Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Great Gatsby Revisited

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925)

Gatsby 1925 jacket.gif

Cover of the first edition, 1925 (Wikipedia)

Going back to a book you read once in a distant past, like 35-40 years ago, can be like revisiting a place you haven’t seen since then. It can appear familiar and very different all in one.

As is often the case for me with classics read long ago, my memory of it consisted only of vague images and a certain lingering “atmosphere”, rather than details of the plot.

So my memories just involved this rich guy living alone in a big house and throwing extravagant parties; and the story being told by his neighbour, who was more of a regular guy; and an overall impression of rather sad 1920’s decadance – people trying to be happy but not succeeding very well. And that was about it.

What made me reread it now was a wish to update my memory and try to grasp why (besides the title) it is considered one of The Great. I also never read it in the original language – my old falling-apart paperback copy of it was a Swedish translation. (Falling apart not by frequent reading but from age and bad glue.) So I bought it for my Kindle. (The book is not yet so old that it’s available for free, but it is avaiblable cheap).

I’ll not bother about a synopsis of the plot because you can easily find that elsewhere on the internet if you wish; and if you’re like me, it’s re-discovering it for yourself that you will enjoy.

Be it enough to say that there were more layers to the plot than I remembered. Personally, I also find myself thinking much more now about aspects like narrative perspective, and how the author uses language. In those respects I do think The Great Gatsby scores high. I also still find it a rather sadly convincing reflection of its time. (The story takes place in 1922. Fitzgerald started planning the novel in the same year and picked inspiration from Long Island New York where he himself lived at the time.)

****

Wikipedia says about the cover art of the first edition:

A little-known artist named Francis Cugat was commissioned to illustrate the book while Fitzgerald was in the midst of writing it. The cover was completed before the novel, with Fitzgerald so enamored of it that he told his publisher he had "written it into" the novel.

There are a couple of different possible interpretations as to what he meant by that.

****

Quotes

She smiled slowly and walking through her husband as if he were a ghost …

I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.

Every Friday five crates of oranges and lemons arrived from a fruiterer in New York – every Monday these same oranges and lemons left his back door in a pyramid of pulpless halves. There was a machine in the kitchen which could extract the juice of two hundred oranges in half an hour, if a little button was pressed two hundred times by a butler’s thumb.

“I like large parties. They’re so intimate. At small parties there isn’t any privacy.”

Every one suspects himself of at least one of the cardinal virtues, and this is mine: I am one of the few honest people that I have ever known.

The truth was that Jay Gatsby, of West Egg, Long Island, sprang from his Platonic conception of himself.

13 comments:

  1. when i saw the cover, i thought it was a new one, it looks like a modern creation. I have not read the book or even seen it before. i was admiring the cover and thinking of re creating it in photoshop, the read that it was the 1925 cover. amazing

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're right, it does look like it could be a modern cover.

      Delete
  2. Awhile ago, I had the same opinion as you, but about the movie, not the book. I just didn't see the point.

    ReplyDelete
  3. You have such a gift of words...I feel like I've almost read the book. You are a real inspiration to reading, and enjoying life through books. Thanks for another very interesting article. I've never read this, and think I must now.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Wanda. I did find it worth re-reading.

      Delete
  4. I have not read it myself, but I remember my sister being quite "into" F. Scott Fitzgerald in her late teens. Yes, re-reading books after a long time usually makes for an interesting experience!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm not sure if I ever read any other book by Fitzgerald. Maybe I should investigate...

      Delete
  5. Hi Monica, while re-reading your blog for spotlight photos today, I came across your main blog. I am not able to travel and get about as I once did so I appreciated your thoughts on blogging and a way of virtual traveling. I am 75 and after so many years of work and raising 6 children I am whole-heartedly glad to stay at home. I am an avid reader and as I mentioned I love watching BBC productions on my Kindle Fire. I agree with you Wallander is pretty gruesome but I have gotten so into the personalities of the characters I keep watching. These type productions feed my desire to know and see other cultures and ways of live. I did use your church and the inside for the spotlight. Great job.
    Peggy (QMM)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the spotlight Peggy, and nice to see that you found this blog of mine too. I love watching BBC productions too... I haven't seen the BBC version of Wallander, except a few preview glimpses... I had forgotten about that. There are also two Swedish film/TV series starring two different Swedish actors as Wallander.

      Delete
  6. I've tried and tried to like The Great Gatsby but have never got that far into it. Something about the style just grates with me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. After rereading it now, I'd say it gets better further in... I can only speak for myself of course but I think some of the grating may come (more than one realizes at first) from the narrator within the story, because he too is rather reluctantly drawn into it...

      Delete
  7. I probably read it around the time that you did. I'd never seen the original cover before though. The book has always had a sort of pull for me although I've no idea why. I've never tried any of his other works. The film version is also oddly compelling. The quote “I like large parties. They’re so intimate. At small parties there isn’t any privacy.” is a very accurate observation in my experience. I like a few friends (my preferred party) or a huge one where I can get lost.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. GB, I think "a sort of pull although no idea why" actually makes quite a good summary of the essence of feelings that the author is trying to convey.

      Delete

Communication is what makes blogging fun :)
... but spam comments will be deleted!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...