Thursday, September 16, 2004

The Great Gatsby

by F. Scott Fitzgerald

This was "the authorized text,” with notes, preface and brief biography of the author by Matthew J. Bruccoli.  Nick Carraway narrates the story of James Gatz, a penniless young man of few prospects, who reinvents himself as wealthy James Gatsby in order to capture the heart of Daisy, the woman he loves.  Unfortunately, she is married to Tom, Nick’s cousin; and Nick has his own relationship problems with Jordan, Daisy’s friend.

It’s far more than a soap opera of the smart set, however, as the bare-bones plot synopsis might make it sound.  It’s an intricately plotted, meticulously written, introspective work on seeking the past and to what extent people can reinvent themselves.  It is also an ironic comment on the seedier side of the American dream, the substitution of flashy tawdriness for true greatness, the warping of opportunity into opportunism.  The prose is superb; Fitzgerald has fine-tuned the cadences of American English and written a symphony of words.  Gatsby is an immediately intriguing character, the sympathetic bootlegger and adulterer who seems to want, aside from Daisy, nothing more than to be understood, at least by Nick.

five stars

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