Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Review of The Great Gatsby **Spoiler Alert**

F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald

This is the second time I have read The Great Gatsby and it will likely not be the last. The first was for the extreme pleasure that the novel yields and this most recent time was to study how Fitzgerald did it. As a writer I am constantly peeking behind the literary curtain of others writers to see how they did it; how they pulled off the fictional magic trick. In this instance it was to see how Fitzgerald levitated Daisy through this Jazz Age classic novel.

To me, Daisy is the most interesting character in TGG and the most damning. She is infinitely complex and impossible to nail down just like the varied guests that float in and out of Gatsby's parties. Daisy drifts through rooms and people's lives as she does life. It's not a stretch to realize that Fitzgerald based her on his wife Zelda who he called "the first American flapper." Both Daisy and Zelda were from Southern states: Kentucky and Alabama, respectively. They were unrestrained and had a thirst for living a wealthy lifestyle. For Gatsby, he was driven to bootlegging in an effort to quench this insatiable desire by Daisy. Fitzgerald took to writing novels, which after a number of years of writing them myself I can tell you of their many similarities. The difference between writing novels and bootlegging is that one can get you thrown in jail, cause you to drink heavily, and make you become associated with criminals. The other is bootlegging.

It's easy to imagine Zelda and F. Scott flying down some New York back road in their coupe, off to partying another Jazz Age night away. Easy indeed. Fitzgerald can, after all, write a party scene like no one else in the literature. He had lots of practice in his life. In TGG the party scenes never stop, each one is bigger than the last; each gala trying to outdo the other. Still, Fitzgerald wrote even better ones in his short story collection Flappers and Philosophers that is not to be missed.

TGG is unsurpassed in capturing the Jazz Age, one of the most wild and reckless (and fun!) periods in American history. It could only have been captured in the way that it was in TGG by a great artist who had lived it in spades. In my view Gatsby is one of the most sympathetic characters in literature. Why is he vilified? He was just a guy, like millions before and after him, trying to impress his girl. He wanted her unconditional love and never got it. Ultimately she got him killed. Daisy. The one who was guilty of vehicular homicide and love suicide. Daisy. The one Fitzgerald magically levitated like the Zelda of his own life. 

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