Friday, December 12, 2014

The Great Gatsby

Having completed my Girl-With-The-Dragon-Tattoo phase I am now in my Great-Gatsby phase.

Truthfully, it will be awhile before I get out of my GWTDT phase. In addition to everything else, the novel has an interesting structure, several stories within the novel, which is not unusual, but the way the author bookended the murder mystery with a boring financial exposé was fascinating. I'm not sure if I had seen that type of structure in other books I have read. It was a great book, but probably one I won't read again. On the other hand, I will watch the movie over and over, probably any number of times, before I finally get it out of my system, if I ever do.

On the other hand, it is very likely that I will read The Great Gatsby over and over, any number of times, and I may never get it out of my system. It took a long time for me to "get over" Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway. While reading Mrs Dalloway the second time, I had the uneasy feeling, I wasn't "getting it." I tried to solve that by typing the entire novel. That exercise took about six months, typing a couple of hours every other night or so. When I was done, I found myself blown away by the novel, and was able to read it a third time, and can now go back and enjoy reading it again and again.

The Great Gatsby is going to be like Mrs Dalloway for me. I won't re-type the entire novel, but I certainly might type out all the impossible-to-understand and almost-impossible-to-understand phrases, sentences and paragraphs. I don't recall reading TGG in high school or college. I don't remember ever reading it until 2004 or sometime around then when I was beginning my aggressive reading program. I read it, and remembered parts of it, but it wasn't until I saw the 2013 movie, that I really followed the story line.

I'm slowly reading TGG again. Today on page 116, chapter VI, a bit more than halfway through the book, I recognized the climax.

According to wiki:
According to Freytag, a drama is divided into five parts, or acts, which some refer to as a dramatic arc: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and dénouement. Although Freytag's analysis of dramatic structure is based on five-act plays, it can be applied (sometimes in a modified manner) to short stories and novels as well, making dramatic structure a literary element.
Briefly, J. Gatsby has spent the last five years of his life, ostensibly, trying to "get back" with Daisy, the love of his life. Wow, as I write that, and try to think next what to say, it becomes overwhelming. It is an incredible book, and an incredible story. Of course, it helps to know the ending. In fact, one needs to know the ending to a) recognize the climax; and, b) realize how really great this book is/was.

This was Fitzgerald's third huge, immeasurable, success. Two earlier novels had made him the "rock star" of his generation. He was having trouble, probably sensing intense pressure, to "do it again," to hit a third home run. The Great Gatsby was a grand slam; he predicted as much but did not live long enough to see that play out.

Wow, what a digression.

Briefly, J. Gatsby has spent the last five years of his life, ostensibly, trying to "get back" with Daisy, the love of his life. And then this, Chapter 6, about halfway through the book, on page 116, near the bottom of the page. J. Gatsby felt that he had failed up to that point in winning Daisy back. His "friend," his neighbor, the novella's narrator, declares:

    "I wouldn't ask too much of her, "I ventured. "You can't repeat the past."

    "Can't repeat the past?" he cried incredulously. "Why of course you can!"

    He looked around him wildly, as if the past were lurking in the shadow of his house, just out of reach of his hand.

That was the climax. Then begins immediately the downward trajectory of the dramatic arc:

    "I'm going to fix everything just the way it was before," he said, nodding determinedly. "She'll see."

At that point it is just a matter of seeing how the novel plays out. In the end, the story becomes a metaphor not only of F. Scott Fitzgerald's life but the lives of many who read the book and realized how really good this book was.

It literally happens that fast. One is casually reading the book, and then it hits, the climax, "you can't repeat the past. Can't repeat the past? Of course you can." Talk about stripping down a literary effort to a dozen words, and practically monosyllabic at that. Wow.

[It's possible some folks will argue that the climax was the moment when Gatsby and Daisy got together for tea at Nick's house. But that was not a "moment." It was a scene. That scene begins somewhat earlier than the "true" climax, beginning on page 91. It is a comedic scene, not a tragic scene, and does not "feel" climactic." The scene does not provide the weight (as in "gravitas") that a climax would need for a book to be called a classic.]

[There may be a foreshadowing of the climax on page 98, still part of the "tea" scene. The narrator suggests that the "colossal significance of {the green light at the end of Daisy's dock} had now vanished forever. Compared to the great distance that had separated him from Daisy it has seemed very near to her, almost touching her. It had seemed as close as a star to the moon. His count of enchanted objects had diminished by one.]

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Did F. Scott Fitzgerald recognize he was trying to re-live his past? Was he his own psychoanalyst? I need to go back and read his biography and Zelda's to review what was going on in their lives in 1920. He was starting to write the book in 1922 or thereabouts (published in 1925), so whatever the book is "about" was based on his internal struggles before 1922. This Side of Paradise was published in 1920; The Beautiful and The Damned was published in 1922. Born in 1896, he was only 26 years of age in 1922.

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West Egg - East Egg


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