29 May 2009

35. The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald

This is one of those books I was supposed to read and never did. I really never had any interest in reading this one until recently. I had a preconceived idea of what it was about and did not think I would enjoy it very much. I had heard over and over how people loved this book. I figured they were saying that because they were "supposed" to love it.
What did I learn? My thoughts about what this book was were totally wrong. it was nothing like I imagined. I completely understand why people love this book. I am also kicking myself for not reading it 30 years ago when I was supposed to. I wonder what else I missed out on.
The Great Gatsby is actually a love story. A story about people who love each other anyway. Gatsby sure did go a long way for the girl he loves.
Some things I found interesting:
1. The part where Gatsby, Tom, Daisy, Jordan and Nick are in a hotel in New York when Tom and Gatsby decide to discuss who loves whom and all that stuff. I could picture this scene in my mind. It was the 20's. Men were supposed to be sophisticated and in control. I could picture these two men having this conversation about Daisy (while she is sitting there) and trying to stay in control. Trying not to be the one to get angry or show emotion. If they did that then it would be like conceding defeat. Why get emotional if you are in the right? That is how I saw that scene. These guys should have been punching the snot out of each other. Tom, being the big sports guy, should have in my opinion. Why didn't he? I think it is because he is actually a coward. We know he is prone to violence because he broke Myrtle's nose just for saying Daisy's name.
2.I liked Daisy for a while, and then I despised her. I think she is a gold digging bitch who deserves to have a crappy life with a man that does not really love her.
3. What was with this place that was all gray with mounds of ashes? The Valley of Ashes I think it was called. Where did these ashes come from? Some kind of industrial complex I would imagine. Maybe I missed something, but I am not sure where the ashes came from. I know they would come in train cars of some kind, but from where.
The ashes actually made me think of some giant black mountains in the sand pits where I grew up. By the way, I grew up on Long Island, the place this book was set in. That helped my enjoyment level rise a little. Anyway, the sand pits had these giant mounds of black stuff that we would climb on. I never knew what the stuff was or where it came from. Perhaps it was ash.
4. I knew Long Island in the 70's and 80's. I learned to drive there. I know how far New York City was from where these folks lived, and I just can't imagine they would drive "to town" as often as they did. This was set in the mid 1920's. The roads had to be ridiculous back then.
5. Jordan Baker. She was my favorite character. I don't know why. She was a liar. She was straight up using people to have some fun and be the "cool" girl. Still, I think she was far less fake than Tom, Daisy or Gatsby.
6. There seemed to be many lines in society within the book. It was deeper than just rich and poor. Gatsby and Tom were both rich, but not really equal. What was the difference? Tom was old money rich. Gatsby was new money. Could that be it? Gatsby was not part of the good old boy network? He lived in West Egg which, despite being exactly the same as East Egg, was considered inferior to East Egg. I guess rich is not necessarily all that was happening within the rich society.
7. There is a part in the book where Nick says "But I am slow-thinking and full of interior rules that act as brakes on my desires..." I have those brakes. I knew what he meant. Usually those brakes are very very good to have. Sometimes I wish I was able to release the brakes a lot more than I do. Sometimes I wish I had no stinking brakes at all. That one line made me think a lot.
SAT Word Alert (It's been a while since I have done this)
prodigality: wasteful extravagance in spending
contralto: the lowest female voice or voice part, intermediate between soprano and tenor
echolalia: the often pathological repetition of what is said by other people as if echoing them
meretricious: based on pretense, deception, or insincerity
redolent: having a pleasant odor; fragrant
Fitzgerald also used the word "somnambulatory". I know what that means. :-)
This was a GREAT book. One of the best I have ever read. It should be read by everyone. I am still surprised at how much I liked it and how wrong I was with my idea of what the book was about.

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