Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Great Gatsby

As is often the case with great works of literature, I was introduced to The Great Gatsby in high school, and promptly hated it, dismissing the classic as "A second-rate soap opera". But as time has passed, I have sometimes found myself wondering if perhaps the fault was not in the book itself, but rather somehow was something personal, if there was something I had missed in the slim volume. Impossible as this scenario sounds, I decided to re-read the book, just to make sure. And you know what? Most high schoolers are stupid. But man, not me. I was five kinds of brilliant.

You see, The Great Gatsby essentially is a brief soap opera, dealing with high-society shenanigans in the early 20th century; full of lavish parties, lengthy car rides and characters who are not what they initially seem to be (NOTE TO CINDI: HE DIES AT THE END). Based on the headlines I am assaulted by every time I attempt to buy groceries at a supermarket, there remains a thriving market for this sort of thing, though a basic level of literacy is no longer a prerequisite for those wishing to partake of it. Unfortunately, it completely fails to grab me. I feel much like I do when reading Jane Austen, recognizing the quality of what is before me, but simply uncaring. It's great that Jane recorded massive manuals of upper-class British dance etiquette, and when I find myself in a situation calling for a knowledge of that protocol (Should be any day now), she'll be the first source I turn to. But until then, she can sit on the shelf (The shelf in question belongs to someone else), unread by me. Same thing here. If I need to know the proper way to conduct an affair while living in 1920s NYC, Fitzgerald it is. Until then, I will pass.

Or I would if not for one thing: The prose. Regardless of how little I care about the events on each page, The Great Gatsby is far beyond wonderfully written. Every image in the book is fully formed, each far more clear than it could possibly be in any picture, moving or static. Opening to any page at random will yield a line so well-formed that it will not inspire, but rather make you wish to never write anything ever again, for it will pale in comparison to Fitzgerald. Just by way of example, I let the book fall open, and it chose pages 34 and 35. Upon page 34 resides a sentence stating of a character that

She came in with such a proprietary haste and looked around so possessively at the furniture that I wondered if she lived here.

Instantly, you know exactly what that looks like. This happens on every single page. It is borderline-amazing, and makes the book so much better than the sum of its plot that it really must be read to be believed. So go forth from this place and do so. And then return, gawking at my suboptimal sentence structure, mocking me in the comments for them. Actually, don't. That would be mean. Instead, forget about the Great Gatsby. Click on the ads and mail me blank checks. Ideally while chanting my name. That is a much better use of your time than spending two and a half hours bombing through a canonical work of Western Literature. Because these B and N keys don't seem like they're going to fix themselves, and all this copying and pasting isn't a ton of fun.


Ben Dandrea said...

Recently started reading "Huckleberry Finn" in my English class.

Send help.

Cindi Lynn said...

Guess what? I already knew that he died because I've read it several times. Guess what else? You should have been smart enough in highschool to know that it doesn't freaking matter what the book's about. All of his books are just freaking beautiful. And are about bloody nothing. I'd recommend you read each and every one of them.