I had not. I had gleaned of what it was roughly about in highschool once, but it never was a book we studied or read.
I skipped the introduction and forward and jumped right in. With news that Leonardo DiCaprio is set to star as the mysterious Jay Gatsby himself and Tobey Maguire as Nick Carraway in a film adaptation of the book later this year I couldn’t help but picture their faces when following the story.
It’s an understatement to say I adored it. While focusing on troublesome times of an altogether different era, it holds its own even today.
Perhaps I’m in the throes of classic madness but I do see elements of Gatsby and Nick Carraway in everyone.
I’ve met many a Gatsby who has constructed a life around them that they think they want, that shows them in the best light, that allows them to forget and scrub away the stains of times past and begin a new.
Those who find themselves trapped in their own lies, lonely even in their own company and who seek untenable dreams that sometimes are best left as pleasant day dreams.
This is the plague of Gatsby and I doubt there is a single person who reads it who doesn’t identify with him to some extent or recognise their partners or friends or colleagues in him.
He’s surrounded by many but always alone and never, ever openly lets himself out.
What could possibly be worse? Well to be Nick Carraway of course. The perennial observer, an outsider always analysing and judging the lives of others including his own. A person who never really plays his part or lives his own life. He more or less watches his life being lived beside or in front of him. Always one step ahead or to the side and looking back, instead of revelling in the moment.
Oh I know a lot of Nick Carraways and when procrastination gets the better of me, I do can indulge in a few Carraway traits. Self loathing and analysis, distance from others and questioning what would be the ‘right thing to do’. Perhaps the one thing I took out of the book was, that it’s not so much about the right thing to do, but the doing of something that matters.
What perhaps fascinated me the most was I intended to read through this list from the perspective of a writer and prospective author, studying the prose and gaining insight into my style and how I portray the characters in my novel which is still stuck at infancy.
Instead I became completely absorbed in the characters, in the setting, in the polar opposites and at the same time, striking similarities between Nick and Gatsby and the emotional manipulations of Tom and Daisy Buchanan.
The only redeemable feature of both Daisy and Tom is their love of each other and ability to save their own skins. Perhaps this is an unfair judgement but they both come off in the end as remarkably cold-hearted.
The real key to this book is the characters. I completely became entrapped in trying to understand Gatsby and seek some insight and depth to Carraway.
If that’s one lesson I take away from the interminably talented Fitzgerald, it’s that if you make the reader fall in love with the character, they fall in love with the book.
Consider me suitably infatuated.