Friday, October 21, 2016
The greatness of Gatsby
Not sure how many times I've read The Great Gatsby, nor am I sure when I last read it, but I know that every time I come back to it I find new things to admire and again and again I'm surprised at its beauty, in every possible manner: TGG is one of the rare, almost unique, novels that's great both for its plot and the beauty of its style. In fact the plot is so good and so well paced, the characters so vivid and "round" yet mysterious and elusive, that we tend to read right through the beauty of the writing - and to take for granted the incredible economy and precision with which Fitzgerald creates a character or establishes a scene. Although the last line of TGG is universally famous, I bet not one reader in a hundred, maybe a thousand, can quote the first line; I can't - but it's something about advice his father gave him to the effect of don't judge other people because they didn't have the advantages you have. FSF goes from there to establish Nick Carroway as the perfect narrator: his very personality is that of a narrator; following his father's advice he is a listener, and the type of person to whom people open up and confess - a perfect narrator, in other words. There are so many matters to marvel over in the first chapters - which in effect present 3 or maybe 4 social gatherings or parties: the dinner at the Buchanans' (who can forget the description of Tom, and his "cruel body"), the party at Gatsby's (the great and surprising intro of Gatsby to the story), the evening of heavy drinking at the NY apartment Buchanan keeps for his mistress, Myrtle (can it really be on the west side at 158th? Could that be a typo? should it be 58th?). Among the great passages: the description of the twin towns of East and West Egg - reminds me of the 2 different moods of Guermantes and Swans Way; the "valley of ashes" with the weird billboard and the lonesome Wilson auto shop (is this based on a real location outside of Queens?). I also note that someone could do a study or write a book about the characters not in Gatsby: The father, whom we never hear from again; the girl left behind back in the Midwest; the Jersey City girl Nick has an affair with; the guy with whom he'd originally planned to share the L.I. house who had to leave for another job - does he realize he walked out on the chance to be a character in one of the greatest American novels?