Friday, August 5, 2011

Book Thirty-One - The Great Gatsby - Part II

Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald
Obituary from the NY Times
Critically speaking, this is an “important” novel. I stumbled upon a source along this vein if you’re interested. The thing is, I wasn’t terribly interested in reading critically when I had to do it in grad school and am less interested now. I read for enjoyment. I want a story to grab me, incite my imagination and contain characters I love. This one – eh. It was okay. I couldn’t really relate to the narrator and wasn’t terribly interested in Gatsby or any of the other main characters. Of course, the academics would say that is the point, but I still think I should have cared about the narrator, for goodness sake.

The thing this book does contain are some great quotes and interesting references. It’s set in the “jazz age”; Fitzgerald supposedly created that name for the era. The jazz age started after The War To End All Wars Except It Didn’t So Much Turn Out That Way was over, and from what I’ve heard the jazz age was the precursor of the sixties. The US even had a cocaine problem during the jazz age. (Why does every generation think it invented sex, drugs and rock and roll?)

Quotes –
… as obscurely as it had begun, his career as Trimalchio was over.
Trimalchio is a character in a Roman novel of the middle ages, Satyricon. He started with nothing and wound up with money and power and threw sumptuous dinner parties. Mini-tangent: see, this is the sign of a classically educated writer. Apparently, Fitzgerald just pulled Trimalchio out of the back of his brain and threw him in the story where he fit perfectly. I can't do that with writings from the middle ages but I can do it with pop music. Give me a situation, I’ll give you a song. I kinda wish I had been classically educated but when I was in school I wasn't terribly interested in the classics. I knew people taking Latin in high school and wondered why they would do that. In fact, I think I was supposed to read The Great Gatsby in high school. Oops.

… her artificial world was redolent of orchids and pleasant, cheerful snobbery and orchestras which set the rhythm of the year, summing up the sadness and suggestiveness of life in new tunes.
Fitzgerald wrote a narrator who disliked this sort of person yet this is the type of life Fitzgerald lived. That’s a bit sad.
… sparkling odor of jonquils and the frothy odor of hawthorn and plum blossoms and the pale gold odor of kiss-me-at-the-gate.
Had to see what a bouquet of these flowers would look like. 
There is also mention of the tea hour. So in the twenties Americans still took tea? When did that stop? When did we switch to coffee? I know coffee has more caffeine but it doesn’t taste nearly as good. I see so many people walk around now with a cup of coffee the way they used to walk around with a bottle of water and before that, a Coke. By the way, I used to think “tea” was simply tea, or what the Brits call a "cuppa." But in Britain, “tea” can also mean the evening meal.

The moral of The Great Gatsby seems to be that as hard as you try to escape your past, your past goes with you because it is a part of you.

The Great Gatsby has a great last line which also serves as the Fitzgeralds' epitaph.

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

1 comment:

  1. I want to read this book because people say that it captured all the essence of an entire decade.