I’ve been reading a lot for grad school, a dozen plus books in a short time, some of which I’d read already, like this one. So yep, graduate school, ME and going back AGAIN for another degree, in writing. It shouldn’t be as much work because I’m already doing this stuff. I’m a lifelong student or a student for life, happiest when I’m learning. Gatsby is on my graduate reading list.
Here are my thoughts this time around.
It’s been about a decade since I read this classic. It sounds cliché but it is worth stating that you never read the same book twice; the words don’t change but you do, the reader. I’d forgotten so much: the narrator Nick and his cool steady voice, the ominous eyes on the billboard by the valley of ashes and West Egg and East Egg, never the twain shall meet.
THE TREATMENT OF TIME
How does time play into the narrative? Fitzgerald condenses time into key scenes and interactions with Nick who even mentions that the recollection of a few events during that summer may seem to distort reality. He admits to the reader that he is actually in the city with much to do each day, learning the bond trade and otherwise engaged in a work-a-day world, something the East Eggers know little of.
I read my daughter’s copy of the novel which had her highlights and marginalia, bringing my attention to the teenage mind and the points of interest for a first time reader. I noticed the lyricism and writing, the setting, symbolism, foreshadow and well crafted storyline. In nine chapters, the reader learns a lot about lovers’ follies and the illusion Gatsby believes, that he can go back in time and retrieve Daisy’s love, that Tom Buchanan and their child and life together mean little. Gatsby is not beyond Nick’s scorn, indeed he says so in the first paragraphs, but what Nick learns over the course of the summer, is the East Eggers and all their snobbery are as rakish and careless, more selfish than even the corrupt and deceptive James Gatz “Gatsby”. They hide behind their money, their status and their rationalizing delusions.
Nick opens the novel with a recollection of his father’s advice on criticism and closes with Gatsby’s wonder at the green light on Daisy’s dock, the idea that he could reclaim a past and a love so easily, that like the beacon across the narrow bay it was just there, shining brightly and calling to him. And there’s an optimism to the illusion after all.
It’s not long and worth the read, or as the case may be, re-read. You’ll get more out of it now as someone who’s lived a bit since your teen years.