Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Book Rave: The Great Gatsby


“If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him”

They don't make 'em like this anymore.

 

I figured we'd break up the interviews, and I'd do a bit of gushing about a particular book over which I've been swooning for half my life. I realize it isn't YA, but I couldn't resist. In lieu of the new cinematic spin on the classic, I choose to give Gatsby some love.

I'm skeptically anticipating the impending release. It could be epic with Baz Luhrmann at the helm, and it is certainly casted well.

 
Judging by the trailer, the essential elements are there, right down to the looming eyes of T.J. Eckleburg. Hopefully, the loss of value and hollowness they symbolize will not apply to the quality of this rendition.
               

On to the book.

The setting still gets me: New York in the roaring twenties, the Jazz Age, the flappers, the prohibition, the speakeasies, the American Dream. The era itself is fascinating, but as a sixteen-year-old, it took much more than that to snatch my attention.

I was an adamant reader in elementary school, but due to the lack of incentive and the turbulence that is middle school, my hobbies had evolved into hair flipping and eye rolling. The Great Gatsby changed my life because it prompted my love affair with the written word and my hopeless crush on imagery.

                “In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars.”

Fitzgerald's words were powerful enough to slap the petty foolishness out of me, to prompt me to dig deeper. Until then, I'd never read to find symbolism, hidden treasure within the lines. And I didn't realize how much I loved words. The power of them. I didn't know what to do with the emotions the book invoked within me. A man who would dedicate his entire life to the dream of a girl he couldn't have. A girl who was better as a dream than as a real person. Isn't that the problem with ambition? That you'll crawl, claw, and brawl your way to a goal, only to discover it wasn't at all what you expected.

                "There must have been moments even that afternoon when Daisy tumbled short of his dreams -- not through her own fault, but because of the colossal vitality of his illusion. It had gone beyond her, beyond everything."

And what is left of you then, when you realize your mental creation is better than reality? Do you become a ghost of a person who decides to simply cling to the memories because they were the catalyst?

                "So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."

To go back to the past- what Gatsby meant to me as a teenager was romance, that someone would dedicate themselves in such a way, that someone could be captivating enough to cause such devotion. I can appreciate Fitzgerald so much more now at this point in my life, now that I'm beginning to understand nostalgia, the harshness of the world and the fallacies of "opportunity". I can truly appreciate the meaning of Fitzgerald's Valley of Ashes. The effect this novel has on me grows with the number of candles on my birthday cake. I've read few books with such influence.

Fitz's meaning is heart wrenching and powerful but sugarcoated with gorgeous candy strings of words. Dreams are dreams. Universal. Some people cheat or sacrifice morals to achieve them. Some work hard, but diligence doesn't necessarily equal success. There are more Wilsons than Tom Buchanans.

And endings are not always happy.

                 

               

It's safe to say that The Great Gatsby is one of the loves of my life. I still have my battered copy from the eleventh grade, complete with my side notes...most of which are teacher prompted highlights and my own juvenile observations. Confession: It was the first (and last) thing I ever stole. Not sure how I got away with that one. I also kept the copy I used as a teacher when I was a student intern. (I actually paid for that one, however.) I was given the opportunity to gush about Gatsby for weeks to my honors tenth graders. And I own a third copy, clear of marks, free of my past reflections so as not to influence my current. I believe that I will obsess about Gatsby until the day I take my copy (copies) to the grave with me.



Love comes in many forms.

 
 
 

11 comments:

  1. You have succeeded in making me add this to my to-read pile. This book sounds lovely in all the right ways!

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    1. So glad I'm not the only one who hasn't read this!!

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  2. Oh great rave. It's been years since I read Gatsby. Must do. I saw the trailer for the film recently, and must admit I was a bit on the fence. It does look visually stunning, but I love my mind's image so much I'm not sure I want it to be sullied.

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    1. My sentiments exactly. In viewing the trailer, it seems they at least nailed the emotion... I'm still nervous.

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  3. Oh man...mandatory high school reading. This brings back memories. I'm with you guys--the cinematography looks heavenly, but like Jaye, my mind's got this all cast and played out already. But it IS Leo... :)

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    1. Oh, and GREAT RAVE, lovely!! It's fun to shake things up between interviews & peanut butter fornication.

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    2. I think they were smart with the casting- I'm definitely not worried about the characterization. I just hope it isn't too over the top.

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  4. I'm ashamed to admit that I STILL haven't read this...not sure how it slipped through the cracks, but it's been on my list for years! Time to get to it!

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    1. WHAT?? I'm sure you can steal a copy from your local high school like I did... juuuust kidding. Wait until you have time to enjoy it. It's amazing.

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  5. I'm happy to say I finally read The Great Gatsby this year in school. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I ended up loving it. I read the last few paragraphs over and over before I had to return the book to the library––probably some of my favorite lines from books ever.

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