Review of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

First read: Before the list came out (about 1981)
Reviewed on: 8/14/98
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I did not like it.
I liked it.
I thought it one of the Best Novels of All Time

I read this book in high school, I believe in my Junior year. I'd seen the movie earlier, when it had just come out. I was 10 years old. Then, in high-school, we saw the movie again right after reading the book, so both book and movie are inextricably bound in my mind.

There were two dominant thoughts in my ten year old mind after I first saw the movie. First of all was the T.J. Eckleburg sign. I kept wondering what they would do with it at the end. I thought that it would fall down and mush several people, perhaps just missing the narrator. I was confused when the movie ended and the sign had nothing to do with anything. After all, they kept showing it all the time.

The second one came in the car ride afterwards. I tried to think if anyone in the movie was "good." The narrator certainly was. Gatsby was not, because he had been involved in some form of crime. Tom and Daisy were clearly not "good." All the people at the parties were not "good" either, because they didn't show up at Gatsby's funeral. So that pretty much left the narrator, and the priest at the funeral.

Sometimes, when I am very bored and a little scared, I will think of a sentence, and try to find people whose initials are part of consecutive letters of the sentence. For example, "Please hold" produces PL,LE,EA,AS,SE,EH,HO,OL and LD. Then I can use Peter Lawford for the PL, Linda Eastman for the LE, etc. I thought of this game on my first long plane flight. The sentence I used was "Please fasten your seat belt." I was stuck on the TE. The ideal was to get someone I knew personally, and second best was to get someone real whom I didn't know. For TE, all I could think of was T.J. Eckleberg, and eventually I opened the game up to fictional people.

Andy Kaufman once had a performance where all he did was read the Great Gatsby out loud. At the end, less than ten people remained in his audience. I often wonder if I would have been one of the ones at the end, if I would have gotten involved in the story. I also wonder what Andy thought of those people. Did he think that they were rubes and suckers, or did he think they were cool?

When we studied the book in class, we talked of the significance of the Narrator announcing, "I just realized that today is my thirtieth birthday." The teacher tried to convey to us how that symbolized a turning point, how he no longer wanted to just mess around drifting through life. We all thought we understood what the teacher was saying, but none of us did. I spent my thirtieth in the company of my friends Debbie Neal and Monte Fowler, who were older than I. This was a good idea, they made me feel young. Kathy Klykylo threw me a huge party for my 31st, which certainly felt more like the big "transition party" than number 30 did. I'm 34 now, drifting through life, and I find myself thinking about what Mrs. Dedrick said more and more.

Some time I want to read a biography of the Fitzgeralds. From what I know, they lived the old-days equivalent of the rock and roll lifestyle I've romanticized. They burned out as opposed to fading away.

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