Ambitious Reading List: The Great Gatsby

Hey look at me, I actually finished another book and within a fairly short period of time after the previous one! Okay, enough personal back-patting, I shouldn’t be too happy with myself for finishing two books that aren’t even 200 pages (Gatsby and the previously reviewed War of the Worlds), but considering my history with what started out as a summer reading list and has morphed into an “I’ll finish when I finish” reading list, I’m glad to have two books crossed off the list. And, for once, I actually really enjoyed this one.

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, originally published in 1925, follows World War I vet Nick Carraway as he tries to be a bondman in New York City and living on Long Island next to a rich, party-thrower named Jay Gatsby. Though it’s told in the first person, the story isn’t really Nick’s, he’s just the one telling the tale as his proximity to Gatsby and his relationship to his married cousin Daisy get discovered and used as a way to rekindle a love between the two from way back. Though it starts off as a story chronicling the decadence of NYC in the roaring 20s with Gatbsy throwing extravagant parties at which his guests know nearly nothing about him and revel in using him. See, people just show up, have a good time and talk shit about the man bankrolling their fun and leave.

But then things turn, we learn more about Gatsby as a real person, including the fact that he and Daisy used to be an item and that Gatsby moved to NY just to be near her and hopefully reunite with her (or have her come to one of his parties). The pair do get back together, but things end tragically. Man, the end of this book was really sad and when I finished I’m not afraid to say I was a little verklempt. From the accidental deaths to the murders and the unattended funeral, it appears as though being rich can’t buy you everything, especially lasting happiness.

I could have sworn I read the book before, specifically during my Wizard internship. I know I brought the book out with me to New York and thought I read it, but I don’t think I got past the party parts, if I even started it. I have read a few Fitzgerald short stories though from a collection I got not too long ago hailed as something like Benjamin Button and a Butt Ton of Other Short Stories (not the actual title, but it should be). The book’s packed away in storage right now because we’re hoping to sell our condo in the near future so I can’t say exactly what stories I read, but I feel like I’ve got a good grasp on at least a few of Fitzgerald’s themes. He seems very interested in how money changes people and how it doesn’t. The rich still fall in love, but maybe they can afford to hang onto that love more than regular people. Wealthy people also seem to have more time and money to go on adventures, renting hotel rooms with their mistresses, buying tiny dogs and racing down hightways. Let’s be honest, in some ways the rich are more interesting because they can do more fun stuff and don’t have to worry about pesky nonsense like money.

In addition to all the good storytelling, I also really love reading about New York City in any time that’s not right now (it’s still interesting now, but less so). In college I also read Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence which was also about super rich people in New York in the 20s and kind of kickstarted an interest which carries on to this day. Anyway, I really dig Fitzgerald’s style and will dig the short story book out of the storage unit once I’m done with my list and want to check on the movie too and do a comparison.

Anyway, here’s the updated reading list. I dropped Ulysses because, well, it’s too damn intimidating. I want to read it at some point, but not when I feel like I’m on a kind of schedule. Up next is Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot which I already started and like so far. Anyone have any other Fitzgerald recommendations?

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