Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Great Gatsby

The other night, I finished F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, just in time for our book group discussion.

Somehow, I managed to reach adulthood without reading this classic of American literature. I remember watching the Robert Redford movie, back in 1974 (memorable because it is the only time I can remember our going out to a movie together, just me and Mom, and memorable because: Robert Redford!!). Friends assured me that I must have read it in high school, but as soon as I started reading, I knew this wasn't the case.

In our book group, we discussed likeable female characters (none), and likeable male characters (Nick? Gatsby?). We discussed symbols of hope and the lifestyles of the bored rich and the nouveau rich. We discussed societal classes, and wandered into our struggles with religious faith (how did we make that leap?!?).

Here, I will simply say that that this book held me spellbound. Thanks to Mr. Redford, I knew how things were going to end, but the writing and the detail, and the portrayal of Gatsby's hope, growing and then fading to nothing, were splendid.

How could I not love lines like this?
The wind had blown off, leaving a loud, bright night, with wings beating in the trees and a persistent organ sound as the full bellows of the earth blew the frogs full of life.
Referring to the green light at the end of Daisy's dock - the light that Gatsby had watched, as he nourished his hope for a life with Daisy - Fitzgerald evoked a sense of loss.
Possibly it had occurred to him that the colossal significance of that light had now vanished forever. Compared to the great distance that had separated him from Daisy it had seemed very near to her, almost touching her. It had seemed as close as a star to the moon. Now it was again a green light on a dock. His count of enchanted objects had diminished by one.
Nick reported the difference between Gatsby and the Buchanans, and people like them. He saw how Gatsby had forged and clung to his dream, and how easily Daisy entered and then abandoned that same dream.
They were careless people, Tom and Daisy - they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made...
Tragic and sad and haunting, and still with a glimmer of hope, however futile:
Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that's no matter – to-morrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther... And one fine morning –

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

1 comment:

  1. My favorite American novel, well, tied with The Caine Mutiny. Glad you finally read and enjoyed it.