Johnny's Reviews > The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
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Feb 14, 08

bookshelves: literature
Read in December, 1970

I've read this book three times. The first time, as listed here, was when I was in college. It was not a book which was assigned to me, but I was enamored with the tragedy of Fitzgerald's life and was trying to read everything by him. I guess I came to this by the back door because I had already The Pat Hobby Stories and The Last Tycoon (the latter in its unfinished form).

Fitzgerald's Hollywood stories were tremendously entertaining to me and, as a late adolescent college boy, the sense of failure in Pat Hobby (scriptwriter from the silent movie days who was struggling in the era of the "talkies") and the manner in which the Irving Thalberg-like protagonist of The Last Tycoon was pull defeat from the jaws of victory resonated with my own fear of failure.

I read The Great Gatsby as though I were sucking the last dregs of a chocolate milkshake through a straw, determined to savor every nuance. I, pardon the expression, drank it in with the expectation that I would find some secret to success, some means of associating with the rich and powerful like Jay Gatsby himself. Yet, the more I read, the more I felt like an outsider. I didn't understand the fatalism in Nick Carraway or the hypocrisy in Tom Buchanan.

In short, I read The Great Gatsby expecting to gain insight in dreaming the big dream as Gatsby strove to transform his dreams into reality and my insecure, already married but not quite adult, self was thrust headfirst into the toilet bowl of broken lives in this novel. I savored it with masochistic zeal.

Later, when the book played a key part in the Eliot Gould and Candace Bergen movie, Getting Straight, I had to reread it again. This time, I was more prepared for the cynicism and was struck by how manipulative Daisy was when Gatsby revealed his feelings for her (or tried to) and how destructive she was in her relationship to him.

Much later, I visited the mansion in Newport, RI where the party scene was filmed for the Redford movie. I had to read the book again and realized that this book is symbolic in my mind for "broken dreams" in the midst of "great aspirations." Just typing about it makes me want to read it again.
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