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The Great Gatsby
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1001 Monthly Group Read > September {2012} Discussion -- THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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Charity (charityross) | 670 comments Mod
Have you partied with Jay Gatsby? Tell us about it...


Andrea | 90 comments I reread this one since the last time I read it was in high school and I didn't remember anything about it except the billboard with the guy and the big eyes that seem to watch over the town. Thank you 11th grade English for spending endless hours discussing that one. I feel like high school does injustice to reading books because you have to read them in sections and labor over irony, symbolism, and foreshadowing. It's such a better experience to just read the book as is without analyzing every sentence.

I was glad to get the chance to reread it and I liked it. Being in my early-mid twenties I felt a bigger connection to it this time. I can relate to being at the start of your independent life and meeting new characters. I enjoyed the twists with Daisy and Gatsby's love affair.

I do have to ask though, on pages 38 and 39, what the heck is going on? Tom just broke Mrs. Wilson's nose and McKee wakes and makes motion to leave, and they were leaving on the elevator and then there's just this random paragraph about standing beside a man's bed. I was lost. Any insight?


Michelle (fireweaver) | 105 comments Andrea, I'm likewise just starting a re-read after hating this in grade school. we're so emotionally unprepared for many of the classics at that age, and discussion over technique often leaves no room for soul.


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Tej | 120 comments Isn't it amazing how some images in books are portrayed so vividly that they stay with you your whole life? Andrea, I'm probably twice your age, so my "whole life" is significantly longer than yours! But whenever I think of Gatsby, it's that billboard I see. I do remember discussing it in class. I probably would not have managed a conscious understanding of the symbolism without the instructor, but I'll definitely not forget the image or the feeling I got from it. Big time kudos to Fitzgerald for coming up with it.


Cecily | 26 comments The opposite was true for me. I read this a few weeks ago, but I was more than half way through before I realised I'd read it before (though I think it was a long time ago, though definitely not at school). I thought it was very good, so I'm not sure why it took me so long to recognise aspects of it.


Andrea | 90 comments Michelle wrote: "Andrea, I'm likewise just starting a re-read after hating this in grade school. we're so emotionally unprepared for many of the classics at that age, and discussion over technique often leaves no r..."


Exactly my thoughts, when I finished this one, I seriously thought about changing careers and becoming a high school English teacher just so I could have the students read books the whole way through without analyzing every detail. They lose the enjoyment of picking up a good piece of literature and just being apart of the story. But I don't think that would go over too well with the standards and testings these days. I feel like I need to reread all the books read in high school now. I might actually like them this time.


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Tej | 120 comments I know we're getting off topic here, but I'm curious about today's school practices. When I was in school a million years ago, we had to write a book report once a month, and it could be on a book we chose ourselves. That way it was more likely to be something we read just for the pleasure of it and the analysis didn't have to be too in depth. Just an exercise in learning how to love reading and writing. Do schools still do that, or is it all just assigned reading discussed in groups?


Paula Tej - I just finished grade 12 and we read one book as a class all year and analyzed it to death, and we got to choose one book to read on our own and do a report on it.


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Cecily | 26 comments Andrea wrote: "... I seriously thought about changing careers and becoming a high school English teacher just so I could have the students read books the whole way through without analyzing every detail. They lose the enjoyment of picking up a good piece of literature and just being apart of the story...."

I know what you mean. At my school (England, 1980s), from ages 14 to 16, the top set had a dozen set texts to read (three novels, three Shakespeare, three other plays and three poetry anthologies), whereas the other groups had only three or four. We could read, enjoy and compare the big picture (e.g. "Describe how Shakespeare combines tragedy and comedy to achieve XXX in two of his plays") whereas the others had to analyse the position of every word and punctuation mark, losing the arc of the narrative and any enjoyment they might otherwise have had.

I suspect the practices vary between schools, countries and decades.


Terri (TerriLovesCrows) | 9 comments In high school I could ahve cared less about this book, but now I want to re-read it. I saw a ballet production this year that reminded me of the elements and style I couldnt appreciate while 'analyzing' it for a class


message 11: by Krenzel (last edited Sep 19, 2012 06:37AM) (new)

Krenzel | 15 comments I think most people probably first read this book in high school, and it seems like, for most people, if you had a good teacher, you like it, and if you had a bad teacher, you hate it. If the teacher made you "analyze it to death" just as part of a checklist or some quiz, then it probably would be really bad. But if you are analyzing the book to really understand it then that is a different story.

For any of the 1001 books, I wouldn't want to read them just to read the story; to me, the fun part is to analyze them and try to figure out what the writer is saying or what the message of the book is. The only thing that disappoints me is when the writer isn't trying to say anything (I can't stand nihilistic books with no point, or where the only point is just to depress you.)

My high school American Literature teacher was really good, and I'm sure that's why I really like this book (even 15 years after I read it, I remember it pretty well). We covered the book in detail, really learning about that time period and the context of the time period in which the book was written, and all the use of symbolism, and it really brought the book and the characters to life.

For my class, we just had to read the book, and then we talked about it a lot, and at the end we could choose to write a paper about any subject we wanted. I wrote mine on the use of colors as symbols, and I just remember each time I would go back to another passage for another color, there was more to learn and it just added to the message of the book. I really like when you can go back and analyze books like that and pick up on the nuances the writer is putting in there. It is almost like putting the pieces of a puzzle together, and it is really satisfying when you figure it out.

One of the other things that has stuck with me from this book is "careless drivers." Whenever I encounter people like Jordan or Daisy in the real world, I always think back to The Great Gatsby :)


Terri (TerriLovesCrows) | 9 comments I am glad you get something out of analyzing them Krenzel. personally, I just want a good story, characters etc.


Andrea | 90 comments Tej wrote: "I know we're getting off topic here, but I'm curious about today's school practices. When I was in school a million years ago, we had to write a book report once a month, and it could be on a book..."

When I was in school, we read three or four books together as a class each year and we read 3 or so on our own to do book reports on. The books we read as a class were always read in sections and analyzed and discussed thoroughly. I don't recall liking any book we read in high school except maybe slightly liking Arthur Miller's play the Crucible. But books like To Kill a Mockingbird, Of Mice and Men, any Shakespeare, Medea, A Separate Peace, Metamorphosis, they were all really painful experiences for me. It may be that these books are painful, but I can't really judge because of the way they were handled. I feel I would have had a better experience had we read the book through and discussed it at the end.


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Jeannie Henry (jeannieinabottle) | 2 comments I HATED this book when I read it for school. Maybe now that it's not forced, I'll enjoy it. I liked the movie okay (and can't wait for the new one). But I digress, this is Goodreads, not Goodwatches.
Here's hoping!


Terri (TerriLovesCrows) | 9 comments But back to the book. I really feel sorry for Gatsby. He has all these aprties and extravagance that do not do anything for his loneliness


Andrea | 90 comments Terri wrote: "But back to the book. I really feel sorry for Gatsby. He has all these aprties and extravagance that do not do anything for his loneliness"

I can see how the parties would do that but I didn't feel like that was his point for having them. I think his hope was that Daisy would one day wander into one of his parties, but I feel like he had them also to just let others enjoy the lifestyle. I felt like with his background of coming from nothing and building this new persona, he saw pleasure in showing the average person the high life.


Vannessa | 1 comments In highschool I was really interested in the classics. Especially since I went to a private Christian school we had a huge lack of reading material to choose from. THe only book we read was To Kill a Mocking Bird and the Bible. Both good books but I could've have read more. Being a bookworm I was at a bookstore for hours and picked this one up. Man, was I instantly hooked. I could not put this book down. It became my go to book when I wanted an outlet or inspiration etc…I loved this book from the get go and I still love it. I even got my best friend to read it after I had read it and for once she liked a book! This book has a wide appeal and in a good way. Since it is well written it proves that even popular books can be works of art too. My feelings about this book have yet to change I still list it as one of my top fave books of all time.


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Tej | 120 comments Paula wrote: "Tej - I just finished grade 12 and we read one book as a class all year and analyzed it to death, and we got to choose one book to read on our own and do a report on it."

That makes me very sad. What was the book you read as a class?


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Tej | 120 comments Andrea wrote: "But books like To Kill a Mockingbird...were all really painful experiences for me ..."

That has always been one of my all-time favorite books, but I believe I read it on my own rather than in school. If you can get past the painful memories, you might want to try watching the movie. Even as a movie based on a beloved book I think it stands on its own. I think Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch is about the most perfect image of a man possible. Charming, funny, polite, honest, ethical, and drop-dead-gorgeous!


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Tej | 120 comments Andrea wrote: "Terri wrote: "But back to the book. I really feel sorry for Gatsby. He has all these aprties and extravagance that do not do anything for his loneliness"

I can see how the parties would do that ..."


I agree. I've never been able to picture Gatsby as a happy man. I think even if Daisy loved him and left her husband for him he still would not have been truly happy. I think the best he hoped to achieve was contentment.


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Tej | 120 comments Vannessa wrote: "In highschool I was really interested in the classics. Especially since I went to a private Christian school we had a huge lack of reading material to choose from. THe only book we read was To Kill..."

Can you expand on what it was in particular that gripped you about this book? I'm especially curious from the perspective of a Christian high school student whose reading experiences are isolated.


Michelle (fireweaver) | 105 comments Andrea, our torture lists are strikingly similar...you wouldn't happen to be a 30-something product of the houston-area public education system, would you?

gatsby's parties are probably one of the best examples of why i didn't get/like this book as a kiddo. i mean, if you want to be alone, then be alone. inviting 100 people to your house and spending all your money to wine and dine them and not even bothering to be around any of them, what on earth is the point of that idiocy?!

and then, wow, what a difference 2 decades makes. those parties are all about him crafting a fiction of his life, becoming the kind of amazingly fun event that a bright spark like daisy would be drawn to, BEING the parties and the beaux that he saw her whirl through when he had her for a brief moment in his world. of course there's a point, and it's not idiotic in the least. tragic, yes, futile as anything, but not stupid.


Cecily | 26 comments Giving a classic to the readers of the wrong age, stage, or interests can be fatal (for the book, not the reader!).


Andrea | 90 comments Michelle wrote: "Andrea, our torture lists are strikingly similar...you wouldn't happen to be a 30-something product of the houston-area public education system, would you?

gatsby's parties are probably one of the..."


I'm a mid-20 something product of northern Pittsburgh area public education system, but your post is my thoughts exactly.

And Cecily completely agree with that statement, which is why I reread this one and plan to reread others from high school. I think 10 years will change my opinions.


Alicia (nekidasajaybird) | 9 comments My own English teacher hated this book. This year is my 10 year reunion and I can honestly say I've read The Great Gatsby 4 times (including twice in High School). It sits at #1 on my list of favorite books.


Atiya | 5 comments Thankfully I never needed school to develop a fondness for the classics. I read TGG twice this year and I absolutely love it. These characters stay with you forever. I can't wait to see how Baz Luhrmann's treatment of the source material :)


Mikela | 379 comments It makes you wonder if things have changed at all, except the locale is now to a great extent Hollywood. I absolutely adore Gatsby.


Travelling Sunny (Sunny_In_Wonderland) | 100 comments I'm starting this one today. Is there any historical background on the book or author that would be interesting for me to know ahead of time?


Travelling Sunny (Sunny_In_Wonderland) | 100 comments I'm a little confused. What is Fitzgerald describing when he talks about the 'valley of ashes'?


Andrea | 90 comments Sunny in Wonderland wrote: "I'm starting this one today. Is there any historical background on the book or author that would be interesting for me to know ahead of time?"

It's set in the 1920's during prohibition if that helps you any. Other than that I think it's really a stand alone book.

I googled valley of ashes for you and found this article: http://www.city-journal.org/article02...

In there it states "The valley of ashes was the narrow channel through which the railroad traveler had to pass on his way between New York City and the resort villages of East and West Egg on the North Shore of Long Island....The valley of ashes seems to mark the separation between the older American aristocracy, which once exclusively occupied East and West Egg, and the new urban Americans. That this narrow aperture should grow from a heap of ashes and refuse suggests that in the triumph of the industrialized, commercialized, and banalized world to come, the American dream of open horizons and limitless possibilities would be reduced to a burned-out, undifferentiated mass."

Just one person's opinion. I personally see their view point. And I would suggest keeping that in mind as you read on. I think it adds to the ending.


Travelling Sunny (Sunny_In_Wonderland) | 100 comments Wow! You've gone WAY above and beyond, Andrea. Thank you very much!


Travelling Sunny (Sunny_In_Wonderland) | 100 comments Andrea wrote: "Michelle wrote: "Andrea, I'm likewise just starting a re-read after hating this in grade school. we're so emotionally unprepared for many of the classics at that age, and discussion over technique ..."

That confused me too. I actually thought my copy was missing pages or something. I'm guessing he was drunk, which might explain the missing memory.


Travelling Sunny (Sunny_In_Wonderland) | 100 comments 70% through the book and NOW I think we're getting somewhere! (I'm at the part where they've rented the salon.)


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Etta Einschlag (Ettaee) | 1 comments I just finished reading The Grapes of Wrath. The contrast is astonishing. Anytime they aren't actually starving to death, they have this vitality, they know what a great gift it is to be alive. And here, we have the very rich driving carelessly towards death. It seems to me the very poor know how to be happy and the very rich have no clue. Even if they started out poor, they forget how. And yet we all spend our lives trying to figure out how to get rich.


message 35: by Carly (last edited Oct 14, 2012 06:45AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Carly Svamvour (FaganLady) | 25 comments Andrea wrote: I was glad to get the chance to reread it and I liked it. Being in my early-mid twenties I felt a bigger connection to it this time. I can relate to being at the start of your independent life and meeting new characters.

I think there are many books to which you can apply the rule of reading 3 times ... when young, when middle aged, when old.

I read this in 1995 - I think that was the first time. I've since been through it 3 times, plus a coupla rounds of the movie.

'Course I'll watch anything with Robert Redford.

I think this book well describes people who have money;

1) those who have come by it honestly - but are shallow and have no real character;

2) those who have come by it dishonestly - and are shallow, having no real character.

You can't help but love Jay and Daisy though - even though you know the affair isn't going to hang that long.

I do agree about reading books for school courses - it's best to have a go at them on your own, before the eng/comp teacher tells you what to think.


Carly Svamvour (FaganLady) | 25 comments Paula wrote: "Tej - I just finished grade 12 and we read one book as a class all year and analyzed it to death, and we got to choose one book to read on our own and do a report on it."

Yeah - that's how it was for us in high school; you chose a book yourself.


Carly Svamvour (FaganLady) | 25 comments And about Andrea saying 'we're emotionally unprepared for reading anything in the classics' in grade school - oh, how true that is.

I think you have to have been a teenager, a young-adult-single, a young married adult, a middle aged married/unmarried parent, and a senior (like meself) sitting back and looking at life, to truly appreciate books like these.

When we're in our teens, we're avid for anything about sex! In my day, we devoured copies of books that were banned at the time ... Peyton Place, for instance.

As young marrieds, we're looking for other issues in stories - financial difficulty and/or success - that interests us, especially if we're paying thru the nose for a mortage or rent.

As middle-agers, we're not so likely to believe everything we read anyway - but still, we're left under the impression that being rich isn't the best kinda life to have. It can work both ways.

As seniors, we draw our breath, chuckling as we do so, nod our heads as we read, as if to say 'yes, I've been there ... I've been there'.

And most of us have, in one way or another. We've been through periods where we're broke/have money/broke again ... yadda yadda.

What most novels do not have is a clear view of what it's like to become a not-have, after being divested of your money.

I'm currently reading 'Atlas Shrugged'. That novel, in particular, gives you a darn good look at life, from all angles.


Carly Svamvour (FaganLady) | 25 comments Alicia wrote: "My own English teacher hated this book. This year is my 10 year reunion and I can honestly say I've read The Great Gatsby 4 times (including twice in High School). It sits at #1 on my list of fav..."

Mine too ... mine too. Like I say, I've been through it 3 times in my life, and will likely read it again in a couple of years. And will likely find more in it that I didn't find this time around.

Symbolism? Be damned - just tell the story. I know when I write, I don't think of symbolism - I just tell what I want to tell ... let a cigar be a cigar.


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Jim | 11 comments Carly wrote: "Andrea wrote: I was glad to get the chance to reread it and I liked it. Being in my early-mid twenties I felt a bigger connection to it this time. I can relate to being at the start of your indepen..."

I'm also in the club that yawned through this book in my youth and love it now.

One other thing I thought Fitzgerald captured well is the flitting from happening to happening that I remember more from my teens and twenties than I tend to experience now (... more than a few years later). Let's do this! Let's do this! No! Let's go to the city! No, let's go home!!

I suspect Daisy, Jay et al were drunker than I was in those years, but that aspect of the novel brought back memories of a different way of living life (rich or not).


Alana (alanasbooks) | 122 comments I read this one in high school, then again earlier this year. I hated it in high school. I enjoyed the story much better the second time, being able to just read through it for itself. I didn't love it, it's one of those novels that just doesn't capture me. I'm curious if I read it another 10 or 20 years from now though, how I would feel about it.


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Mark Vickers | 5 comments Carly wrote: "Symbolism? Be damned - just tell the story. I know when I write, I don't think of symbolism - I just tell what I want to tell ... let a cigar be a cigar."

For my part, I love the symbolism, largely because it contains so much emotional subtext, much as our dreams do. The last couple of page of Gatsby are a good case in point: they not only reflect the narrator's state of mind ("expressing the ineffable," as the poet says) but provide us with plenty of symbolic meaning.

I'm not sure the emotional meaning would be there if this weren't a symbolically rich scene. And I don't think it gets in the way of telling a good story: quite the contrary.

I suspect thinking in symbols is as natural to human beings as thinking at all: we are, after all, communicating with a symbolic language right now. And the author of the cigar quote was quite a fan of symbolic thinking, even if he got a few things wrong ;)


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