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books you should have read by now: the great gatsby

lip is dishing out a new regular feature where we review classic and well-loved popular books that you probably should have already read. Perhaps it’ll inspire you to pick up a copy, dust off a tome that’s been sitting on your shelf for a while; or since many of the older books are public domain now, download the text for free to your ebook reader of choice. If you’ve already read the books, it gives you a chance to join in on the discussion by adding your comments.

To start off with, here’s a review of F Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 classic, The Great Gatsby.

The first time I read The Great Gatsby was in my year eleven literature class. I really liked it in the end. I had attempted to pick it up a few years earlier but had difficulty with it. I’m not really sure why because it is a delight to read, maybe just that if you get distracted while reading F Scott Fitzgerald, it’s difficult to get back on track again. It isn’t exactly lit to skim through by the pool in that sense.

Reading in in class helped me appreciate and understand the nuances of the work, but it was high time I re-read the classic on my own. In doing so, it was nice reading the book without having to answer questions like ‘was Gatsby in love with Daisy, or the idea of Daisy?’ and analyse Fitzgerald’s use of colour (as interesting as it is). Rather, I could just marvel in the sheer awesomeness that is Fitzgerald’s style of writing and the bizarre excesses of unfathomably rich people in the 1920s.

The story is told through the narrator, Nick, who has moved to West Egg in New York. West Egg is a ‘new money’ suburb. Next door to him lives Gatsby, who is known for constantly hosting crazy jazz parties, as was the style at the time.

Nick’s cousin, Daisy, lives across the bay in nearby East Egg (the ‘old money’ area) with her husband, Tom. It’s revealed that Daisy and Gatsby once knew each other before her marriage to Tom and before Gatsby was sent off to serve in the army. Gatsby still loves her. He watches over her house from his. Nick notices a solitary green light at the end of the dock across the bay from his cousin’s house – that’s where Gatsby is.

Descriptions of excess, lies, sordid affairs, fights, and a couple of deaths ensue. If you like Gossip Girl – i.e. rich insiders and less rich outsiders creating drama and going to parties – you’ll probably have a place in your heart for this book, even though The Great Gatsby is canonical ‘high literature’.

The Great Gatsby is often analysed as a warning against the American dream of building one’s own riches. Despite being a self-made wealthy man, Gatsby is unhappy and unfulfilled. He can never be himself, resorting to lies to impress people. Despite the popularity of his parties he has no true friends. His unrelenting love of Daisy is naïve and frankly creepy. Even in building his own riches, he can’t really belong in her world of inherited wealth and privilege. In becoming wealthy, all he has is his material possessions – nothing that he really wants.

Fitzgerald’s writing is truly amazing, this cannot be overstated. In fact, legend has it that Hunter S Thompson retyped the entirety of The Great Gatsby on his typewriter simply so he could get a feel of how a great writer writes.

Some of the best passages in the book are Fitzgerald’s descriptions. The lonely green light flashing hopefully in the stark darkness; the watchful, surreal, and eerie grey billboard advertising the business of Doctor TJ Eckleburg (artist interpretation pictured); the ‘yellow cocktail music’ being played by the orchestra at one of Gatsby’s parties; the self-improvement lists made by Gatsby’s younger self; the comical image of Daisy crying over a giant pile of shirts because ‘I’ve never seen such beautiful shirts before’.

Even if you could, you wouldn’t want to skim through all this – The Great Gatsby is to be savoured.

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  1. Pingback: review: novellas | lip magazine

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