The Great Gatsby

Since my favourite Hollywood star is currently gracing our screens once again (Leo, I love you), I figured I’d read the book prior to Baz Luhrmann’s visual spectacle. (Good job too – the film critics aren’t exactly raving about it).

The Great Gatsby is a 1920s American gentleman’s tale of a love lost and found… and lost again. Set in the jazz era, Nick Carraway’s narration talks us through the twists and turns of romantic rendezvous, the peaks and troughs of secret shenanigans, and the highs and lows of that age ole battle: head versus heart. The story, which predominantly focuses on the Great Mr Gatsby himself and his tainted love, also zooms in and out on that huge, flashing neon question mark sign that dangles precariously over society, namely ‘moral values’. Chuck in some good old obsession, materialism, greed… oh and a sprinkling of lust, love and heartbreak for good measure… and you can see why this classic fell into the canon of [apparently] timeless American literature.

Now onto my actual thoughts:

It took me a good chunk of the book to become genuinely interested in Carraway’s account of events. In fact, sadly it was the final two chapters that only really aroused my curiosity and engagement. But who am I to judge and criticise a classic? Ah hem. Ok, regardless of who I am and the limited rights I possess, here goes…

Gatsby didn’t grab me for the following reasons:

–          Despite the depth of the symbolism, very little happens.

–          Despite the successful evocation of the jazz era, the writing isn’t particularly engaging.

–          I felt very little empathy for the characters and didn’t so much as draw breath or blink off-rhythm when I learned of their demise.

–          It was a bit… well… boring. (There I said it).

Saying that, here’s what I did like:

–          The visual references to social trends (both gloomy and gallant) and the dwindling American dream capture the era and the attitude. In this respect, it’s incredibly well written and the text surges with symbolism.

–          I appreciate the subtle characterisation of the gold-diggers and social climbers crammed within its pages… Fitzgerald avoids stereotypes and thus builds multidimensional and ‘deep’ characters.

–          Through that virtue I’m often told to embrace – “patience” – one can step into a time warp and float back to a period of gents, jazz & liquor, and quite a bit of razzle-dazzle.

Wonder what we’ll all think of the film… 


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