Saturday 9 February 2013

The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald

I haven't read The Great Gatsby for 15 years or more.

Last week I saw a preview for the Baz Luhrman movie with Leonardo Dicaprio as Gatsby. It looked extremely sumptious, extravagant and dramatic. I also felt that liberties were being taken with the story!

When I got home I pulled my copy off the shelf and promptly began rereading it.

I first read The Great Gatsby in my teen years for a school assignment. At the time I was disappointed by how slight the book was. Back then I judged a book by its size!

At 15, the romantic angst and longing of Gatsby seemed rather ridiculous. The book was full of un-nice people; the only person I liked was Nick and I couldn't understand why the book wasn't about him instead.

However, I duly took on board the stuff about the green light, FSF's use of the narrator, the eyes of Dr T J Eckleburg and the whole illusion/reality debate, but I didn't really care - just enough to get a good mark in my assignment!

I can't remember why I chose to reread The Great Gatsby in my twenties.

Perhaps I was in the middle of one of my Paris love affairs? Or feeling nostalgic for ye old New York? Maybe I watched the old Robert Redford and Mia Farrow movie?

Either way I rediscovered Gatsby, Daisy and Nick and saw them with fresh eyes.

I loved the sparse, finely honed use of language. I loved how FSF evoked the time and place and I appreciated the complexities of his characters far more.

And now...fifteen years later...I was once again struck by the ridiculousness of Gatsby's desires and dreams and how little Gatsby based them on reality. He was the type who lived very much for the future...he would be happy when rather than now.

"There must have been moments even that afternoon when Daisy tumbled short of his dreams - not through her own fault, but because of the colossal vitality of his illusion."

In January I read The Beautiful and Damned and realised how much it was the forerunner of Gatsby.

FSF saw that making these un-nice people the narrators didn't work; it was too hard to work up any sympathy for them. But seeing them through someone else's sympathetic eyes allowed us to view their complexities and foibles more favourably.

"Gatsby...there was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life."

"Daisy took her face in her hands as if feeling its lovely shape."

"Jordan, who had begun to balance an invisible but absorbing object on the tip of her chin."

I surprised myself by how much I enjoyed this reread. Compared to the long-winded The Beautiful and Damned, Gatsby was exquisite in its precision. This reading allowed me to see the writer at work - the effort behind the scenes to make The Great Gatsby flow and connect so effortlessly was a delight in craftmenship.

I'm curious now to see what Baz Luhrman can bring to this story!


  1. I may just have to dust off my copy for a re-read before seeing the film. I went through a phase years ago, in preparation for a holiday in Key West - first there was everything by Hemingway and then of course, that led to everything by Fitzgerald and a biography of Zelda which filled a number of blanks.

  2. thanks for sharing your thoughts Brona! The Great Gatsby has been in my TBR for the longest time. i should really read it soon and not because there's a movie coming out.

  3. Gatsby is one of my favorite books. I agree that the characters tend toward the ridiculous (but, so do real people sometimes), but the language is so amazing and the grand drama of it all just sweeps me away every time I read the book. I'm not typically a re-reader, but I have read Gatsby at least 5 times in the past 30 years.

  4. Hi Brona, just pay a visit after your's in my review. I got the same situation too, when my first encounter with Gatsby through movie adaptation by Robert Redford and Mia Farrow, I quite like it (I'm fans on old movies) but something missing that cannot be understood back then. Not after I read the books (finally), then I know what the missing-link, the mysterious Gatsby more clear to me after re-watch the movie and read the books.

  5. "Exquisite in its precision" is a very good description of Fitzgerald's writing. Something a lot of authors should probably keep in mind.

  6. I too am curious to see what Luhrman brings to the book; the modern music has me worried. The cast, sets and costumes have me ready to charleston right now.
    I wonder, did we all relate to Nick on our first reading? I wonder if that's the observer/writer in us as well. FSF knew we would need to see through the filter of Nick's eyes in order to see the poignancy of Gatsby and his delusions of grandeur.

    1. I don't mind the idea of the modern music, especially after Luhrman's treatment of the music in Romeo and Juliet (which in my mind is one of the best ever soundtracks produced in my lifetime!!)
      Some of The Great Gatsby was filmed in my suburb...we had a few weeks where real and imagined DiCaprio sightings took place daily!!

  7. I need to reread this novel. I enjoyed it the first time but I suspect that much like Salinger, Fitzgerald benefits from repeated reading.

  8. Anonymous16/2/13

    I just recently reread it myself and enjoyed it a great deal. Thanks for the map. I had no idea that East and West Egg were right across from the channel from the Bronx. I always imagined they were much further out and along the Atlantic coast.

    1. I was the same with the geography. I thought the eggs were the points right on the end, but with this reread I noticed the reference to the eggs jutting out into Long Island Sound (not the Atlantic) I goggled it!

  9. An excellent review. You've warmed me a little on G.G., and it's not that I dislike it, I just don't love it as most seem to. Though I have to admit, I must subconsciously like it more than I admit, as I was rather concerned about the film doing it justice. I've actually never seen the Redford/Farrow rendition, but I thought the 2000 A&E version was very faithful. But now the 2013 version, what did you think. I thought it was excellent and quite faithful. I especially liked the wardrobe, not something I ordinarily notice in a film, but...ah the roaring 20s. Gotta love it. But I hated...truly hated the music. My review of the novel:


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