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Dani Alexander--Author

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The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald

What's the point of another review? There are thousands of them on GR and Amazon.  Go knock yourself out.


Someone recently remarked that reading was 70% what the reader brings to a book and 30% what the author has written.  I'd say Gatsby is more 90/10.  I had to read this my junior year in high school and thought it was tedious and over-rated.  I decided to reread it yesterday because The Great Gatsby was used as a motif in another book I just finished reading, and other than the decadent and careless lifestyle that great wealth implies, I couldn't really see what the author's point was.  Honestly?  I still don't get it.  I'm going to call it Gatsby-as-book-decor, but I'm also going to thank Mr. Lanyon for sending me back to the original.


Because it. was. fantastic.


Such a beautifully written book.  Everything is there that needs to be there, every word is considered and carefully honed, the ideas and social commentary and symbolism is layered seamlessly into the plot and characterization, and the prose is just perfectly perfect.   I highlighted and bookmarked so many little tidbits that made me think or made me go "oh yes".  In 180 pages or so.   I will definitely read this book over again to squeeze more yumminess out of it.


So what changed between high school me and now?   Partly an appreciation for writing and use of language that you can't have without lots and lots of varied reading.  (Especially lots of bad reading.  :D)  Partly my binge of a period of Hemingway's career where it intersected the lives of Fitz and Zelda.  Last year I read The Sun Also Rises, The Paris Wife and a Moveable Feast, so I have a growing mental construct of the world they inhabited, which filled in (or colored) my views of Daisy and of Nick.  But mostly I think it was the conflictedness of it all.  At 17 I liked things that were straight forward.  Now, I like things that are complicated, where people and situations can be two or more things at once.  The Great Gatsby lends itself to that, to appreciating the ironies of the American psyche:  our confusions over class, our pursuit of wealth and fascination with it, hoping it will be a solution to every place where we fall short or perceive ourselves lacking.  I liked the poignancy of Gatsby, the carelessness of Daisy and Tom, the unreliability of the narrator, the pointlessness of it all. 


And Fitzgerald did all this in 180 pages.  Everything nice and compacted and accessible in gorgeous spare writing.  Amazing.   It's a quintessentially American book and I can see why people call it THE great American novel.  Looking at the reviews it's obvious that a lot of ESL readers don't find it that interesting, and that makes sense to me too.  It's inherently cultural, even down to the divide between the glittering rat race of the East Coast vs. the more solid, plebian pace of the Mid West.   


This is definitely a "what you bring to it" kind of book.  I'm really glad that what I brought to it this time wasn't my 17 year old self.