Kanakagiri Siddhartha

The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald

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Completed a full book in one day… after a couple of years! Something I used to do so regularly earlier… The Great Gatsby has that un-put-down-able quality to it. Easily some of the best prose I read in English wrapped around a heart rending tale of a man worthy of a Greek tragedy. 

This is the story of Jay Gatsby, a war veteran from a poor background in the American mid-west. And his obsession with Daisy, a young girl who he thought he loved and who he thought loved him during their flirtation back when he was in the service. He was too naive to realize that all Daisy loved was his uniform and the social stature it bestowed upon him. And Gatsby himself loved the approval he once saw in Daisy's eyes. The approval he yearned all his life. He hated his plebeian background and loved the affluence Daisy seemed surrounded with! A ruinous mistake.

When after the war he is off to Oxford for some reason, Daisy gets married to Tom, a rich man with aristocratic background. Sure it breaks his heart. But he deludes himself that he can change the past. He feels he just has to make more money than Tom to win Daisy’s heart. Gatsby makes good money, by hook or crook and buys a sprawling mansion in NY state just across the sea to Daisy and Tom’s own sprawling estate. He organizes elaborate parties every week in hope that Daisy shows up in one of those one day. He simply fails to realize the protocols that differentiated old money and new money. 

He befriends Nick Caraway, his neighbor and Daisy’s cousin who is also the narrator and plays an important in the story by arranging a meeting between Daisy and Gatsby. Daisy introduces Nick to Jordan Baker, another Louisville girl and we see how Gatsby would have fallen for Daisy mirrored in the interaction between Jordan and Nick. But Nick mentions in his own exquisitely poetic words that though he felt he was in love with Jordan, his internal deliberative mechanism prevented him from drawing that conclusion. Pity poor Gatsby who never had such defenses, and he pays too high a price for that. There are other lives that are ruined too.

This novel is a stunning commentary on the lack of morality, the hypocrisy and the insensitivity of the rich in 1920’s America, but it has a universal appeal to it, even after 90 years of being fist published, a lot of revulsion it evokes in the readers towards certain characters is because of their familiarity in every contemporary society obsessed with money and possessions. It gives it a timeless appeal. 

One review I read in Goodreads claims that Gatsby would have had it his way had he lived in 21st century. I find myself agreeing to this viewpoint. He fitted the celebrity bracket so easily that would have meant he would be at home with today’s culture!

The best lines from the novel which probably has the most liked quotes ever!

“Reserving judgements is a matter of infinite hope.” 

“They’re a rotten crowd’, I shouted across the lawn. ‘You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together.” 

“No amount of fire or freshness can challenge what a man will store up in his ghostly heart.” 

“She’s got an indiscreet voice,” I remarked. “It’s full of-“
I hesitated.
“Her voice is full of money,” he said suddenly.
That was it. I’d never understood before. It was full of money-that was the inexhaustible charm that rose and fell in it, the jingle of it, the cymbals’ song of it.” 

“Thirty--the promise of a decade of loneliness, a thinning list of single men to know, a thinning brief-case of enthusiasm, thinning hair.” 

“They were careless people, ... they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.”

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August 18, 2019

2017 Reading Challenge

Siddhartha has read 0 books toward his goal of 29 books.
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