Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Great Gatsby

by F. Scott Fitzgerald

In honor of BANNED BOOK MONTH, I decided to read a classic banned book on the ALA banned book list.

Ok, actually that was just a coincidence. I was putting off starting the next book discussion book because I have the annoying habit of finishing them too early, and then when the discussion rolls around I've forgotten character names and places and some plot points. So I needed something else to read. I thought about re-reading The Catcher in the Rye or The Stranger, but I saw The Great Gatsby sitting on my shelf, and I'd never read it before and thought I needed to change that.

The last time I'd picked up this book must have been in high school because I found a hall pass from 2005 for me and my friend Jen to go from the band room to the computer skills teacher's room. And I'd gotten no further than page 28. This time I successfully finished the book.

I liked this book more than I expected. This is a good, tragic story and I really enjoy the way it unfolds. It's compelling the way the characters are such a mystery and their lives are slowly explained, and ultimately you find yourself wishing you didn't know and wishing you could go back to the way things were.

In general, however, based on the limited exposure I've had, I don't care for post-Word War I American lit. I dislike the boozy atmosphere. The characters are all wealthy after the war and throwing around their wealth and living drunkenly and passive-aggressively. It's unattractive. It's why I don't like being around drunk people. It's uncomfortable. And it's depressing. And to then say their behavior is the result as the slow, inevitable corruption of the Middle Westerners living in the city is a poor excuse. These people, aside from Nick, work hard to keep up their happy, affluent facade, and as soon as you get a glimpse behind it, you really wish you hadn't: booze, infidelity, spousal abuse, shady dealings, lies, and shallow women.
They were careless people [...] they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made...
If you ask me, Nick was lucky to get away from those people when he did. He entered an ugly society and luckily didn't get wallowed up by it. Nick is right to describe himself as the only honest person he knows.

So I may dislike the general tone and the majority of the characters, but this is still a good book when you think about Nick. Fitzgerald crafted a well-written and compelling story, whether you like the society he depicted or not.

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