Monday, February 15, 2010

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

In 1922, F. Scott Fitzgerald announced his decision to write "something new--something extraordinary and beautiful and simple + intricately patterned." That extraordinary, beautiful, intricately patterned, and above all, simple novel became The Great Gatsby, arguably Fitzgerald's finest work and certainly the book for which he is best known. A portrait of the Jazz Age in all of its decadence and excess, Gatsby captured the spirit of the author's generation and earned itself a permanent place in American mythology. Self-made, self-invented millionaire Jay Gatsby embodies some of Fitzgerald's--and his country's--most abiding obsessions: money, ambition, greed, and the promise of new beginnings. "Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic 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--" Gatsby's rise to glory and eventual fall from grace becomes a kind of cautionary tale about the American Dream.

It's also a love story, of sorts, the narrative of Gatsby's quixotic passion for Daisy Buchanan. The pair meet five years before the novel begins, when Daisy is a legendary young Louisville beauty and Gatsby an impoverished officer. They fall in love, but while Gatsby serves overseas, Daisy marries the brutal, bullying, but extremely rich Tom Buchanan. After the war, Gatsby devotes himself blindly to the pursuit of wealth by whatever means--and to the pursuit of Daisy, which amounts to the same thing. "Her voice is full of money," Gatsby says admiringly, in one of the novel's more famous descriptions. His millions made, Gatsby buys a mansion across Long Island Sound from Daisy's patrician East Egg address, throws lavish parties, and waits for her to appear. When she does, events unfold with all the tragic inevitability of a Greek drama, with detached, cynical neighbor Nick Carraway acting as chorus throughout. Spare, elegantly plotted, and written in crystalline prose, The Great Gatsby is as perfectly satisfying as the best kind of poem.

Maybe I'm in the minority here, but I wouldn't describe this book as "extraordinary", "elegant", "beautiful", or "perfectly satisfying." I would describe it as... "boring", "boring", and "very boring".

When I was in high school, I remember this book being one selected as required reading. I vaguely remember hating it then, but when it was chosen as my book club pick for the month of January, I decided to give it another shot. You know, fairness and all that.... My taste in books has changed significantly since I joined my book club-- I had been in a reading "rut" and the ladies helped me widen my sights to more than my old standbys-- so I thought maybe this book would finally "speak to me" the way it so often seems to do to others.

Let me tell you, it didn't just speak, it SCREAMED to me. It screamed "SLEEP!!!!"

I tried. I really did. I thought maybe it would work like it does with food. You hate something as a child, but keep trying it- just in case- and you find that, as an adult, you really actually love it. ( I do this with fish, but guess what? I still hate it. ) As was my experience with this particular book. I'm pretty sure I would rather watch 18 hours of golf ON TV, ON A SATURDAY, than ever read this book again. No offense, Fitzgerald... You're just not my cup o' tea.

No comments: