For my Banned Books Week selection I decided to read a classic that has been on my to-read list forever: The Great Gatsby.
In 1922, F. Scott Fitzgerald announced his decision to write "something new--something extraordinary and beautiful and simple and intricately patterned." That extraordinary, beautiful, intricately patterned, and above all, simple novel became The Great Gatsby, arguably Fitzgerald's finest work and certainly the book for which he is best known. A portrait of the Jazz Age in all of its decadence and excess, Gatsby captured the spirit of the author's generation and earned itself a permanent place in American mythology. Self-made, self-invented millionaire Jay Gatsby embodies some of Fitzgerald's--and his country's--most abiding obsessions: money, ambition, greed, and the promise of new beginnings. "Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that's no matter--tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther.... And one fine morning--" Gatsby's rise to glory and eventual fall from grace becomes a kind of cautionary tale about the American Dream.
It's also a love story, of sorts, the narrative of Gatsby's quixotic passion for Daisy Buchanan. The pair meet five years before the novel begins, when Daisy is a legendary young Louisville beauty and Gatsby an impoverished officer. They fall in love, but while Gatsby serves overseas, Daisy marries the brutal, bullying, but extremely rich Tom Buchanan. After the war, Gatsby devotes himself blindly to the pursuit of wealth by whatever means--and to the pursuit of Daisy, which amounts to the same thing. "Her voice is full of money," Gatsby says admiringly, in one of the novel's more famous descriptions. His millions made, Gatsby buys a mansion across Long Island Sound from Daisy's patrician East Egg address, throws lavish parties, and waits for her to appear. When she does, events unfold with all the tragic inevitability of a Greek drama, with detached, cynical neighbor Nick Carraway acting as chorus throughout. Spare, elegantly plotted, and written in crystalline prose, The Great Gatsby is as perfectly satisfying as the best kind of poem.
Who knew reading about wealthy people having affairs and throwing lavish parties could be so boring?
I feel so guilty that I chose to read The Great Gatsby in honor of Banned Books Week. I want to stand up and shout "How could you want to keep this masterpiece from our youth?" but instead I'm quietly asking "Do we still make our children suffer through this?"
Jay Gatsby - the GREAT GATSBY - has more money than sense I suppose. He lives in a mansion and throws lavish parties, but Gatsby himself doesn't even care about those parties. All Gatsby really cares about is reuniting with his past love. In my opinion, she's not even worth the trouble, but their relationship is symbolic of Gatsby's success so he has to have her back. I do better as a reader when I care about the characters. In this case, I couldn't care less who Daisy chose, I just wanted her to choose somebody already.
I decided to read The Great Gatsby this year because I kind of always assumed I'd love it. It's F. Scott Fitzgerald's masterpiece and a highly acclaimed work of American literature. It's not a horrible book, but it's not exceptional either.
If it's on your list of classics to read one day, go ahead and read it. I don't want to stop you from joining the club. Even though I was kind of bored out of my gourd, I'm happy to have my membership card.
4/10: Not My Thing
Have you read The Great Gatsby? I'm sure my opinion is in the minority! Did you love it? Are you reading anything special for Banned Books Week?