Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Great Gatsby

I just finished reading F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. I didn't think I would like this book so much, or that it would affect me as it has. It's such a wonderful, romantic, tragic story. And even though the world of Jay, Nick, Daisy, et al. is so far away from mine, the characters are not. At some point, I think, everyone has been each of these characters, from Gatsby, with his impossible fantasy of a future; to Daisy, torn between two choices, neither of which is Wrong or Right; to Nick, who sees a train wreck coming but seemingly can't do anything to stop it.

This really is a wonderful book. I also think this would be a great novel to read aloud to people — maybe a high school English class. Fitzgerald has n ow been added to my list of authors whose prose is simply poetry. I found this excerpt on p. 133; it was so outstanding that I had to read it twice, just to savor the language:

The track curved and now it was going away from the sun which, as it sank lower, seemed to spread itself in benediction over the vanishing city where she had drawn her breath. He stretched out his hand desperately as if to snatch only a wisp of air, to save a fragment of the spot that she had made lovely for him. But it was all going by too fast now for his blurred eyes and he knew that he had lost that part of it, the freshest and the best, forever.

The women that we fall in love with from afar can rarely measure up to the goddesses we've imagined them to be.

Or this, from p.60:

Again at eight o'clock, when the dark lanes of the Forties were five deep with throbbing taxi cabs, bound for the theatre district, I felt a sinking in my heart. Forms leaned together in the taxis as they waited, and voices sang, and there was laughter from unheard jokes, and lighted cigarettes outlined unintelligible gestures inside. Imagining that I, too, was hurrying toward gayety [sic] and sharing their intimate excitement, I wished them well.

I know I've felt just like that before, most every weekend in college. That feeling of absorbing and enjoying the gaiety of partygoers, the intimacy of a young couple walking hand-in-hand to destinations unknown, the warmth of friends' smiles around a restaurant table, even while you journey alone to nowhere in particular, your heart sinking, still cold yet surrounded by the vicarious joy of strangers, and wishing they weren't strangers at all. (sigh) I spent too many of those nights wishing, wandering, looking for something, anything, that could let that joy into my heart.

But I digress. The long and short of it is that I enjoyed The Great Gatsby a thousandfold more than I expected I would. It's simply a good story well-written. I may just have to read it again sometime.