Thursday, June 23, 2011

Week 23: The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald

This is one of those books that many people read in high school, but for whatever reason, I had never read it. Part of my motivation for taking on this reading challenge was to make time for these sorts of books and cross them off of my “to-read” list. I’m a big fan of Fitzgerald. Prior to The Great Gatsby, I had read Fitzgerald’s The Beautiful and Damned, and I really enjoyed it. The two books are similar in that they both tell the stories of people in America’s cosmopolitan upper class. They both feature the same snarky, decadent undertones that I find delightful and highly entertaining. The Great Gatsby is narrated by Nick Carraway, a young man who lives in a wealthy are of Long Island called West Egg. His cousin, Daisy Buchanan and her husband Tom, live in nearby East Egg, which is equally wealthy but more glamorous. Through them, Nick meets Jordan Baker, a friend of Daisy. The four of them become friends and partake in an indulgent lifestyle that consists primarily of drinking, lounging around, and occasionally venturing into Manhattan. It’s not long before Jordan tells Nick about Jay Gatsby, an enigmatic man who turns out to be Nick’s neighbor in West Egg. Nick has seen lavish parties taking place at Gatsby’s mansion across from his house. He soon finds himself at one of these parties and is swept up in the grandeur of the event, not to mention the stylish and beautiful partygoers in attendance. He meets Gatsby, and they become friends. As their friendship grows, Nick finds himself becoming intrigued by Gatsby’s enigmatic life. He is unable to really discern exactly what Gatsby does, or what his origins are. In the midst of all this, we learn of Tom’s extramarital affair, and Nick and Jordan become more than just friends. As Gatsby’s story emerges, we learn more about his true history and his deeper connection to Daisy. It’s like the book version of the show Gossip Girl – all these fabulous, beautiful, rich people and the petty dramas that infiltrate their lives. One could make the observation that their lives are devoid of any real moral substance, but that’s part of the appeal of reading about them.

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