Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Great Gatsby

All I remembered about the last time (also the first time) I read The Great Gatsby was a car accident, hedonism, racism, and that I didn't like it. I'm trying to remember what kind of person I was at the time; I know I was on holiday, struggling with hayfever and having put my back out jumping off the couch onto a towel being held at shoulder height by eight of my friends and then being flicked up into the air, that I was at a funny point in my life, and that I was twenty-five. This time around, I still don't like it much, but I do think it is beautifully (if very consciously) written. Here are some bits I liked:

while, trying to look pleasantly interested and a little bit deaf

He knew that when he kissed this girl, and forever wed his unutterable visions to her
perishable breath, his mind would never romp again like the mind of God.

She thought I knew a lot because I knew different things from her.

I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the
inexhaustible variety of life.

Repelled is a good way to describe my feeling about the book. Even while I devoured it, I hated everyone in it; I hated their lives, and their persons, and I hated sympathising with them. I thought about the modern equivalents of the East Egg and West Egg sets, and how I despise what they stand for; excess, born privilege, carelessness. I wondered what kind of book Fitzgerald could have written about the working class; people who can't retreat "back into their money". I started to feel the prejudices of the East Eggers towards the crude West End set, and I felt for Tom Buchanan; sometimes I felt as if I might be able to like him if I was going to like anybody, simply because he was exactly what he was, and I wondered what was happening to me. While Fitzgerald has indeed "distilled the essences of glamour and illusion" (taken from the blurb) and has no defense or pretense about his characters or their lifestyles, the story cannot help but glorify those things. Is it just me? I know I can't read a book or listen to a song without inserting myself into it...

Anyway, in spite of all of this, I enjoyed the book, and I'm really looking forward to seeing the film at the end of the year; Tobey Maguire will probably make me want to hit Nick, but the costumes and the sets promise to be incredible, especially with Baz Luhrmann at the helm. And I'm not even going to try to pretend I won't be leaving the cinema to come home and start doing my hair exactly like Daisy's. I may hate the game, but I'm only human.

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