12 June 2013

The Great Gatsby: F. Scott Fitzgerald - Reading recommendation

This novel epitomises how important your mindset is going into reading some novels.

Set in 1920's New York, it's the 'Jazz Era' and Jay Gatsby, one of the city's wealthiest party men, is in love with a married woman. The 180 page book is narrated by Gatsby's neighbour Nick who also happens to be friends with Daisy, Gatsby's love interest. (A fantastic shortcut image of the novel plot can be found here.)

I wanted to improve myself, and one of my 101 in 1001 goals is to read the BBC's top 100 books, and this literary classic is acknowledged by many as the "Great American Novel". Did I love it?
Nah. It's a short read, but I had to make myself finish reading it. I just never got 'into' it. There was nothing to really sink your teeth into, as a Goodreads reader expresses it much better than me "Sure, who doesn't love a hot mysteriously wealthy man with serious heart ache for a serious material girl? ... 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."

The other characters also just seem 2D to me; I get that it's a comment on how shallow that time period was, but I needed something more to sink my teeth into, maybe reasonings behind why the characters acted they way they did or further indepth something. Mr Fitzgerald prose is sublime at times, but it kind of got in the way of any character development in my very humble opinion.

That, or I was affected by Leonardo DeCaprio's characterisation of the role in Baz Lurhman's movie and couldn't get Leo's boring face out of my head. As a director he has been accused of all fluff and no substance in this movie. To be kind of frank, I think that it perfectly suits the actual novel.

I went into the book completely fresh faced and open-minded expecting something incredible. I think I should have read a few reviews to balance my expectations. I think also that like Jack Kerouac and Terry Pratchett did, this novel needs to go onto to my re-visit list in a few years. Maybe re-reading it I will appreciate it more.

Have I got it all wrong?

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  1. I too have struggled with my 'meh' attitude to Gatsby. I really really wanted to like it when I read it, but I really struggled. I'm going to give it another go, because I've heard it described as a long-form poem and I think maybe if I try reading it that way and focus on the language rather than the story I'll enjoy it more. But I'm still searching for my Great American Novel

    1. I'm so glad I'm not alone! I think you're right, and maybe that's how I need to view it too.

  2. I did a whole semester on Fitzgerald in school (yes, JUST reading his novels) and it's definitely a book about surfaces. After all, in a lot of ways, Fitzgerald saw himself as Nick and Jay Gatz, constantly trying to be good enough.

    If you read his books, you'll notice that every hero is the same man, just aging!

    1. Wow, I'm not sure I could do that, but really interesting. I guess it's like what they say 'write what you know best'.

    2. Yeah, this guy was big into self reflection. :-P


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