Saturday, December 18, 2010

THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925)

There are some books that bear rereading over and over again. THE GREAT GATSBY is one of them. It resonates with me now in ways that I never could have understood when I first read it at sixteen. And, I am gobsmacked by Fitzgerald's prose--its rhythm and beauty.

About the original cover (pictured above) Hemingway wrote in A MOVEABLE FEAST: "It had a garish dust jacket and I remember being embarrassed by the violence, bad taste and slippery look of it...for a book of bad science fiction. Scott told me not to be put off by it, that it had to do with a billboard along a highway in Long Island that was important in the story."

Read each of these passages and marvel at their grace and accuracy. Kissing Daisy for the first time is a religious rite/ communion for Gatsby: "He waited, listening for a moment longer to the tuning-fork that had been struck upon a star. Then he kissed her."

When Nick arranges for Daisy to drop by his little cottage for tea one afternoon in order to meet Gatsby, he wonders if "perhaps my presence made them feel more satisfactorily alone."

Of the multitude of strangers who find themselves the beneficiaries of Gatsby's outlandish summer parties, Nick explains, "they came and went without having met Gatsby at all, came to the party with a simplicity of heart that was its own ticket of admission." And during those very fetes, "laughter is easier minute by minute, spilled with prodigality, tipped out at a cheerful word." Isn't Fitzgerald's prose gorgeous?

Consider this Romantic notion chronicling Gatsby's reunion with Daisy: "A universe of ineffable gaudiness spun itself out in his brain...and the moon soaked with wet light his tangled clothes upon the floor." Or that, "No amount of fire or freshness can challenge what a man can store up in his ghostly heart."

Reading THE GREAT GATSBY with the subtext of Fitzgerald's complicated life with his wife Zelda (and Hemingway's portrayal of her in "Hawks Do Not Share" and "A Matter of Measurements") adds another layer to Gatsby's desperate yearning to repeat his past.

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