My sixth book is finished and I'm only three months into the project. Let's see, that's fifty months to finish the list, so I should be done sometime in January of 2014. That seems so far away.
Gatsby is simply put, a good book. I enjoy the story, the characters, the setting, everything. It all seems so real to me when I read it. It's one of those books I just seem to get lost in so to speak. I suppose that is a testament to how well written it is and what a good book it really is. There's no mystery as to why this one is on the list and no mystery as to why it is probably in every English department's curriculum in the country.
The book follows Nick Carraway, a young mid-westerner who has moved to New York to learn the bond business. He rents a house on Long Island, next door to the mysterious and intriguing, and filthy rich, Jay Gatsby.
Unlike many of the other people in Nick's life, Gatsby doesn't come from old money. His money comes from an unknown source, presumably bootlegging, and he is a living embodiment of the 'American dream'; coming from so low to so high in such a short period of time. However, as
Nick becomes closer to Gatsby, he learns of the man's motivations and ultimately his fate, and realizes that being wealthy doesn't necessarily mean being happy. When I read that back, I realize it sounds like I'm describing an episode of "Ducktales," where Uncle Scrooge has to decide between spending time with his nephews or acquiring more gold coins, but you know what I mean. In the end, Nick sees the highs and lows of such a life, and decides that his future doesn't lie in New York, chasing that same dream or experiencing a similarly tragic fate.
The character of Nick Carraway reminds me of Charles Ryder from Brideshead Revisited. They socialize with people of such fantastic wealth, that they consider themselves to be hard up, even poor. Of course both of them have jobs paying close to nothing, yet at a young age have comfortable lodgings, hire cars, stay at hotels, eat at nice restaurants, etc. Apparently wealth is relative to who you are closest to.
It seems strange to learn that this book was one of Fitzgerald's least successful novels. Upon its release, it was critically acclaimed, but performed poorly at the tills. It wasn't until after his death, and a re-release in the early 40's that the book became so very popular and reached the lofty status it still holds today. Fitzgerald never knew the success of Gatsby, and died considering himself a failure as a writer. That speaks to the difficulty in being a fiction writer. Something you work hard at and can be very proud of, doesn't strike the right chord with the public, and you spend your life considering yourself to be a failure.
You can read Time magazine's original review from May 11th, 1925, and possibly the shortest book review of all time, here.
I'm not sure what I'll be reading next, so that probably means another trip to the library, to see what I can find.