The Great Gatsby

Posted January 10, 2013 by Tara in Review /// 17 Comments

I can't say I really "get" this classic cover.
I can’t say I really “get” this classic cover.

Title: The Great Gatsby
Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald
Publisher/Year: Blackstone Audio, 2007 (Original: 1925)
Length: 4 hrs and 53 mins
Series?: Standalone
Genre: Classic
Format: Audio Book
Source: Purchased from Audible
[#72 in my 2012 75 book challenge]

In case you haven’t heard, this classic novel about the Jazz Age is being made into a movie staring Leonard DiCaprio. The movie comes out in May, so I got a head start and re-read the novel in anticipation of seeing it later this year.

The Great Gatsy is the Jazz-Age tale of a bunch of crazy people living in an Egg.

Or at least that’s my one sentence summary.

Seriously, though, our protagonist, Nick Carraway, moves next door to this dude named Gatsby in West Egg (Long Island-ish). Gatsby lives in this fancy-pants new money house, totally playing up his mysteriosity while still having parties every weekend. Nick also hangs around with Daisy and Tom Buchanan, and everyone knows that ole Tom is cheating on Daisy with this lady named Muriel. These folks all live in the East Egg with the old money. Gatsby, the eternal social climber, wants nothing more than to be old money…and to get in Daisy’s pants. Infidelity ensues. Then a lot of people drive their  cars around, a tragedy occurs, and the shit hits the fan. Cue curtain.

AND IT’S ALL A METAPHOR.

I get it, you guys, I do. In high school I read this book and I was fascinated by the Jazz Age, the social climbing, the affairs, and the dead people. I could relate to the story more than anything else we were reading that year (except 1984, my favorite book ever), so I decidedly enjoyed it. Round two? Not so much, even though I understand the layers a little bit better. I see the commentary on the American Dream and wealth, the metaphor with the damn green light and the colors. I don’t get it all, which is where I miss having a class to discuss it all with, but I get it enough.

FINAL GRADE: C  I didn’t love it, but I’m glad I read it. Reading books as an adult that I read in my childhood is always a fascinating experience, and I don’t think I’m the only person who looks upon this novel differently now that I’m out in the real world. However, I also know some folks who adore this book and will praise it until the cows come home. I guess you have to decide that for yourself — at only 180 pages, you can read it pretty quickly and get back to me on what you think.
Assigned Reading: Read it if you love the Jazz Age, literary fiction, classics, or metaphors. Or if you want to see the movie. It’s really one of those novels that everyone should read, since it’s always being talked about. Maybe that’s what leads to the disappointment?
Recommendations: Librarians, you can buy it for the middle school library, but it’s definitely a must-have for the high school library (do I even have to tell you that?).

Did you have to read The Great Gatsby in high schoolHave you read it since? Does it hold up to your test of time?

Tara

Tara is a PhD student studying education. Her dissertation will be on digital book communities as public pedagogy (ask her about it!), though she often takes a break from all of that to read books about oppressive governments and sassy teenagers. In a former life, she was a middle school teacher and middle school librarian. In her future life, she's a professor of YA lit. In her free time, she drinks a lot of coffee while planning her next grand adventure (there's always something).

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17 responses to “The Great Gatsby

  1. This is one of those novels I re-read every 5 years or so and feel differently each time. I do love its atmosphere and grandiosity. The love story/tragedy, which so appealed to me as a teenager, doesn’t hold as well, but, yes, it is one of those books people should read if only because it is referenced in so many other works.
    And, based on trailers alone, the movie seems very well-cast.

  2. It’s on my reading list this year. I did start to read it once, but did not get more than a few pages into it…. Will keep your post in mind when I do. Thanks for the review

  3. I’ve never read this book, which is odd for someone with a degree in English literature. I’ve been meaning to read this book for a while, though. I’ll almost definitely be reading it at some point this year.

  4. I read it at school four years ago, and just read it again. it’s one of my all time favourite books! So many layers, and what seems a pretty accurate painting of the social landscape in that energetic, exciting and mysterious era. It’s not hugely long, so if anyone is curious, give it a try. You might decide you love it!

  5. Oh gosh, I think we read this in high school, but I only have vague memories of not getting it. But… it is a short classic, hmm, maybe I should give it another try.

  6. I definitely plan on re-reading The Great Gatsby before the film release. Like you, I read The Great Gatsby in high school and haven’t read it since then, so I’ll be interested in how I view it now as an adult. I am glad I have the background of having discussed it in class, but we’ll see if I pick up on everything this second time through.

  7. It’s funny that you should post about Great Gatsby now because the copy I have had since high school has been staring at me intently for the past few days. I did not have to read the book in high school, though I did get a copy in high school. I’d really like to get on reading some classics this year, and I think I’ll start with Gatsby (closely followed by the Hobbit!).

  8. I actually just read it for the first time and I’m 21. I never had it assigned in high school, but the first time around I loved it. I guess I’ll have to reread it and see if my opinion changes too!

  9. I had to read this in high school too….(who didn’t, I suppose!) and I think I would have enjoyed it far more had we not spent an hour analysing the first page alone. It really wasn’t a good strategy for getting into the book. I refuse to re-read it now. But I remember Owl-Eyes…and the line “Happy (blessed??) the dead the rain falls on”….I have almost certainly misquoted that, but I trecall it cheerfully when I attend rainy funerals.

  10. kittylynne

    I don’t like re-reading books I enjoyed years later – I am often disappointed – Black Beauty – Ginger dies too quickly; Wuthering Heights – loved Heathcliffe as a teenager – but now think what a possessive paranoid boor. Jane Austen doesn’t disappoint tho.

  11. I actually really like that you talked about the differences you saw in this in your high school reading vs. now. I NEVER had to read this one, and so I still haven’t. It was just one of those books I assumed I’d be assigned to read and so I never read it on my own. I do want to read it this year, particularly before I see the movie, but I’m interested to see how I’ll take it being out in the real world and all. Thanks for the thoughts!

  12. […] 7. Brand names – Either completely leaving them out, creating fake brand names that sound like knock-offs of a real brand, or having the pages of a book littered with brands on everything. I don’t care that the kid wore J. Crew or carries a Coach purse. A good author can convey wealth and fashion in a timeless way without label-dropping (like in The Great Gatsby). […]

  13. I read it for English class in high school and liked it then. I think I was 14 but I may have been 15 or 16. I re-read it a few months ago (age 29) and liked it about as much as back in high school.

    It bothered me a bit how directly the symbolism and metaphors were explained to the reader. I prefer nuance and subtext–to me, a metaphor isn’t as powerful if it’s explained, kind of like hearing the punchline before the rest of the joke, or a magician explaining their tricks. I hadn’t recalled this from high school, but in English class the teacher explained all the symbolism and metaphors, so I suppose it wasn’t as jarring reading the same explanation in the text itself.

    One thing that really struck me that I hadn’t recalled from high school was Fitzgerald’s poetic prose. I am in the process of writing a novel series, and with the aim of bolstering my own writing, I’ve been paying close attention to the quality of the prose that I read. I think that in Gatzby, the imagery and symbols were not consistent throughout the text, but they were appropriate to each scene. Some scenes had straightforward description or dialog, and some went off on really expressive and beautiful tangents. It kind of reminded me of Hemingway, Cormack McCarthy (admittedly I’ve only read half of one of his books), and A Separate Peace by John Knowles. I really appreciate prose that uses words to create a whole greater than their individual parts, and I think this book succeeds in that area.

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