Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Classics Bookclub--The Great Gatsby

Classics Bookclub

I read The Great Gatsby in high school. I had little memory of it other than Robert Redford and the color white and something about a large car, which leads me to assume we must have watched the movie after reading and dissecting the novel.

Thus I had no real preconceived notions other than those vague associations and was a little curious about reading this icon of American literature.

And, now on the flip side, I'm somewhat perplexed as to its iconic status. I know, I know, who am I to critique an American classic like The Great Gatsby--but I have to tell you, though it is a short and therefore not an altogether unpleasant read, I just didn't like it much. Like I told you before, it's not my favorite.

I think part of my lack of enthusiasm is due to the fact that there's no real sympathetic character in the novel, no one likeable. In fact, in my humble opinion, Daisy, Gatsby and nearly everyone else are downright pathetic. The narrator, Nick, is, I suppose, likeable enough, but to me he seemed aloof, set apart from the story, his role as observer intentional I imagine.

Perhaps Gatsby's longevity is due to its portrayal of emptiness in the midst of decadence. And Fitzgerald's depiction of life in the 20's is every bit as decadent and reckless as one might imagine. Daisy and Gatsby both had every material object they could desire yet their misery is both acute and pitiful. I expected a story of thwarted love; instead The Great Gatsby underscores the empty (and tragic) pursuit of pleasure despite the highest degree of wealth and excess--a truth worth remembering.

10 comments:

  1. I agree wholeheartedly. I re-read it a couple years ago to see if I'd feel differently about it as an adult. No.

    The only good thing about it is its example on how NOT to live. (But I admit I feel heretical to dislaim a "classic"...)

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  2. I think that your assessment is right on.

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  3. I had to read it for high school too, and it's funny but those are the exact same memories I had of the book so we probably watched the movie too. LOL. I also remember really not liking it at all.

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  4. I agree with the "all the characters are pathetic" view for sure, it's a very pitiful story in many ways.

    Oddly though despite that, I am drawn to the writing in The Great Gatsby - I love authors who can say so much with so few words - a true gift (which I wish I had!!!) :)

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  5. I think my love for this book is the love for a great piece of literature rather than the love for a really enjoyable story. It's actually a rather painful story.

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  6. I'm so glad someone else doesn't take to The Great Gatsby. For exactly the same reasons as you mentioned, I have never really cared for it. Yet, I also believe, as you do, that it has lasted because of the moral decadence of the story and the breakdown of the characters.

    I enjoyed your post. Many blessings, Lisa.

    Andrea

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  7. Oh my goodness, Lisa! I have been checking your blog over and over and the only thing that ever came up was your April 18th post! Just wanted you to know in case your readership appears to have dropped. It took some real searching to find this post, and I'm not sure how to get back to your current one next time. Anyway, glad to discover this. Blessings.

    About Gatsby, and some other "classics," - whether it's literature, movies, or art - I do sometimes wonder who qualified the critics to label them as such. Meanwhile, some terrific work (writing, art, etc.)is overlooked. If you haven't read "Bruchko," by Bruce Olson, do! It is not a work of literature, but it's powerful enough to change lives.

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  8. I've never read this and was thinking last week I'd really like to read more classic literature. I had The Old Man and the Sea in mind...Ever read it??

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  9. At least in the movie, you can look at the clothes, which are rather fabulous.

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  10. I've never read this and was thinking last week I'd really like to read more classic literature. I had The Old Man and the Sea in mind...Ever read it??

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