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message 1: by Jessica (last edited Feb 21, 2008 12:29PM) (new)

Jessica (jessicareading) | 19 comments Mod

Click "post a comment." Copy and paste the text of your review AND a link to your review on Goodreads.

message 2: by Wow (new)

Wow | 1 comments

** spoiler alert ** The Great Gatsby chronicles one summer in the life of Nick Carraway, who decides to head east to the fictional community of West Egg in Long Island and meets an eccentric and newly rich man named James Gatsby, who is the source of great allure and intrigue throughout the novel. Gradually he learns of Gatsby's longtime romantic pursuit of Daisy, Nick's cousin, who has now settled down across the bay in the more fashionable, old-money East Egg with the wealthy but somewhat brutish Tom Buchanan in a strained, unfaithful marriage. Nick is also romantically involved with Daisy's friend Jordan Baker.

The story, like Gatsby himself, is as tragic as its set pieces are glamorous. Told through the impartial but curious eyes of Nick, it becomes even more heartbreaking. Nick doesn't know quite what to make of Gatsby; until the end, he scarcely knows who Gatsby even is and is unable to defend Gatsby's eccentricities against the criticisms of the East Eggers. Gatsby seems to hardly need the protection anyway; he is constantly surrounded by a buffer of people who show up at his mansion for the gigantic parties he throws. Nick's bemused open-mindedness, however, becomes his downfall when he fails to see the signs of Gatsby's inner loneliness: at the end of one party where it seems everyone is finding their romantic partner, "no one swooned backward on Gatsby and no French bob touched Gatsby's shoulder and no singing quartets were formed with Gatsby's head for one link." Nick tries to help Gatsby toward Daisy, but Daisy turns out to be just almost as difficult to pin down, and both fate and practicality seem to keep the lovers apart.

The Great Gatsby has been critically examined as a tale of paradoxes and juxtapositions. It has been defined as a work of its period and a must-read if you need some dramatic, thematically rich parables to use on your SAT essay. But its emotional core is its journey deep into its protagonist's heart and mind. Fitzgerald's prose, with its broad yet powerful strokes of description and musing observation, has been rightfully hailed for replicating the American spoken word and its associated emotions. But it is the pacing of the novel that truly lays bare the thoughts of Nick Carraway, and the tragedy is in the pacing, for just as you begin to learn more about and sympathize with the characters, they vanish from your sight and you are left with many of the same longing feelings as the protagonist. The Great Gatsby, then, is a read as agonizing as it is gripping and authentic, and its more timeless themes are frequently overlooked.

message 3: by Gary (last edited Mar 18, 2008 02:36PM) (new)

Gary | 7 comments <i>The Great Gatsby</i>.

Gary's review

First impressions, having just read it for the first time this month: questions I'm asking myself [aloud].

[Caution: Possible spoilers ahead]

It's sure fun enough, absorbing, poignant, provocative, to a point. The form overall seems as precise and flawless as a prize orchid, or a jewel of great price. It can be read in one sitting. The language is, from time to times, dazzling, even dizzying. The story itself takes a very poignant turn, with deep ironic commentary on the American way of life. It preserves a moment in our history as if in amber.

Yet do these traits speak well ... or can they also speak against its accepted greatness:

... the form so perfect, like a hothouse species, or like Hollywood formula, formulaic, so worked over, over and over, paint-by-the-numbers, little space seems left over for chance to take place during composition, for genuine discovery, surprise [by the author, and thence for the reader] ...

... rather like an extended short story or novella that effervesces over into a whole novel ...

... well-wrought prose with firework bursts of brilliant writing that captivate, scintillate, intoxicate, [settings, such as parties; scenes, such as a pair of couples amid a crisis; but also descriptive phrases tossed into a sentence here or there, like bright gems broken loose from a necklace of stars ... ] but thus a little self-conscious, distracting at times. Does the collage of prose styles cohere? [It's a strikingly bold attempt; compare it to what [author: John Dos Passos] was doing a few years before in Manhattan Transfer . And whose language is it? I.E., are the quotable metaphors F. Scott Fitzgerald's notebook aperçus, or insights of the narrator, who happens upon the lives of Gatsby and Daisy ... himself confessing literary aspirations but having written "solemn and obvious editorials" without any great pretensions [as "faceless" as Marlowe in [book: Heart of Darkness]. It starts creeping up on the reader in Chapter One, which begins in a plain, straightforward, declarative style, and then starts to effloresce: a voice with " ... a singing compulsion ...", " ... a wan, charming, discontented face....", " ... sunshine fell with romantic affection upon her glowing face ...", "... the silver pepper of the stars ...", and all these brilliant filagrees in a chapter that also repeats the word restless at least three times. Paragraph One, Chapter Two, another amazing phrase pops up "...spasms of bleak dust..." as if the narrator were parroting T.S. Eliot or Wallace Stevens.

These frissons of sensitive poetry are like collectible treasures; they could be anthologized into a little collection unto themselves: E.G., " ... the formless grace of our nervous, sporadic games ... " Would the novel be any better or worse without them? Do the fits of hyper-aware language assist the ultimate aim of the forward motion of the story, and our insights into character, or undercut? [See [author: F. Scott Fitzgerald]'s attempts to gather such scintilla, The Crack-Up ... atmospheres and snapshots and even bits of theme in search of some all-embracing subject ... an obsession many an American twentieth-century author, taken here to obsessive levels ... ? ...] ... maybe so, if you like jewels, and crystals, and crystal-construction ... while I happen to prefer unfoldment of the organic branch ...

... might the book over-reach a bit, aiming at an allegory of America, as the author had originally hoped ... when it might be seen instead as an extended prose proem ...? ...

... is Gatsby really ever fully portrayed as a person? He seems more like Fitzgerald trying write of himself as seen in a mirror, from the third person, through the persona of someone he's seen at a party, yet doesn't get past the surface of the glass, beyond the mask ... reality underlying appearance ... and so the narrator's friendship with him is kept at a distance for half of the way through, then serving, as his blind, ultimately to briefly be his only one true friend ... a guy with an incredible smile, who holds a torch for a gal for a really long time ... and in so doing finds himself living outside the law, yet not beyond the reality of popular morality of the times, in his quest to Get The Girl ... ... herself curiously more convincingly vivid as a particular voice than a face ...

... [what's interesting to me is how the secret of his past hearkens back to the war, and immediately after ... a trope that will prove emblematic, later on, with the existential hero, and noir] ...

... am I a sloppy reader or what: is the final handling of the backstory of George & Myrtle a bit arch [it's a spoiler how they link up to the front story ... beginning, "Now I want to go back a little and tell what happened at the garage after we left there the night before....," the occurrence in question seeming as arch as that opening line ... as in uncanny quirks of fate commonplace in, say, soap opera ... ]

... [and, ultimately], is the novel, the novel in general, primarily an image of truth, or a record of manners?

I'm thinking here of how Somerset Maugham came in when the novel was still being seen as potential for an "image of truth" and turned the fatal switch with Of Human Bondage : novel as pot-boiler; the best-seller.

If the latter, as here, The Great Gatsby deserves five stars [note: now literature too has come to this: the star-rating system], quick-scan code for the shopper's eye]. Yet such use of the novel, fiction, seem to limit / constrict the medium's full potential, as mined by Joseph Conrad, Gustave Flaubert, Marcel Proust, Henry James, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, John Dos Passos, William Faulkner ...

Compare the vacillating impressions of Gatsby, his origins, his success, and his ambitions, with those of William Faulkner's Sutpen in Absalom, Absalom! , more the Great American Novel, in my Good Reads logbook; the fruition of a series of distinctly remarkable novels beginning with Flags in the Dust , and this forming a kind of extended prequel, if you will, to part of The Sound and the Fury ; although The U.S.A. Trilogy is also a close contender amongst my very best fictional good reads, as is Thomas Wolfe's magnum opus. My own all-time hands-down favorite book of F. Scott Fitzgerald remains The Pat Hobby Stories , along with some other of his post-Jazz Age stories.

p. s.
a case has been made for Zelda Fitzgerald having had a hand in the authorship of certain of F. Scott Fitzgerald's works. i regret that i have not studied this enough to say anything intelligent as to how that bears on the novel at hand, except that it need be noted.

Well, that's my book report.

Wishing you all good reads.


message 4: by [deleted user] (new)

i just posted on my read books Zelda
biography of zelda fitzgerald who is reputed to be the inspiration for daisy
indeed the premise of the book, Zelda and i think acknowledged in academia is that F. Scott took Zelda's words, whole from her letters to write gatsby
they are reproduced in the book and indeed are a large part of the great
i can't review gg in any good conscience with f. scott's name as author
he ransacked her heart and mind and left her to die for his own glory claiming her words as his
...if this ever gets correctly attributed I would love to review Zelda's the Great Gatsby.

message 5: by P.M. (last edited Mar 05, 2008 08:44AM) (new)

P.M. (novelist) | 1 comments
The Great Gatsby, a review by P.Russell
Describing F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, The Great Gatsby, is like describing the Holy Grail. It is an enigma, no doubt, but does it hold up to its reputation? The diverse opinions on the subject flourish to this day. This is how it is with Fitzgerald’s writings. He possessed infinite insights of the 1920’s world of wealth, flappers and excess. Fitzgerald put a piece of himself into each of his novels. The Great Gatsby was no exception.
Fitzgerald wrote the Great Gatsby while living in France with his family during the latter part of the 1920s. He lived large and wrote from his personal observations. In the character of Jay Gatsby, Fitzgerald infused a lesser known part of himself. Like the author, Gatsby fell in love with ideals. In this case, it was Daisy Buchanan, a former love and current wife of the wealthy Tom Buchanan. Gatsby intent on winning back her affections loses sight of the bigger picture. To Gatsby, Daisy was a prize to attain at all costs. When Gatsby and Daisy were together in a previous life, outside the world of money and prestige, they clicked. She and Gatsby had met and fallen in love during the war, when Jay was a young officer with no money or position. Yet, it seems, Daisy may have grown bored of love without money. Nonetheless, Gatsby was blown by the winds of war, and as such, knew his love was fated.
In the ensuing years, Gatsby managed to amass his own fortune through the illegal sale of alcohol.
When Gatsby reconnects with his beloved Daisy, she is entrenched in a world of haughty materialism. Gatsby is blind to her shortcomings for he sees the lovely girl he fabricated in his romantic dream.
Meanwhile, Tom Buchanan, Daisy’s husband has a mistress, Myrtle Wilson, the wife of the owner of a garage in a less desirable area on the outskirts of town. It is this affair which, through mistaken identity, proves fatal for Gatsby.
The story is narrated by Nick Carraway, Daisy’s cousin and Tom Buchanan’s former school mate from Yale. Carraway, well aware of Tom’s affair and no fan of Gatsby, gives an objective account of the goings on in this self absorbed clique. Carraway, himself, rents a house near Gatsby’s and is witness to their daily pursuits. Initially, Carraway finds Gatsby's ostentatious and flamboyant existence beyond his tastes. In due course, however, Carraway sees Gatsby in a different light. He begins to understand what motivated Gatsby. His overzealous lifestyle was intended to impress his heart’s desire rather than satisfy a personal need.
Nick Carraway ultimately realizes that the Buchanan’s were pompous individuals who trampled over anyone who crossed them. Then they would retreat back into their wealth and let other people clean up the mess. He also realizes that Gatsby, the bootlegger who pursued his fortune, was “worth the whole damn bunch put together. This meant something, coming from the fallible and pretentious Carraway.
Had Gatsby seen Daisy for what she really was rather than the romanticized version in his mind, he could not have loved her the way he did. Due to his inability to see her without his rose-colored glasses, he was doomed from the start. His love for Daisy is what motivated him to pursue his fortune in the first place.
In the end, it is up to Carraway to clean up the mess and tidy up Gatsby’s affairs. Gatsby, who always had a full house when giving a party, was nearly alone at his funeral.
The critics of the time praised Fitzgerald for his “irony, pity and a consuming passion." Like many of his characters, Fitzgerald closes in on life one detail at a time.
Now that we are in the 21st century, The Great Gatsby stands the test of time. The same human frailties which plagued society in the 1920s still present themselves today. Sure fashions and technology has changed but the basic human motivations remain the same. Fitzgerald showed us the world for what it really is, beyond the fantasies we build around it.

message 6: by Gary (new)

Gary | 7 comments maureen, i've appended my notes to include zelda, as was already on my mind.

gatsby cannot be spotlit without illuminating zelda.

my friend poet kaye mcdonough has written on the subject, if you're ever researching it further.

message 7: by [deleted user] (last edited Feb 26, 2008 07:26PM) (new)

thanks gary-i would love to research it further
i'll take a look at kaye's work
reading the biography totally convinced me
whole paragraphs from her letters are reproduced in gatsby
she wasn't a mere inspiration
she basically wrote those descriptive parts you mention above
the heartbreaking thing is she writes to F.Scott the most heartrending things and he gives her no credit
ah well-for that reason her story haunts me

Nancy Milford is the author of the Zelda biography and others on goodreads have done some great reviews

message 8: by Gary (new)

Gary | 7 comments all i remember is hearing that Zelda Fitzgerald pretty much wrote at least half of Tender Is the Night , and I didn't know how much else of what else. I know men lack an extra X-chromosome, but still what a shock.

Kaye McDonough's book is entitled Zelda: Frontier Life in America published by City Lights [San Francisco:], probably out of print. Kaye and I gave a few readings together, when she lived here: a really great gal.

message 9: by LooseLips (last edited Feb 28, 2008 01:11PM) (new)

LooseLips | 3 comments

The eh Gatsby

Classic. Yes. THE great American novel. Hmph, so I heard. I suppose it should make one more interested, or at least feel more compelled to read something (or re-read as is the case here) when it has "classic" and "everyone else loves it!" stamped all over it. And has a movie made out of it, though what beloved novel hasn't these days? Of course, I originally read FSF's Gatsby because I was expected to for a high school English class. So, even though I was never the type to do homework, I read The Great Gatsby because it had a neat cover, Fitzgerald is fun to say, and, of course, the legend of Zelda.

Unfortunately for Meredyth, my thoughts on Gatsby 10 years ago are pretty similar to the thoughts I have on it today: How pretty. Pretty decedant. How drippy. How zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

It's not that I was completely uninterested. It's that my interest was never piqued to the point of really giving a shit. Sure, who doesn't love a hot, mysteriously wealthy man, with serious heart ache for a serious material girl? What about those rich dudes who may be crooks but no one can figger out how crooked they are exactly because how crooked can you be if you throw such mean ho downs?!

Oh, and I love a good morally ambiguous-protaganist/narrator-who-hates-parties-and-society-but-just-can't-seem-to-stay-away as much as the next person, but Nick, our hero, just wants to be liked so very much, and unfortunately, he reads like a sap. And when all the other characters are unforgivable bores, I would prefer that my ambiguous, socially mandated narrator manage to keep me awake.

What about those three stars? You ask. Well I can't lie. I do think Fitz had a way with words. I did find those subtle nuances of the variations in lifestyle during the depression to be very much in effect, and I would be happy to visit any fictional small town called West Egg. Or East Egg for that matter. And I get the kind of crazy he was going for in his more psychopathic character, George Wilson, who, because he was in love, becomes the bastian of normalcy even when he is driven to murder and his own suicide.

FSF also managed to be believably compassionate towards his seemingly less insane characters, (who are definitely all on the brink of insanity) (but still made me drowsy). There is a part of me that sawe how one could be drawn into the twinkly lit world FSF created, supposedly, out of his own reality. And I have noted his passion for the beauty of the unfolding story, such as it is.

But I was disappointed 10 years ago by the story's inability to convince me it wasn't nap time, its unwillingness to point out the the relevance of the individual over society, and the irrelevance of the world Gatsby inhabits, and I was disappointed again this past week.

message 10: by Greg (new)

Greg | 1 comments

To read The Great Gatsby is to indulge in a somber yet irresistibly gripping and bittersweet eulogy for the so-called American Dream, set among the social elite of New York in the Roaring 20's. The character of Jay Gatsby is the very personification of Urban America in the Jazz Age: both naively try to distance themselves from their illicit and violent adolescence by desperately grasping at what remains of their long-dead ideals; both learn in no uncertain terms that the past cannot be escaped any more than it can be relived. Fitzgerald's stark, gorgeous prose yields new rewards with each reading, and the imagery haunts in a way that no film adaptation has ever been able to capture. In short: Best. Book. Ever.

message 11: by Matt (last edited Mar 05, 2008 02:17PM) (new)

Matt | 6 comments

Perfection is a suitable word to describe ‘The Great Gatsby’ by Fitzgerald. If this goodreads contest had a one word limit reviewers might say: astonishing, enchanting, genius, beautiful, memorable, timeless, and so forth. Basically reviewers would use terms with extremely positive connotations.
Thankfully for the reviewers and readers our word limit is 750, a brief but adequate amount.
Narration is one element Fitzgerald used to make this book so engaging. Nick Carraway, the narrator, arrives at West Egg New York from the Midwest. Early in the story the reader realizes that Carraway is reflecting back on something life changing that he will tell. First person can relay a story intimately, and the reader can feel directly in tune with the narrator’s thoughts.
With Carraway as the outsider looking in he introduces a whole set of characters: the Buchanans, Jay Gatsby, Gatsby’s mistress, a gas attendant, party flappers, gangsters and so on. All of the characters are described with precision. Fitzgerald like no one else can introduce a character and bring him or her to life through description, dialogue, opinions, and perfect word choices.
Now, here is the basic story outline. Nick Carraway looks back on his time with Gatsby. Carraway moved to small rental house next to Gatsby’s mansion. Carraway’s relative was Daisy Buchanan who lived in East Egg across the river. So Carraway’s social set was through Daisy and her brutish husband Tom. The story evolves and Carraway is invited to his neighbor’s party with others to follow. At these parties Gatsby created a mystique, because no one really knew him, but rumors were rampant. After awhile Carraway was summoned by Gatsby and became a confidant. Gatsby told of his Oxford days which he exaggerated, and soon expressed his passion for Daisy, an ex-girlfriend. Carraway becomes a go between for Gatsby and Daisy and soon becomes entangled in their situation. Toward the end in the hotel room scene the problem resolves and Daisy returns to her husband. Gatsby’s mistress gets run over and in a misunderstanding Gatsby gets murdered. Carraway arranges the sparsely arranged funeral, learns of his hatred for people like the Buchanans, and the novel ends.
This plot line unravels slowly chapter by chapter in this short American classic. Mysteries develop that pull the reader through the text. Almost every character Carraway encounters needs to be figured out. Three mysteries resolve around Gatsby. Who is he? How did he become rich and was it through illegal means? Lastly, what is his puppy dog infatuation with Daisy Buchanan? These mysteries and other questions all get resolved at the conclusion, giving the reader a very fulfilling feeling after the turn of the last page.
No book review of ‘The Great Gatsby’ can neglect to mention the theme of money. Nick Carraway, on the first page states his background from a well off family. Tom and Daisy are in the same boat with money passed down through generations. Gatsby fabricated his upbringing of inherited wealth when he had humble origins. The old time money in this story lived in East Egg, while the new money lived in West Egg. Gatsby yearned for and created his wealth solely to impress Daisy. But he did it the wrong way with gaudy parties that were attended by people with lower status. When Daisy finally attends a party, she does not care for it. Rich versus poor is also a theme, illustrated masterfully by the gas attendant and his financial woes with his unfaithful wife who he loved dearly. Near the end Carraway told Gatsby. ‘They're a rotten crowd.’…”Your worth the whole bunch put together.’ This shows the impact Gatsby had on the narrator in concern with society and money.
Perfection is the one word I chose to describe ‘The Great Gatsby’ and this is why; a definition of fine literature is the complete understanding of the human condition. This classic displays humanity vividly. The emotions of the characters are universal. Gatsby’s mansion, his car, the roaring twenties, and the extravagance are all the backdrop, or setting. But the drama, life changes, and interactions all adults can relate to. As the narrator, people go through life figuring out mysteries, and forming mottos to live by.
Fitzgerald wrote this and three other gems of novels along with his numerous short stories. One has to wonder if he lived until old age what he would have produced. For one thing, if he had more longevity, Hemingway would have nothing on him.

message 12: by Russell (last edited Mar 06, 2008 08:11AM) (new)

Russell | 5 comments My thoughts on The Great Gatsby:

I don't actually remember many of the details of this book, but luckily I do remember that middle aged hipsters throwing hipster parties and wooing the ladyfolk is dumb as shit. Doesn't matter how well written it is.

Three stars out of five for occasionally excessive, but frequently lame, drinking scenes.

message 13: by LooseLips (new)

LooseLips | 3 comments i want to vote for russells review now because he said ladyfolk. but my competetive instincts won't let me.

message 14: by Matt (last edited Mar 05, 2008 08:24AM) (new)

Matt | 6 comments Well, I don't think Mr. Russell's brief review has any typos. I'm so mad at myself for writing 'gyms' when I meant 'gems.' I think I have a couple other typos too.
I'm debating right now which other review to cast my vote for.

message 15: by Russell (last edited Mar 06, 2008 08:11AM) (new)

Russell | 5 comments I'm disappointed to admit that I don't even know where/how to cast my vote. Please, send help.

Also, if this episode in the competition is any indication, you can more or less be guaranteed that whenever I have the chance to post a review it will be FAR shorter than most others. I like to cut to the chase...

message 16: by Matt (new)

Matt | 6 comments Russell,
The guidelines stated to put a link in this posting to the same review in your profile. I believe to vote you simply click on the link of the one you liked and vote on that book review page. Not on here. Some reviewers might want to check their links to see if they work, and some might want to put links on their postings. It's easy to do, you just cut and paste the web address.
Do you guys think it's okay to edit submissions already posted? I noticed you can edit all of your own postings.
Take care,

message 17: by Russell (new)

Russell | 5 comments Thanks Matt. I'll edit my submission accordingly and wait for the flood of votes to pour in...

message 18: by Meredyth (last edited Mar 06, 2008 08:53AM) (new)

Meredyth | 1 comments Loose Lips has my vote.

message 19: by LooseLips (new)

LooseLips | 3 comments thats pretty classy meredyth. considering your love for all things gatsby. good thing its not a tom robbins book.

message 20: by CMT325 (new)


How far would you go to win over the person you were in love with? Gatsby has risked everything to become rich and powerful to win back Daisy, his old love. His love for Daisy exceeds all reason, and the results are disastrous.

message 21: by Kim (new)

Kim (durgin19) | 2 comments my review

Ah, the Roaring Twenties! What music! What dance moves! What cheating! F.Scott Fitzgerald's book, The Great Gatsby , takes the reader into a world of the 20's rarely seen in its nostalgic films and music. Fitzgerald takes us behind the curtain to see that all that glitters is not necessarily gold.

Although most characters in this book do possess some character trait that ultimately leads them into life-changing decisions, none seem to portray this more than Jay Gatsby. Though his lavish parties and expensive clothes say different, Gatsby is a man with only one goal, to win the heart of Daisy Buchanan. How he attempts to do this and the tragic problems that result is the central plot of this story.

Overall, the characters help make one thing very clear about not only the 20's but even today. There will always be those who come to the party, make a mess, and then run away. Each time I reread this book, I find myself thinking about the individuals whose paths I cross who do just that.

message 22: by Jonah (new)

Jonah A teacher once explained to me: “Lots of us have read Gatsby, but we should remember that there are some people out there who haven't had the advantages of reading it.”

I’ve always remembered that, because it’s true. Some people out there can not recall a single memory from any of the book’s scenes: the billboard eyes of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg, the view of Gatsby’s house across the way and his view of Daisy’s green light over the water, or even the bookcover’s multilayered images of fireworks over Coney Island at night and the nude-pupil-ed eyes of a woman with a green tear down her right cheek. Many do not recall the exact meaning of The Great Gatsby.

They read it in English classes, and can place some of the scenes. Fitzgerald’s descriptions of life in New York City in 1922, the characters names: Jay Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan and Tom Buchanan, Jordan Baker, Wolfshiem, Wilson, the basic plot outline. The promise of love and it’s quick and invisible disappearance. Maybe a few more details here and there. But then what?

I knew a girl who was almost a lady
She had a way with all the men in her life
Every inch of her blossomed in beauty
She was born on the Fourth of July

I used to sleep at the foot of Old Glory
And awaken by the dawn’s early light
But much to my surprise when I opened my eyes
I was the victim of the Great Compromise

- John Prine “The Great Compromise”

It is not a coincidence that the main characters in both song and book personify America in their respective settings. Later in the song, at the drive-in movie, the girl abandons the singer only to jump into another sports car. Gatsby also drove a yellow sports car. In fact, as Americans, we have always had an affinity for cars, trucks, motorcycles -- the road. Think of James Dean, Frank Bullitt, or even 2 Fast 2 Furious. So maybe there is a theme here, in both song and book and culture, that can be distilled into a common bond which is something unequivocally American.

John Prine is a singer-songwriter who released four albums on Atlantic Records between 1971-75, was dropped and moved to Asylum in 1978, and then started his own record label, Oh Boy, in 1984, which he’s been running since. And while comparisons of John Prine to Bob Dylan were probably overused at the time, there is a legitimate connection. Dylan, after all, exploded the possibility of meaning in a folk or rock-and-roll song for every singer-songwriter following him by incorporating the influence of Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac. But before rock-and-roll, the closest thing was jazz, specifically be-bop, which was Kerouac’s model for his writing. And it was jazz, but more specifically The Jazz Age, a term so perfectly coined by Fitzgerald, that brought the beginnings of our modern American culture, and a world which is described so vividly in Gatsby.

New York City in 1922. The boys home from an unprecedented war. Prohibition, bootleggers, speakeasies. The market up, up, up. Major scandal in baseball. Exhibitionists dancing on poles, frat boys swallowing goldfish, big booming cities. Women’s suffrage, development of insulin, Albert Einstein, James Joyce, Sigmund Freud, Marcel Proust, T.S. Eliot.

But Gatsby is about none of these things. It’s just the memories of one summer, but in it is the personification of American values and ideals, then and now. Gatsby, Fitzgerald, the self-inventor, the celebrity, the privileged, the host, the liar and cheater, the idealist, and his desire, knowing or unknowing, of Daisy, Zelda, the delicate, the musical, the unattainable, the truth.

But the truth is never certain. Gatsby is loaded with factual inaccuracies and contradictions in its timeline while the narrator reveals his observations in an indirect manner, as if the facts or plot are less important than the images we see. In recalling scenes from Gatsby, we aren’t sure what we remember, however, what we observe of Gatsby and Daisy is vivid and dream-like. The narrator, Nick Carraway, is the eyes of the reader. The same eyes as Doctor T.J. Eckleburg, watching over the story from a modern billboard advertisement. The reader watches as Nick watches, as Gatsby watches Daisy’s light from his window, as Nick watches Gatsby’s mansion across the way. And we watch the story unfold, like recalling a distant memory, against the current, borne into the past…

message 23: by Lane (new)

Lane Wilkinson (wilk) | 1 comments I prefer brevity...

my review

Hey, it's me again...'The Great Gatsby'....
Remember? From 10th grade? The jeremiad about Jazz Age decadence? The litmus-test for all 20th-century American novels? West Egg? Nick Carraway? Rampant classism and clandestine romance? Remember...?

Oh...all you remember is 'West Egg'? For shame...I was a novel before Cliffs Notes were even invented, dude. I suggest you call up Mrs. Mulcahy and ask her to remind you why she assigned me in the first place.

message 24: by [deleted user] (last edited Mar 08, 2008 02:46PM) (new)

nice jonah
i want to save this and reread
to see if i agree
a review that makes one think rather than one that sums up opinion in the last sentence

message 25: by Alex (new)

Alex | 1 comments

The Great Gatsby is your neighbor you're best friends with until you find out he's a drug dealer. It charms you with some of the most elegant English prose ever published, making it difficult to discuss the novel without the urge to stammer awestruck about its beauty. It would be evidence enough to argue that F. Scott Fitzgerald was superhuman, if it wasn't for the fact that we know he also wrote This Side of Paradise.

But despite its magic, the rhetoric is just that, and it is a cruel facade. Behind the stunning glitter lies a story with all the discontent and intensity of the early Metallica albums. At its heart, The Great Gatsby throws the very nature of our desires into a harsh, shocking light. There may never be a character who so epitomizes tragically misplaced devotion as Jay Gatsby, and Daisy, his devotee, plays her part with perfect, innocent malevolence. Gatsby's competition, Tom Buchanan, stands aside watching, taunting and provoking with piercing vocal jabs and the constant boast of his enviable physique. The three jostle for position in an epic love triangle that lays waste to countless innocent victims, as well as both Eggs of Long Island. Every jab, hook, and uppercut is relayed by the instantly likable narrator Nick Carraway, seemingly the only voice of reason amongst all the chaos. But when those boats are finally borne back ceaselessly by the current, no one is left afloat. It is an ethical massacre, and Fitzgerald spares no lives; there is perhaps not a single character of any significance worthy even of a Sportsmanship Award from the Boys and Girls Club.

In a word, The Great Gatsby is about deception; Fitzgerald tints our glasses rosy with gorgeous prose and a narrator you want so much to trust, but leaves the lenses just translucent enough for us to see that Gatsby is getting the same treatment. And if Gatsby represents the truth of the American Dream, it means trouble for us all. Consider it the most pleasant insult you'll ever receive.

message 26: by Heidi (new)

Heidi (hoogie) | 1 comments

So much of the lore surrounding this book focuses on Gatsby that I was surprised to finally meet him a quarter of the way into the book.

More than Gatsby, I am interested in the almost nameless narrator. Questions to consider: Why does he consider Gatsby great? Why is he peering back through time, sifting through the pale memories for the bright spots of color that mark the significant people and moments?

Allow yourself to sink into the greys, and be just as startled as Nick Carraway when a color reveals itself. I noticed no mention of color, or of grey, is trivial. I think the more intriguing character is Nick, not Gatsby. This can be missed because all the sparkle and dash of the parties, the drama, and the larger-than-life Gatsby can keep the reader flitting about on the surface, rather than sinking deeper for significant Nick moments. Nick, after all, is the one in the book who changes. It may not be that Gatsby is great, but that Nick's perception of Gatsby is great, and I find myself wondering, How did that affect the rest of Nick's life?

Nick says up front, "When I came back from the East last autumn I felt that I wanted the world to be in uniform and at a sort of moral attention forever; I wanted no more riotous excursions with privileged glimpses in the human heart. Only Gatsby, the man who gives his name to this book, was exempt from my reaction—Gatsby who represented everything for which I have an unaffected scorn."

Nick seems to need to downplay the impact that significant people and events have on him, such as Jordan Baker. "She was incurably dishonest." That seems to be attractive to him. Then Nick reveals this about himself: "Everyone suspects himself of at least one of the cardinal virtues, and this is mine: I am one of the few honest people that I have ever known."

I leave you with the first glimpse of Gatsby.

"I was still with Jordan Baker. We were sitting at a table with a man of about my age and a rowdy little girl who gave way upon the slightest provocation to uncontrollable laughter. I was enjoying myself now. I had taken two finger bowls of champagne and the scene had changed before my eyes into something significant, elemental, and profound."

See the book for the smile that comes next.

message 27: by Peter (last edited Mar 12, 2008 05:09AM) (new)

Peter | 3 comments

The Great Gatsby is the story of a presidential primary.

—I’m sorry; my notes must be confused here. Ah yes. Let me begin again:

The Great Gatsby is the story of the emptiness of the American Dream. Set in and around New York City in the 1920’s, Gatsby explores the lives of the rich as they pursue fulfillment in an era of booming stock markets, prohibition, bustling crime bosses, and jazz.

Three figures dominate a cast of smaller, if no less compelling, characters, and the novel is narrated by the American People—I mean, by Nick Carraway.

From the outset, Nick identifies the eponymous character, Barack—excuse me—Jay Gatsby, as having an “extraordinary gift for hope.” Transplanted from the Midwest, he arrives with a splash, builds a magnificent fortune, and draws great varieties of people to his parties. With his good looks, his air of confidence, and his rise from anonymity, Gatsby is an emblem of America.

But the details of his life are unknown for much of the novel, and there remains an element of mystery that inspires many but repels others. People project onto him their own romantic or terrific vision of who he is: a war hero, the nephew of Kaiser Wilhelm, a murderer, or even the second cousin of the devil. In this way, he is as much a symbol of our own human imagination as he is of America’s possibility.

More familiar to Nick, however, is Daisy Fay, Nick’s second cousin once removed, and her wealthy husband, Bill Clin—I mean: Tom Buchanan, whom Nick knew in college. And yet, Nick acknowledges that they were yet “two friends whom I scarcely knew at all.” Nonetheless, it is Nick’s involvement in Daisy and Tom’s struggles with Gatsby that drive the novel.

For, Daisy and Gatsby were lovers years ago, and Gatsby still represents all that Daisy wishes for and desires. Yet, to secure her prosperity, she married Tom. By so choosing, Hillary—I’m terribly sorry… I must clear my notes. Let me try again—By choosing to marry Tom, Daisy comes to represent the struggle of all women in the 1920s. Women had just won the right to vote and many, like the flappers, began to explore women’s new freedoms in society. Caught in this conflict, Daisy assays to present a formal and composed visage, but her humanity—alternating between sadness and ecstasy—seems to reveal itself most in moments of tears.

At one point, it seems ecstasy will triumph. When Gatsby and Daisy first reunite, it is the stuff of dreams: “It was the hour of a profound human change and excitement was generating on the air.”

But this was not meant to be. Daisy’s husband Bill, er, Tom, we realize, is the dominating force. We first meet Tom “standing with his legs apart” and moments later discover that he has a history of affairs. He is sturdily built and, in Nick’s mind, “would drift on forever seeking a little wistfully for the turbulence of some irrecoverable [past].” At one point, he also reveals unsavory predilections when he declares, “Civilization’s going to pieces… Have you read ’The Rise of the Coloured Empires’ by this man Goddard?” In moments like this, Tom’s stamp of authority and will seem to take the air out of a room. Gatsby, he even charges, “threw dust into [Nick’s] eyes.”

Writ large, The Great Gatsby questions the nature and successes of all three characters. Gatsby, the dreamer whose smile has “a quality of eternal reassurance in it that you may come across four or five times in life,” proves ephemeral; Nick disapproves of him one moment, but later has “renewals of complete faith in him.” Tom and Daisy, on the other hand, “were careless people…they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they made.”

But reevaluated most of all is Nick. When Gatsby meets a tragic end at the hands of a misguided delusional, and when Tom and Daisy abandon everyone, Nick also rejects the very dream that brought him East.

Nick writes the story in retrospect, as if to confront his own complicity. “Reserving judgments is a matter of infinite hope,” he says, but his hope evidently runs out. Overcome by the “foul dust” and “grotesque reality” stirred up by the Buchanans, and without Gatsby’s “romantic readiness,” America—

Nick, that is—

…is “borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

message 28: by Lisa (new)

Lisa | 1 comments

"I first read the Great Gatsby when I was sixteen. Gatsby’s relentless pursuit of unrequited love was enough to set my adolescent pulse racing and send me to the library with the grand ambition of reading everything Fitzgerald ever wrote. A decade later I am even more awed by the book than I was the first time I followed Gatsby’s story through the breathless pages of Fitzgerald’s modernist American classic.
The story takes place over the course of one summer, not coincidentally beginning just before Independence Day. The narrator, Nick, moves to a peninsula out side of the city called West Egg which looks straight across to its physical double, East Egg. Despite the outward similarity of these two locations, the inhabitants of East Egg are from old money while the prosperity of the citizens of West Egg is due to much more recently acquired wealth. The towns are therefore described as, in actuality, bearing a “bizarre and not a little sinister contrast” to one another. This juxtaposition sets up a narrative of the push and pull of opposites: east versus west, new versus old, truth versus illusion.
The two worlds of West Egg and East Egg are brought onto a collision course through Nick who rents the house next door to James Gatsby’s enormous mansion and who happens to be the cousin of Gatsby’s love interest, Daisy, and friend to Daisy’s old moneyed, old fashioned husband, Tom Buchanan. As the summer unfolds, it becomes clear that none of the characters are whom they appear to be, Gatsby is not from a rich family nor is he an alumni of Oxford, as a matter of fact, when he first met and fell in love with Daisy he had almost no money at all. Tom is an outspoken proponent of the traditional family structure while he simultaneously carries on an affair, and Daisy is neither quite as brave nor quite as independent as she would like the world to believe. Even Jordan Baker, Daisy’s friend who has an affair with Nick that summer, is a professional golfer who has been accused of cheating and is described by Nick as “incurably dishonest.” Each character can also be understood to stand for a different arch type within American society, Tom is the wealthy patrician, carrying in his blood and his bearing decades of privilege and position, yet he has recently begun to read pseudo-science books about the impending fall of civilization. In other words, that civilization which has been shaped and protected by men in Tom’s social class is in jeopardy. Daisy is a modern woman, witty and provocative, she has even had sex before her wedding night, but when she announces to Nick that she is sophisticated he feels “the basic sincerity of what she has said.” Flappers of the twenties may have looked and behaved unconventionally, but when it came right down to it, most of them married men liked Tom who could provide them with material security. Jordan is more the truly modern woman, a professional who mostly takes care of herself, but she has achieved this position through various acts of dishonesty. Gatsby, of course, is the self made man, the challenge to the established order of society. It is not Gatsby’s existence that threatens the world of East Egg, America has always boasted of self-made men, it is the fact that he has suddenly come so close. He is just across the bay and his mansion, while gaudy and tasteless, is nevertheless every bit as big as Tom’s. Gatsby is finally in a position to make a claim on Daisy’s love, and therefore on Tom’s social superiority. He is so close to fulfilling the American dream he can almost reach right out and touch it.
Like Fitzgerald himself, Gatsby pursues his dream through the vehicle of fiction. Gatsby invents a new persona for himself in order to enter Daisy’s world; Fitzgerald created windows into the lives of the rich and glamorous and through these stories, became a figure of fame and fortune himself. In the end, Gatsby does not succeed in winning Daisy, but it isn’t really about her, it’s about his dream, his belief in limitless possibilities, that quality of bravery and ingenuity that has come to be known as the American dream. “The orgastic 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--"

message 29: by Gina (new)

Gina (ghprescott)

Over drinks, I’ve observed—like so many smart alacks—that much of The Great Gatsby’s popularity relies heavily on its shortness. At a sparse 180 pages, Fitzgerald’s masterpiece could be argued to be the “Great American novella.” Gatsby, like so many other short classics, is easily readable, re-readable, and assessable to everyone from the attention-deficient young to mothers juggling a kid, a career, and a long-held desire to catch up on all those books “they should have read but haven’t gotten around to yet”.

I’ve now read Gatsby three times, and I admit that on my first reading during (like handfuls of others) my senior year English class, I wasn’t particularly fond of the book; I believe I used the adjective “overrated” on numerous occasions. Daisy Buchanan seemed like a twit of a woman, and I found Jay Gatsby to be pathetically clawing in his attempt to attain her. Nick, my guide, only annoyed me further with his apparent hero-worshiping of a man I found one-dimensional and his adoration for the kind of woman I’ve seen other men purport to be goddesses, but in fact, are dim-witted simpletons with nice figures.

Over my two subsequent readings—pushed along by friends whose judgment I trusted and who swore the book was “so funny and ironic”—I discovered within Fitzgerald’s fable a sardonic social wit and a heavily layered critique of the American Dream: the poor, working (wo)man rising above his or her social station to discover money conquers all.

Fitzgerald has a discerning ability for sharp critiques of the economically privileged and, like Jane Austin, has an ear for realistic, bantering dialogue. Through Nick’s narration, we see a world that so many Americans dream of (its enviableness only further accentuated by our open disdain for it): a life of endless parties, delicious food, beautiful clothes, and Paris Hilton. Nick who’s paradoxically drawn to his cousin, Daisy’s, and her husband, Tom’s, lifestyle with gloating contempt echoes the contemporary American idolization of an elite lifestyle that none but a select few attain.

We watch Daisy with her voice that “sounds of money” flit about with uncompromising shallowness and vivacious school-girl frivolity, and through her, see so many of the inconsequential remarks and actions others (as well as ourselves) have made for the sheer sake of “having a good time”. In spite of her frivolity and weak disposition, we become, like Gatsby, “overwhelmingly aware of the youth and mystery that wealth imprisons and preserves, of the freshness of many clothes, and of Daisy, gleaming like silver, safe and proud above the hot struggles of the poor.”

Through Gatsby’s veneration of Daisy, we not only imagine what so many Americans desire (success), but also we see the goal and glittering fixation of all humanity: beauty. And like many Americans in the throws of Capitalism, Gatsby believes that money can buy beauty as well as love. Fitzgerald articulates this disillusion with haunting force, particularly voiced through Nick’s obsessive repulsion with the extravagant society his social status has allowed him and the sadness he finds while watching a “working man” attempt to enter it.

One critique of The Great Gatsby, which could also be argued as a positive, is the limited scope of action and themes Fitzgerald chooses to encapsulate. We only see the wealthy elite (or people wanting to be the wealthy elite), and only Nick really has any depth of characterization. Unlike a tome, such as War and Peace, Gatsby fails to have numerous interwoven plotlines within a grand historical context. Yes, the Jazz Age is the novel’s backdrop, but Fitzgerald fails to engage in any discussion beyond a summer among the wealthy youth partying into the wee hours of the night in the West Egg. Yet, the control with which Fitzgerald expresses his limited themes makes the novel’s lack of scope forgivable.

Gatsby is short and easily accessible, and I have no doubt these aspects of the novel do lend to its everlasting popularity. At the same time, it should never diminish its truly admirable ability to tease apart some of the most confounding qualities American culture values: money, beauty, youth, hardwork, and the every effusive, love.

message 30: by Gary (last edited Mar 11, 2008 05:58PM) (new)

Gary | 7 comments money: interesting how nick, inherited wealth, looks to the past, while gatsby, the entrepeneur, looks to the future. apt.

plus a contrarian note, on f. scott fitzgerald's style: i'm still not sold here. to me he's like a poet who collects all the rhymes before writing a poem; as with many films of orson welles, the episodic scenes are individually fascinating but cumulatively a patchwork of devices rather than an organic entity. imho. [extra points off for filching fabric from his wife.]

message 31: by George (new)

George King (kinggeorge) | 1 comments Read from March 18 to 20, 2011

By some quirk in my personal history, I'd never read Gatsby. It has many beautifully written, poetic passages, and Gatsby's demise retains an ineffable sadness that moved me in the final pages. The absence of mourners at his funeral was particularly poignant. Fitzgerald's theme of pursuing an incompletely realized dream is universal, with the corollary that if one's timing is off, the dream may forever remain out of reach. Add to this a crushing irony: in order to win Daisy, Gatsby strove to make himself a member of her wealthy Long Island society, but she is shallow and frivolous and her husband is brutish and racist. The others in their group show no loyalty to Gatsby, the man who'd thrown them lavish parties, by deserting him in death.

I'll comment briefly on the poetic nature of Fitzgerald's prose. He uses two metaphors involving water that are linked inextricably to the action of the novel. At the beginning of the story, the narrator, Nick, notes that "Conduct may be founded on the hard rock or the wet marshes..." comparing conduct to an edifice that can be built on a solid base ("hard rock") or a tenuous one ("wet marshes"). Foreshadowing is at work here as Gatsby's springboard into affluent society turns out to be a yacht in a dangerously shallow mooring. Unfortunately, Gatshby is floating in his pool at the end when he is shot to death. The novel concludes with another "wet" metaphor in the justly famous line "So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessy into the past." Humans are boats struggling to row into the future, while all the while carried backward by Time's river. Figures of speech are only effective if they complement the surrounding language and action.

Another vivid display of language occurs at the beginning of Chapter III with a 2 1/2 page description of the preparations for and beginning of a typical Gatsby party. "On buffet tables, garnished with glistening hors d'oeuvre, spiced baked hams crowded against salads of harlequin designs and pastry pigs and turkeys bewitched to a dark gold." Later, the narrator notes, "The bar is in full swing, and floating rounds of cocktails permeate the garden outside, until the air is alive with chatter and laughter, and casual innuendo and introductions forgotten on the spot, and enthusisatic meetings between women who never knew each other's names." A milieu built on the "wet marshes" indeed.

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