The Great Gatsby

(52 Posts)

I don't like it much but I need to start doing so, before dd disowns me. SO please can you tell me - a) why you think it is brilliant and b) other novels which would work well as companion pieces to it (eg I think Breakfast At Tiffany's might).

notnowbernard Sat 04-May-13 16:46:18

It's one of the v few books I couldn't finish

I just found it so dull (probably spectacularly missing the point somewhere)

I got to about p50

DustyMoth Sat 04-May-13 16:47:09

Haven't read Breakfast at Tiffany's but might now. I quite enjoyed The Great Gatsby, but more for it's style than its substance, iykwim.

uncongenial Sat 04-May-13 16:53:35

I've read it and I really couldn't see what the fuss was about.

Gatsby is infuriating that he cannot (can he?) see Daisy for what she is. Mooning about her still, all those years later.

You're not helping here, ladies! smile

NotTreadingGrapes Sat 04-May-13 17:15:26

Neither Gatsby nor Daisy are particularly likeable.

Daisy would be a thicko wag in this day and age and Gatsby is the sort of wet drip who would sit outside your house and cry until your Dad went out to him.

That said, it contains some of the most beautiful passages ever written. The final paragraph is engraved on my soul.

Strangely, other books which have the same "I wish I could write sentences like that" effect on me have been lots of Graham Greene and John le Carre, some of DH Lawrence (when he's not being a dirty old shagger) and a few Simone de Beauvoir.

thecatfromjapan Sat 04-May-13 21:18:34

There have been quite a few threads on The Great Gatsby: for some reason it does seem to alienate and breed adoration in equal measure. You might want to look back over a few of the old ones.

Lots of people admire Fitzgerald's analysis of capitalism and glamour; his early insight into celebrity and popular culture; and the writing - the amazing writing.

There is something in the way he transmutes the libidinal allure of money clashing with deep moral reservations about wealth into a language both saturated with desire and fulfilment and tense with control, that makes Fitzgerald a supreme writer.

The plot is virtually a modern archetype: a criminal redeemed (in a fashion) only by a somewhat stupid, childish - but loyal and deep - attraction/adoration for a selfish, spoilt, rich girl - from old wealth; the bad not getting their just desserts; lots of morally flawed characters; unreliable narrator ... It's a rich template that lends itself to the telling of modern stories. Think of what Alan Hollinghurst did with it in "The Line of Beauty". So, it's a cultural meme, too.

It's also an amazing meditation on the allure of the shallow and the vacuous - which is something that you've picked up on (though I think you feel it hasn't shaken itself loose of the vacuous glamour that is its theme). That also makes it very modern and compelling.

Thanks Cat - that's exactly what I'm after, though I absolutely detested The Line Of Beauty too! Morally flawed characters and unreliable narrators - mmmm: American Psycho maybe?! Sallinger?

fuzzpig Sat 04-May-13 21:30:43

Haven't read it. Wouldn't mind seeing the new film though. <lazy>

thecatfromjapan Sat 04-May-13 21:31:25

Yes, yes. Those are two unreliable narrators definitely in the mode of GG. I would guess that American Psycho is definitely written with an eye on GG. All the product placements, the wry look at contemporary American consumerist/capitalist culture ... all v. GG.

Salinger would be a good comparison. Interesting, too, because the narrator in Catcher is so obsessed with the seeming loss of some kind of authenticity. The judgement of superficiality and "seeming" in GG is present, but quite hard to pin down.

I keep thinking of Evelyn Waugh too (but tbh I often do!). DD has read all those though.

Pig - the film looks stunning, at least in terms of costumes. smile

thecatfromjapan Sat 04-May-13 21:39:35

IS your dd aiming to write a comparative essay?

bluebump Sat 04-May-13 21:42:40

I've just re-read it this week ready for the film, I still loved it.

redlac Sat 04-May-13 21:44:54

Utter utter shitehole of a book. THIS blasted shitehole book is the reason I failed my Higher English. Utter pish.

Hassled Sat 04-May-13 21:45:55

I think I love it less for the plot and more for the writing. Very few unnecessary words - it's tight, and so evocative - Daisy's voice being full of money, and phrases like "men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars" - it conjours up such a perfect image of the party and the mood.
And it's such book of its time - the start of the American Dream, the hopefulness for the future.

DD is trying to convince me to love it, by connecting it with other books which I may like more! Also, she's looking for more things to read herself and discussing them in the light of Gatsby (which she says is her favourite book ever) seems an interesting direction to go in, in choosing something new for her.

fuzzpig Sat 04-May-13 21:53:55

Is it quite accessible? I'm not particularly good at reading a lot of classics, I do find them too wordy (processing issues) but I would like to read more...

Hassled Sat 04-May-13 21:55:52

Remus - has your DD read Tender is the Night? I think I prefer it to the GG. Again, beautiful writing.

fuzzpig - yes, I'd say it's accessible. Certainly worth a go!

She has, Hassled.

RedHelenB Sun 05-May-13 10:07:29

Love it - feel so sorry for Gatsby who doesn't fit in & think it is so true that people like Tom do what they want & get away with it. Nick starts off being disdainful of Gatsby but in the end comes to see that he has more admirable qualities than the "old rich". You read it & you are in that world - I love the scene where it is so hot that they are all restless - I could be in the antartic but i would still feel red hot reading it!

hackmum Sun 05-May-13 11:08:58

thecat: "Think of what Alan Hollinghurst did with it in "The Line of Beauty". So, it's a cultural meme, too."

Thing is, I adore The Line of Beauty. I like it much better than I do Gatsby.

I've read Gatsby twice: once when I was quite young (early 20s) and again recently, more than 25 years later. I think it's beautifully written, but I still can't take to it. It's essentially about a group of self-absorbed, shallow rich people - and I know Fitzgerald has complete disdain for these people, but I wonder if they're worth writing about at all? If they were self-absorbed, shallow coal miners, would anyone have bothered writing a book about them?

Interesting that when it first came out it was critically panned. People didn't "get" it. But something happened between then and now to make it revered as one of the great American novels. I think that in itself is noteworthy - something to do with the way the cultural and political context shifted in the 20th century. I think it's taken on a significance that it doesn't really deserve. But I'm prepared for people to argue against that. It could be that I'm just missing something important.

MrsBartlet Sun 05-May-13 12:11:16

I didn't enjoy it at all when I read it (over 20 years ago) but am tempted to re-read after reading this article in the Guardian yesterday -
I wonder if I just didn't get it first time round.

Thank you so much for that article. Well, I'm about 40 pages into my third re-read and thus far it is continuing to do precisely nothing for me. sad

Essexgirlupnorth Sun 05-May-13 13:42:06

Read it recently as was free to download on my kindle and am looking forward to the film which looks visually stunning.

I was going to suggest the catcher in the rye too as The Great Gatsby reminded me of it. Had to read Catcher in the Rye for GCSE English and hated it. Didn't 'get it' but wasn't a very worldly 15 year old would probably get more out of it if I read it now.

MarianForrester Sun 05-May-13 19:52:13

Can't believe you all hate it.

It is so beautifully written. It captures the essence of a lost age; lost love; waste, tragedy, shallowness, and truth. It is spare in the writing, yet so evocative.

I love it.

Hesitate to recommend something else, but will try. "A Lost Lady" by Willa Cather is also beautifully written, and captures the essence of a bygone era. Amazing.

Hesitate to recommend something else,

KatyMac Sun 05-May-13 19:57:07

DD & I just saw the Northern Ballet's version; it was amazing dancing but tbh neither DD, her friend, her teacher nor I really understood the story

We talked ourselves in circles; I'd looked it up on Wiki & there was a synopsis in the programme but we were so out of our depth

fuzzpig Sun 05-May-13 19:58:43

Thanks hassled, I'll give it a go, smile I've downloaded it. Will attempt to read it before seeing the film but I'm a slow reader these days.

Although I work in a library I don't get much time to read all the lovely books I see <sniff> (should probably MN a bit less blush)

redlac Sun 05-May-13 20:00:12

Catcher in the Rye is a far superior book to Gatsby!

MarianForrester Sun 05-May-13 20:00:48

Heresy, redlac!

I think they are equally irritating and trite tbh. There is clearly something I'm missing...

MarianForrester Sun 05-May-13 20:12:43

You are!

There is beautiful prose.

Melancholy theme. Love, loss, tragedy, violence, death. Personal stories as well as the backdrop of a lost and decadent age.

Beautiful descriptions, capturing all if the above.

It is simple, in a way, but Not Trite! smile

I will Try Harder...

MarianForrester Sun 05-May-13 20:18:38

Good grin

hackmum Mon 06-May-13 09:31:02

Marian, my problem with it is that it's a beautifully written book about very dull people.

MarianForrester Mon 06-May-13 10:30:05

You see, I wouldn't agree. It is quite stylised, but whilst they may be dull on the surface they are bubbling away with emotions and feelings underneath.

Maybe that's partly why I like the book. There is nothing I dislike more than highly expressed emotiongrin.

Well, I finished it for the third time last night. It left me cold tbh. I just don't get it - the writing is no better than lots of other writers (Waugh, Nabokov spring to mind) and it says so very, very little. I am really failing to see the point of it still. I WANT to like it but it just feels like eating the marzipan figures off the top of a really gaudy cake - I feel a bit sick and dirty and unsatisfied and still want something to eat, as it were.

LIZS Mon 06-May-13 18:16:14

I'm glad it isn't just me ! I've had it on my kindle for over a year, read it on and off (mainly while waiting for music lessons to finish) butjust don't get it . Come to think of it I've struggles with other US writers such as Hemingway and Twain.

I don't hate it, don't love it either. I really like books of that era, but TGG and also Tender is the Night were just so totally 'meh'.

I want to see the film, only because I love the style of the era.

Jackie - can I ask which books of the era you've loved?

marissab Fri 10-May-13 09:54:56

Hmm, i was thinking of reading this as the trailor for the film looked amazing and i love the decadence o f the 20's, but you've all put me off now! I don't have much staying power for rubbish plots. It has to be gripping for me.

hugoagogo Sat 11-May-13 18:47:21

Oh I love the great gatsby (and catcher in the rye) maybe it's time for a reread.

Just re-read Catcher and actually really rather enjoyed it this time. Loathed it the two previous times I read it. Isn't it strange/interesting how books can work differently on you at different times?

mimbies Mon 13-May-13 17:42:04

The great Michael Foley put it better than I could -

Thewhingingdefective Mon 13-May-13 18:42:36

I thought it was overrated drivel. I only read it for my reading group cos it was cheap in the kindle sale.

I still want to see the film though as I do like that period of history and I can appreciate why the book was important. It just didn't float my boat.

BelleDameSansMerci Mon 13-May-13 19:03:02

Wow... Stunned that people don't like it or Tender Is The Night (which I prefer). Both of those and Fitzgerald's short stories stay with me - phrases and thoughts from them come to me all the time.

Ilovegeorgeclooney Tue 14-May-13 20:43:04

I love it and cannot believe that anyone can believe Gatsby is dull. My all time favourite book, the final lines were one of the few sources of comfort I could find when my husband died. But then what do I know........I adore Moby Dick!!!!!

Oh George. I'm so sorry to hear about your husband. I really do think books have different resonances at different times and for different readers. Unfortunately I've yet to tackle Gatsby at the right time for it and I to meet happily.

Moby Dick frustrated me. I loved the non-fiction-esque bits about blubber etc, but thought it was not effective as a story overall. I really wanted to love it but...maybe next time?

ParkerTheThief Tue 14-May-13 22:31:41

I love Fitzgerald. Many years ago I wrote my dissitation on Fitzgeralds flawed heros.
This thread has reminded me its time I did a major reread of all my favourites.

LaraMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 15-May-13 16:43:28

Hello. We just wanted you Gatsby fans to know that the Mumsnet Academy is currently taking bookings for a new one-day course called A Celebration of The Great Gatsby. Lunch is included - and Gatsby-inspired fancy dress is optional!

donnie Wed 15-May-13 18:20:36

I love it. To me, it captures the struggle between alienation and popularity as well as the hollowness and superficiality of the jazz age. I love the symbolism of the cars and money as well as the ash mountain hovering on the peripheries......very Dickensian IMO.
I have taught the novel many times for A level (currently doing for OCR) and so maybe I know it too well, but I see Fitzgerald as a very important member of an American canon which offers great insight in to the crisis of American identity and the fallout of the Great Depression. And the prose....the prose....the tragedy of Jay Gatz's funeral where "nobody ever came"...

piprabbit Wed 15-May-13 18:34:10

Remus, is it period recommendations you want?

I love "Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day" which is set about a decade later.
Dorothy L Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey novels are very evocative of the period.

You might also enjoy E.M.Forster's A Passage to India.

Pip - I've read and love Miss P. I liked, 'A Passage To India' first time around but loathed it when I re-read it earlier this year.

Not really looking for recs for me to read, more books to go back to that might connect with Gatsby - or things that dd can read and then discuss in the light of Gatsby, since she is totally in love with it!

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