Thursday, December 10, 2009

More Books I've had read to me in 2009 got caught up in the holiday spirit and offered me a free audiobook -- really free, no commitment, no credit card. I chose one I knew I would like. Every time I've read "The Great Gatsby" I've been amazed by Fitzgerald's accomplishment. (Not counting the first time, when I was in the tenth grade and more sophomoric than most sophomores and forced to read it.) When I think about it though, it's kind of surprising that I love this book as much as I do, given my propensity for romance and optimism. I mean, Gatsby was the ultimate romantic. His belief in love and its transformative powers never wavered; he lived his whole life believing in the American dream and where did it get him? Dead at the bottom of his swimming pool. Even before he was murdered he was unable to enjoy any of the parties, cars and beautiful friends that his wealth afforded him.

For me, Mark Twain's "Huckleberry Finn" is The Great American Novel, but "The Great Gatsby" is the only one that gives it a run for the title. And in many ways they are exact thematic opposites. In Huck's America you do the right thing even if means going to hell (i.e. catching the scorn of one's contemporaries) and things turn out all right for you in the end. For James Gatz though, you do what you have to do to win the woman you love and it ends up killing you. And I guess if you get right down to it, I prefer Huck's world cuz I believe -- I want to believe, I need to believe -- that that's the way it works, that you do what you have to do for the people you love and it saves you, not damns you like it did Gatsby.
So, why do I love this book? Because it is so beautifully and so compellingly written. Because every time I read it I find new things to marvel at. Even though it's a short book and I've read it several times I always find something in there that I hadn't really noticed before -- or, I should say, I find something else that affects me emotionally each time. (This time I was thinking about Nick Carraway, the narrator, and what a clueless nebbish he is most of the time (and the perfect narrator for that reason by the way) but he has an astonishing moment of clarity the last time he sees Gatsby alive:

"They're a rotten crowd," (referring to the rich and famous that partied at Gatsby's house most every night) I shouted across the lawn. "You're worth the whole damn bunch put together."
I've always been glad I said that. It was the only compliment I ever gave him, because I disapproved of him from beginning to end.

And maybe because I'm a father, the scenes with Gatsby's dad after his son's death, how proud he was of his "Jimmy" and the guilt he still bore for beating him once, those scenes just absolutely emotionally flay me alive.
Just an amazing work of art. Perfect as so few things are in this world. And even if I refuse to let myself believe that ". . . we beat on, boats against the current, borne ceaselessly back into the past" I believe it when I read it in "The Great Gatsby."

1 comment:

Kamagra Oral Jelly said...

look like that was a splendid year to read, in that year I read the incredible book "Chronicle of a Death Foretold" from Gabriel García Márquez, what a great book.