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Words, Words, Words

A catalog of my comments and thoughts on books, reading, and writing as well as anything I come across that seems interesting. I used to sell other people's words at an independent bookstore but now I hope to get by on selling my own.

"The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald, Matthew J. Bruccoli

Life has begun again as it got crisp in the fall (eventually) and I decided it was time to revisit Fitzgerald's masterpiece, The Great Gatsby, prompted by his 120th birthday and an event celebrating the occasion at the Free Library of Philadelphia.


I admit I sit comfortably in the choir who sing the praises of The Great Gatsby. Even in it's slight 160 pages, it has so much to offer, be it your first, third or 78th reading. It's length also makes it an easy one to revisit. If you find yourself overwhelmed by the number of books you haven't read — as I've written about previously — this is a novel you can revisit in just a couple days.


The Great Gatsby is a devastating piece of writing — in style and form and substance. Even as I have grown in age and through multiple readings to see the characters as peers, I still find myself torn up at the end of each chapter. The closer I have gotten in age, the more human and touchable the characters seem, and the story is even more powerful for it. When I was young, I looked at these doomed loves the same way I watched horror films, substituting, "Just say you love him!" for "He's right behind the door!" But with experience came understanding of how terrible we can be at making choices in love. Would you really trade your whole life — friends, house, city, job, etc. — to be with someone?


And as a writer, how could you not be put on your ass by Fitzgerald? Some part of every writer celebrates seeing a successful piece that seems obtainable, that makes us say, "I could do that." Seeing Greatness is humbling and inspiring and daunting and euphoric and many other things at once. Greatness, like love, is complicated.


If nothing else, take from this post the chance to reread The Great Gatsby, especially if you have not touched it since high school. You may be surprised to find an entirely different story than you remember, different than the movie, different than the play, Gatz. This was at least my third reading of the novel and it is something I intend to read every year or so, as the British comedian Stephen Fry does, both for everything new it has to offer and the beauty of the art itself that never seems to fadeEvery time you read Gatsby it shifts, subtly, like a kaleidoscope. The colors and shapes, the characters and scenes, are all there, but it is never the same novel twice.