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17 Sages

shell pebble

Honestly addled

The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald

This is one of several books that I feel mysteriously compelled to declaim. I forced my mother to endure many weeks of me reading this aloud to her, at times in my uneven mid-Atlantic accent, at other times in my normal voice. It's odd really, because Nick's voice is quite interior and introverted; it must be the sheer poetic purity of the prose that makes it hard for me to keep it to myself.

I think I might have helped with one too many GCSE essays on this; I'm sick of it. Its analogies are pungent rather than profound. I like self-assured Jordan Baker, and I suppose I like Nick, as an amiable-enough fellow passenger. If Nick weren't here, I'd freeze to death.

It has a wistful mood, and it feels insubstantial, sometimes it seems to me to be all glitter, all mist, yet I am haunted by Daisy's light, by the heart-scorching loneliness of parties in honour of lost love. I feel dislocated in this world, I feel tempted to award it an undeserved seriousness; I feel a moral anxiety and empathy misplaced and uncalled for. Perhaps Fitzgerald and I are simply too far apart.

This isn't one of those books you admire for its ideology, but I wouldn't say it glorifies the privilege its characters enjoy; if it is not exactly clear-eyed and candid, it is at least honestly addled. If Fitzgerald had not depicted the excesses of the jazz-age millionaires without judgement, through its own warm rosy hazy of wealth and alcohol, how would the rest of us know what it looked like from the inside? I suppose I count myself among the critics who see Gatsby as broadly cautionary, but there is much more to enjoy here, if you have the taste for it.