Monday, 7 July 2014
Book Review: The Great Gatsby
I am not one of those idiots who thinks it's ok to ruin stories for other people just because they're not new anymore. This review, like every review, will contain spoilers.
The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald tells the story of Nick Carraway and his total hard on for a neighbour called Jay Gatsby. Nick's family is rich and lives in a separate part of 1920s America. He left them all behind to learn about 'bonds', which I don't understand, but provide him with an income. His closest relative geographically is a cousin called Daisy who lives in the richer part of the same general area.
Gatsby is a mysterious man who lives next door. He holds parties in his house a lot and drunk rich people attend. Nick is fascinated by him, and probably slightly attracted to him. Because mystery is attractive. There are no direct allusions made to the possibility that Nick could be gay, but the word 'gay' is used a lot, and it is highly probable that this is for the purposes of subtly conveying to the reader who Nick really is.
Nick's homosexuality is made obvious by the fact that he starts to lose interest in Gatsby around the same time he finds out that Gatsby is in to Daisy, whose husband doesn't appreciate her. Nick learns this from Jordan Baker, a woman he knows through Daisy, and who he decides to shift his attraction to, probably experimentally.
As the story progresses, Gatsby's mystery begins to unravel. We learn that he is the ultimate creep. After he raised a fortune through seedy dealings with members of a vast criminal underworld, Gatsby purchased a house beside where Nick would eventually live, solely so that he could live near Daisy. He waited years for an opportunity to meet with her and Nick was able to finally hook him up.
I am not somebody who is easily influenced or profoundly affected by things. However, this book changed my life. I live, like every other first-world inhabitant, in a society where pop culture has marginalised a large collection of women on the basis of how thin they are. By extension, men who are attracted to thin women also find themselves marginalised. I am now confidently willing to admit that I find thin women attractive, thanks to F. Scott Fitzgerald: 'I enjoyed looking at her. She was a slender, small-breasted girl, with an erect carriage, which she accentuated by throwing her body backwards at the shoulders like a young cadet. Her grey sun-strained eyes looked back at me with polite reciprocal curiosity of a wan, charming, discontented face.' I understand Nick's appreciation for Jordan Baker. I have experienced it. Many times. But I did not know then what I know now. I did not realise what it was that I was feeling. Thin women are hot.
I can tell this is well-written because I barely understand what's happening on the first two pages. Words like 'peremptorily' are used frequently throughout. It's heavily weighted by description, but it's good enough that you don't feel like you're putting up with it. It's almost disappointing when situations actually start to progress. But even when they do, eloquent figurative language will stay on your mind beyond its perusal. The word 'love', even then, was thrown about in everyday conversation to the point of being devoid of real meaning. But Fitzgerald's use of it seems sincere, even in the casual nature of its delivery.
Leonardo DiCaprio was in a film adaptation of The Great Gatsby last year by Baz Luhrmann. I knew this prior to reading the book. I did not know which character he played. Consequently, I read the whole thing imagining that each of the primary male characters looked like some variation of him. I'm not sure whether that made the experience of reading it better or worse. Either way, you will probably do the same thing.
The tale is presented to us in the past tense. Nick is mentally travelling backwards and describing events from a previous summer. This is reflective of Fitzgerald's real life experiences with time travel. I theorise that F. Scott Fitzgerald is Mesut Özil. Based almost entirely on facial aesthetics, and partially on that when I googled 'Gatsby Ozil' I came across pictures of the German soccer player from a party he organised with a Gatsby theme. Perhaps there comes a point, maybe after this World Cup, when Özil realises that soccer and the present were never really for him, and he finds a way to exist approximately a hundred years ago and pursue a career in writing.
I feel that's what we should be getting from these pages. This isn't just a book. It's not just some masterpiece, composed in the invention of a generation. This is a carefully crafted admission. An insight into the secret double life of Mesut Özil. Evidence that it's never too late to pursue your dreams, even when it feels like you're steeped heavily in whatever your life currently is. And even if it feels like time is against you.