THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald

It's ironic that I lived on Long Island, NY for most of my life, yet I never read The Great Gatsby -- possibly the most famous book set on Long Island -- until after I moved away. Anyway, this classic is a wonderful portrait of not just Long Island, but the Long Island of the elite and doomed.

Set in the 1920s, The Great Gatsby is primarily the observations of Nick Carraway, a young man on the fringes of high society. He lives on one of the two egg-shaped lands at the end of Long Island, across from the wealthier area -- and directly across from a monumental mansion. Nick's entry into the world of the elites is through Daisy (his second cousin once removed) and her husband Tom Buchanan, a hulking brute who barely conceals his affair with his mechanic's wife. Their friend Jordan Baker, a golf pro, becomes Nick's romantic interest.

Then there's Gatsby. His home -- the mansion across from Nick's rental -- always seems to be the focus point of parties, though most of the guests don't seem to know Gatsby himself. Gossip and mystery surround him -- from rumors that he's a bootlegger to stories that he killed a man -- and he seems more a presence than a person. At least, until he becomes part of Nick's social circle -- and Nick's good friend.

The Great Gatsby is an insider's look at what's behind the good life. In this book, Fitzgerald paints a vivid picture of the supposed high life -- where alcohol and gossip and money flow freely -- but behind it are the empty, sad, and even pathetic people who seem lost even while they smile. (Daisy's first words in the novel are "I'm p-paralyzed with happiness.") There are numerous contrasts here: light and darkness, the ash of the area between the "better" New York City and Gatsby's home, even the gulf between Gatsby's rumors and reality, and between his dreams and what he finds. The result is a sad, vivid, ultimately beautiful novel about the elites, for good and ill.

Overall grade: A
Reviewed by James Lynch

No comments: