Book Review: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby is a nearly perfect novel, scarcely a word out of place.  Fitzgerald is  an artist – a daub here, a brushstroke there and he creates portraits of dazzling beauty.

On Daisy:
“Her face was sad and lovely with bright things in it.”
“I’ve heard it said that Daisy’s murmur was only to make people lean toward her; an irrelevant criticism that made it no less charming.”

On Myrtle:
“Then I heard footsteps on a stairs, and in a moment the thickish figure of a woman blocked out the light from the office door. She was in the middle thirties, and faintly stout, but she carried her surplus flesh sensuously as some women can. Her face, above a spotted dress of dark blue crepe-de-chine, contained no facet or gleam of beauty, but there was an immediately perceptible vitality about her as if the nerves of her body were continually smouldering. She smiled slowly and, walking through her husband as if he were a ghost, shook hands with Tom, looking him flush in the eye. Then she wet her lips, and without turning around spoke to her husband in a soft, coarse voice: ‘Get some chairs, why don’t you, so somebody can sit down.'”

On Tom:
“He had changed since his New Haven years. Now he was a sturdy straw-haired man of thirty with a rather hard mouth and a supercilious manner. Two shining arrogant eyes had established dominance over his face and gave him the appearance of always leaning aggressively forward. Not even the effeminate swank of his riding clothes could hide the enormous power of that body–he seemed to fill those glistening boots until he strained the top lacing, and you could see a great pack of muscle shifting when his shoulder moved under his thin coat. It was a body capable of enormous leverage–a cruel body.

His speaking voice, a gruff husky tenor, added to the impression of fractiousness he conveyed. There was a touch of paternal contempt in it, even toward people he liked–and there were men at New Haven who had hated his guts.

“Now, don’t think my opinion on these matters is final,” he seemed to say, “just because I’m stronger and more of a man than you are.” We were in the same senior society, and while we were never intimate I always had the impression that he approved of me and wanted me to like him with some harsh, defiant wistfulness of his own.”

On the lot of them:
“They were careless people, Tom and Daisy — 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…”

The book is about the enduring passion of Jay Gatsby for Daisy Buchanan, the Southern belle he’d loved and lost five years before.  Daisy is now the monied, bored and careless wife of another man, but Gatsby’s love is undiminished.  Indeed, his passion has far exceeded the limits of what Daisy can offer him – he will not settle for a flirtation or an affair or even a divorce – he wants nothing less than to resurrect the past.  He loved Daisy, but he loved the idea of Daisy even more.

I’ve only read one other work by Fitzgerald.  This Side of Paradise is boring as hell.

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