Friday, January 11, 2013

The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald)

The Great Gatsby
F. Scott Fitzgerald
Public Domain Books
Fiction, General Fiction
***+ (Okay/Good)

DESCRIPTION: In the Roaring Twenties, a young man heads East to pursue his New York City-sized dreams. Nick finds himself neighbor to one Mr. Gatsby, an enigmatic tycoon about whom countless rumors swirl. Nobody seems to know where he came from or how he acquired his prodigious wealth, though his castle-like estate acts as host to weekly all-night parties for the privileged. Though a man of modest wealth and few connections, Nick soon becomes part of Gatsby's social circles as the man takes a personal interest in him. As Nick is drawn deeper into the world of the moneyed elite, he finds it harder to play along with their twisted, sometimes cruel social games... especially when Gatsby recruits him for a particularly dangerous affair.

REVIEW: This is another classic I've been meaning to read for years. It gets off to a rough start, populating itself with a host of unlikable characters doing unlikable things while throwing conspicuous amounts of money and alcohol at their own unhappy, hollow lives. Granted, half the point of the book is examining the tarnish beneath the gilded lives of the wealthy, but that doesn't make spending so much time lingering at their parties and being privy to their gossip particularly enjoyable. The narrator himself is fairly transparent, acting mostly as a set of eyes and ears to convey the adventures of others to the reader, though the little I saw of his personality hardly made me like him, either. Still, Fitzgerald captures an era in his words, down to the offhand racism and dismissal of the lesser classes as little more than objects, and his prose proves far more readable than many classics I've slogged through. Once the story actually finds a purpose and a plot, it moves decently, though the build-up to the climax feels forced. Overall, I found it a reasonably satisfying read, and I can see why this book is considered a classic.

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