The Great Gatsby

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Another book plucked from the New York Times shortlist of fiction whence they asked their readers to pick "the best book of the past 125 years". And (since I hadn't read it), I put it on the TBR list. This leaves a mere ten to go before I can claim to be Basically Literate.

I've seen both the 1974 and 2013 movie versions, so I kind of knew what was coming. I was slightly surprised at how much richer the book was. But I kept seeing Robert Redford and Mia Farrow in my head as I was reading, not Leonardo DiCaprio. and Carey Mulligan.

It's set in the 1920s, mostly Long Island, going back and forth to NYC. The narrator, Nick Carraway, has a job dealing bonds. ("I'm a bond man," he admits early on. It's as if F. Scott wanted to give him the dullest occupation ever.) But he's set up in a cozy Long Island bungalow amidst a whole lot of much richer folks. This includes his old acquaintance Tom Buchanan, a racist and violent brute openly cheating on his wife, Daisy. And it eventually includes his mysterious neighbor Jay Gatsby, who throws wretchedly excessive parties attended by people he doesn't know. Via his association with the Buchanans, Nick acquires a girlfriend, Jordan Baker, a golfer who may have cheated in a recent tournament.

But as it turns out, Gatsby and Daisy have met before… Well, you probably know all that. Nobody seems to like anybody else that much; even Gatsby doesn't like Daisy that much, he just worships the idea of them being together.

For a very short book, there's a lot of stuff going on: sex (and sexism), violence, infidelity, class divisions, striving, betrayal, alcoholism, bad driving, anti-semitism (some say), gore, the essential emptiness of celebrity…. And the faded billboard eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg watching all the goings on. Yes, you probably knew all that too.

Last Modified 2024-01-17 3:56 PM EDT