tangled web for which there were no easy solutions. The divisive effects of religion were paramount, for example. But this is also fundamentally a novel about individual lives and how they were affected by the wider political and economic turmoil. Trinity is not a history book by any stretch of the imagination. For one thing, it's mostly fictional, despite being embedded in an historical framework. More importantly though, the human experience is central, and it is moving and inspiring, bleak and glorious in equal measures. An involved and complicated plot with a plethora of characters and a vast, sprawling scope; Trinity is a novel that squares up to one of the most baffling political problems of modern British history and makes it human....more
I'm not really sure what the deal is with the 'Great American Novel'... I'm certain there's no search for the elusive 'Great English Novel' or the 'GrI'm not really sure what the deal is with the 'Great American Novel'... I'm certain there's no search for the elusive 'Great English Novel' or the 'Great French Novel'... why do Americans want their entire country and experience to be summed up by a single work of literature? I confess I don't understand.
For me, as a non-American, this book was about America, yes, but that wasn't the be all and end all of it. I understood the whole critique of the American dream thing (or should Dream be capitalised there?), of course. What captured me was the tragic plight of Gatsby as a man driven by his own delusions, his almost monomaniacal obsession with Daisy Buchannan, and the interplay between reality and illusion. And that illusion doesn't have to be the American Dream of 'rags to riches' success; the commentary is much more universal. I found it genuinely poignant to read about Gatsby as the man who has everything and yet has nothing, desperately a la recherche du temps perdu. Ultimately, he is more complete whilst he is yearning for Daisy, wrapped up in his own fantasy, than he could possibly be once he grasps that fantasy and watches it turn to dust in his hands. I loved the part where Nick leaves Gatsby outside the Buchannan's house late at night, 'watching over nothing'.
The Great Gatsby was a brilliant short novel, and I really should have read it sooner....more