The Great Gatsby

“I’ve been drunk for about a week now, and I thought it might sober me up to sit in a library.” – from Ch. 3

Francis Cugat’s final jacket painting. Gouache on paper. Princeton University Library.

Francis Cugat’s final jacket painting. Gouache on paper. Princeton University Library.

I hadn’t read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s book in many, many years but my friend Fred, who knows how much I enjoy the 1920s, loaned me his copy. I’d read it in high school but liked it much more this go ’round. As a novel about finding one’s moral compass amid the excess and materialism of the post WWI era, I found the story relevant even today. It evoked a melancholy feeling of misplaced priorities and unhappy excess underlying a certain segment of society; I’m not sure how far away our own society is from such excess. And the obsession and misplaced longing for someone is depressing but a part of human nature.

What’s great about the book is the evocative language – I read some passages a number of times just because I like the writing so much. For example –

“There was a ripe mystery about it, a hint of bedrooms upstairs more beautiful and cool than other bedrooms, of gay and radiant activities taking place through its corridors and of romances that were not musty and laid away already in lavender but fresh and breathing and redolent of this year’s shining motor cars and of dances whose flowers were scarcely withered. It excited him too that many men had already loved Daisy–it increased her value in his eyes. He felt their presence all about the house, pervading the air with the shades and echoes of still vibrant emotions.” (Chapter 8)

F. Scott Fitzgerald. Photo courtesy Hofstra University.

F. Scott Fitzgerald. Photo courtesy Hofstra University.

The new Gatsby movie by Baz Luhrmann looks moderately entertaining though I’m not a fan of Leonard DiCaprio. I might watch it to see the modern interpretation of the fashions from the early 1920s. Or maybe I’ll check out the one with Robert Redford and Mia Farrow.

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