The Great Gatsby

April 22, 2008

So much has been written about this novel in the eighty or so years since its initial publication that it seems superfluous that I should even mention it in a blog. The reason I do, is that I read it for the first time last month. That’s right, in my twenty-plus years of schooling, I never read The Great Gatsby. I think I (my parents) deserve a refund.

The reason Fitzgerald’s masterpiece is deemed as such is that it is timeless. The central concepts of decadence, unadulterated materialism and the immorality that often accompanies them have existed and will continue to exist in every generation. In this way, I feel as though I couldn’t have chosen a better time in my life to pick it up.

As a twenty-something living in New York City I completely identify with protagonist Nick Carraway. Like Nick, who lives in a modest shack relative to Gatsby’s palatial residence, I live in a relatively affordable apartment with four friends. Like Nick, I’ve made acquaintances with people who use the word “summer” as a verb, play polo and go for drinks at The Plaza (and who doesn’t know a rich, arrogant douche like Tom Buchanan).

Yet as much as I loathe that lifestyle and despise many of the personalities associated with it, I can’t help but be intrigued and shamefully suppress jealous impulses. I think it is out of this contemptuous curiosity that Nick casually partakes in Gatsby’s lavish parties. Who wouldn’t want to lounge on a beach-front patio in a linen suit sipping Mimosas and listening to jazz? Fitzgerald depicts such scenes so effortlessly that you can almost smell the expensive cigars and feel the cool summer breeze through starch white curtains.

A part of me wishes I could afford to live like that, but it only takes a second to snap back and realize that it’s just not me. So excuse me while I grab a 40, sit on the couch and shoot the shit with my buddies.

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