I'm revisiting the old haunts: Nick's bungalow in West Egg, Gatsby's lavish parties at night, Daisy's exuberance.
And then, there are the words.
Fitzgerald writes like no one else. I encountered further proof of this earlier last month when I read Tender is the Night--which, while a good book-- doesn't hold a candle to The Great Gatsby. But through all of Fitzgerald's work, there's one thing that can be expected: meticulously crafted, breathtaking prose.
Listen. I reread The Great Gatsby religiously. And it's not just because I love the glamor of the Jazz Age or the love affair between Gatsby and Daisy or the tragic ending. I read it mainly for the words.
But what do I mean, exactly?
For me at least, this book holds a sort of magnetism--which is sort of perfect, considering Gatsby's personality. It draws me in. I can't help but revisit on summer days and winter nights, luxuriating in the sentences.
It's hard to explain, unless you've read this book. And this book is relatively thin--175 pages or so, the elegaic blue cover that's lasted through the ages gracing the front. Inside though, there's enough room for genius. I'm amazed and my mind is blown every single time *and sometimes I'm speechless, and then just amazed, again. Because if you really look at Fitzgerald's prose: if you realize that the flow is incomparable to any author out there and it's as if you know what word is going to come next--this book goes from great to nothing short of titanic. It's really the rhythm of Fitzgerald's sentences-- dictating what precise but beautiful word most come right now and right here--that makes it feel like you are immersed in a beautiful dream.
I also like to think it's similar to observing a work of art. Fitzgerald is like Monet: if his words were encased in a museum, in painting form, they'd shine out with this sort of vivid, enchanting quality. They're colorful and rich. There's layers to them. Every time you look at them, there's something new to be found. Even the most elementary sentence serves some higher purpose.
I can't wrap my mind around just how very good Fitzgerald had to be to write something like this.
I set out to write this post with the intention of convincing the hordes (you guys) to read this book, if you haven't already. I haven't said much of plot: there's Nick, the removed narrator that watches as Daisy and Gatsby--to put in simple terms, have a fling. Daisy is married, of course, and rich and superficial, but she's got this flimsy prettiness--she glides through the pages, fluttering everywhere. Then there's Gatsby: hopelessly in love with Daisy, pining after her, but enigmatic and charismatic. This book is really about them, and about the excess of the 20's.
Consequently, there are a lot of parties and a lot of mansions.
I don't know what else I can say to convince anyone. Maybe that, in my opinion--Fitzgerald is the best writer of prose. Usually I hesitate to make blanket statements--how can I know, since I haven't read every author out there? It's just--I don't mean that other authors don't have better plot or characters--but Fitzgerald, the best sentences of all time? The best prose?
For my reading tastes, yes. He's my soul-author.
And here are some quotes from The Great Gatsby that will show you why:
The wind had blown off, leaving a loud, bright night, with wings beating in the trees and a persistent organ sound as the full bellows of the earth blew the frogs full of life. The silhouette of a moving cast wavered across the moonlight, and turning my head to watch it, I saw that I was not alone--fifty feet away a figure had emerged from the shadow of my neighbor's mansion and was standing with his hands in his pockets regarding the silver pepper of the stars.
There was music from my neighbor's house through the summer nights. In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars. At high tide in the afternoon I watched his guests diving from the tower of his raft, or taking the sun on the hot sand of his beach while his two motor-boats slit the waters of the Sound, drawing aquaplanes over cataracts of foam.
The exhilarating ripple of her voice was a wild tonic in the rain. I had to follo0w the sound of it for a moment, up and down, with my ear alone, before any words came through. A damp streak of hair lay like a dash of blue paint across her cheek, and her hand was wet with glistening drops as I took it to help her from the car.
Fitzegerald writes of love gone wrong and old men with owl-glasses, ash valleys with clouds of gray particles and owners of ostentatious cars. Most of all, light flutters through his story. And his words: they leave me with an impression of white dresses ghosting through jazz music, guests tipsy with bootleg gin on blueblack nights.
Please, read this book. And then please love it.