Sunday, 6 March 2011

The Great Gatsby

Gatsby is hailed as the second best novel of the 20th century. However, I didn't read it for that reason. It was just mentioned amongst general online communities that I frequent, and I liked the themes that it covered.

A blog post like this cannot really do justice towards the thousands of essays and the like you can find. I had no idea how much this book was also covered in high schools. I didn't know it was considered one of the "great American novels".

The size of the introduction in most modern publications seems to be at least a quarter the size of the book, which is great if you're studying it at school, but quite irritating if you're just treating it as another cheap paperback before bed.

The prose is written with an elite craftsmanship, and I admired the delicate clarity of emotional scenes but felt myself confused through scenes containing social events, and the bits in-between. The plot lacked a consistent flow for me: it wasn't tied together; scenes opening and closing; characters dropping into the mix quite abruptly, which gives the book a good feel once the reader gets used to it, and I suppose echoes the pace of upper-class party life. The last dramatic scene isn't made clear; everything seems to be implied -- hinted at.  

I feel like it's a fantastic book, and it does offer so much in a small amount of pages -- even sometimes listed as a novella. I have a semi-confirmed inclination that Fitzgerald set out to write a classic, or something that felt like one. I say semi-confirmed:

Fitzgerald intended to edit and reshape Gatsby thoroughly, believing that it held the potential to launch him toward literary acclaim. He told his editor the novel was a "consciously artistic achievement" and a "purely creative work — not trashy imaginings as in my stories but the sustained imagination of a sincere and yet radiant world".
It leaves me questioning: does an author successfully intend to write a classic? Gatsby feels and reads like one, but I'm not sure if it truly is a great work, quite simply because I can't ignore its significance and its history of trying to be nothing but one of the greatest. So whether or not it really is something of high literary acclaim, I enjoyed it.


Maxine said...

I think F Scott Fitzgerald is a wonderful writer. I found that the Great Gatsby was a very sad story, here was a man who had everything except for the woman he loved. Fitzgerald evokes wonderful images of the period and you can feel the emptiness that Gatsby feels when the party is over, everyone has used him for his money and left him alone. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is even shorter than the Great Gatsby, it can only be called a short story (you wouldn't think so considering the length of the movie) but it asks so many questions about age and aging in so few pages that I thought it was amazing. I've also read Tender is the Night, but that is a more personal novel for Fitzgerald and I didn't enjoy it quite so much but I believe that he set out to make that one his masterpiece.

Jake said...

Hoping to re-read it again and more Fitzgerald