Friday, January 6, 2012

Great Gatsby Read-Along Week 1

I'm participating in a loverly read-along hosted by Wallace at Unputdownables. Any excuse to reread The Great Gatsby is an excuse I will take and put in my pocket and use to justify all decisions.

In addition to my posthumous love affair with The Hemingway, I am also quite partial to The Fitzgerald. Hemingway is the one who will whisk me away to Paris and buy me lots of alcohol and maybe get into a brawl to defend my honor.

Fitzy is the one who sees romantic comedies with me and knows how I take my coffee and reads me poetry in bed.

Together, they make the perfect man. Unfortunately, their separate vices combined would create the most poisonous alcoholic yet known to the world.

Moving right along.

I haven't read Gatsby since college, and, although I remember loving it, I don't remember much else. This time around, I read the first 45 pages twice because the language is so DELICIOUS. Our Fitzy sure can turn a phrase. And he has a way of getting straight to the point whilst pouring flower petals and confetti all over the pages. It shouldn't be possible, but there it is.

This is the part where I say, if you haven't read Gatsby yet, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? And also, maybe stop reading this post because I'm about to get a little spoiler-happy up in here.

First of all, Nick Carraway. What a dear he is. I love his description of himself as someone who is willing to reserve judgment and hear people out, even when he wishes they would refrain from oversharing. As he says, "Reserving judgments is a matter of infinite hope" (p. 2). Such a simple act, yet impossible for most people to manage. So I'm already thinking Nick is a tiny bit superhuman. And perhaps it's that quality in Nick that draws him to Gatsby, whom he describes as having "an extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness such as I have never found in any other person and which it is not likely I shall ever find again" (p. 2).

So there you have it. Two spectacular male characters. Oh, and then there's Tom Buchanan, "one of those men who reach such an acute limited excellence at twenty-one that everything afterward savors of anticlimax" (p. 6). And maybe THAT explains why he's stepping out on his wife, Daisy: simply for the thrill of it.

But what about Daisy? Frankly, I worry about her. There's something about her forced cheer and nervous energy that warns of an impending emotional breakdown. She puts on a brave face, but her social efforts are a bit manic. And in her first conversation with Nick, the cracks start to show. "Well, I've had a very bad time, Nick, and I'm pretty cynical about everything" (p. 16). You see, she knows about Tom's "woman in New York," the lovely (?) Myrtle Wilson. He doesn't even try to hide it. And Myrtle is about as different from Daisy as any woman could be, as different as a myrtle bush is from a wild daisy.

And Myrtle is unhappily married, too, and kind of disgusting in her desperation to be more than she is in the social/wealth equation. How this incredibly materialistic woman ever ended up with a lowly mechanic she can't stand, living above a garage, I don't know. But "Tom's the first sweetie she ever had" (p. 35), so she's not a TERRIBLE person, right? Right? Barf.

Let's end this post on a more positive note that doesn't paint such a dismal view of marriage. Let's talk about Gatsby: the man, the myth, the legend. He invites hoards of people to his mansion for these elaborate parties, and bunches more just show up without invitations, but few actually meet him because they don't really care about the host so much as all the free booze and food. And he just stands demurely on the sidelines and watches as the crowd goes from drunk to drunker to absolutely pissed. And he has a "high Gothic library, panelled with carved English oak, and probably transported complete from some ruin overseas" (p. 45), full of books he hasn't read. And he may or may not have killed a man. Oh, Gatsby. You're a head scratcher . . . but still a delight.


  1. I was just thinking I need to re-read this. I wish I had known about the readalong. And that it was happening later. In the meantime I will read vicariously through your posts. 

    "He has a way of getting straight to the point whilst pouring flower petals and confetti all over the page." - I heart this description.

  2. Oh no! I wish you had known, too. It would've been fun to have you along for this one. You should still reread it though!

  3. Your post just reminded me that when I read about the library in the book, the picture in my head is the library from Beauty and the Beast. Ha. Also: I would love to know a Gatsby in real life. I need me a Gatsby friend.

  4. THIS POST basically reminded me how much I loved The Great Gatsby. Must reread it soon. I will be looking forward to your thoughts, madame.

  5. YES! Me, too! And the drunk guy hanging out alone in the library just staring at the books...that would be me.

  6. Oh, Gatsby love! I sometimes want to stop reading so I can hug the book. It deserves all the love it ever gets.

  7. As the Crowe Flies and ReadsJanuary 10, 2012 at 5:10 PM

    Ooh, I wish I'd known of this readalong earlier--I just read Gatsby for the first time last week and I'm not sure I'm up for re-reading it so soon.  Though I was left wondering what was so great about Gatsby, I really, really admired Fitzgerald's language.  That man could write some beautiful prose, and yet he doesn't go on and on like so many writers do.  he lets the reader fill in the blanks, which I appreciate.

    *new follower from the Norwegian Wood readalong*

  8. I've been an admirer of your blog for a little while, so it's nice to see you here in my humble abode.

    I remember SO little about this book, but I can usually survive off of good writing...even if the story is meh.