[Author’s Note: I read recently that F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short novel The Great Gatsby is now in the public domain. That makes me hope that someone will write a version of it that demonstrates how destructive the Gatsbys are to the world in which we live. Or at least, that someone will pen a vicious parody.
Though perhaps it would be even better if it faded away into irrelevance. Back in 2013, after hearing a radio program lauding the book, I wrote the following post. My opinion hasn’t changed. You will note that I mentioned Donald Trump in this piece, so I remind you that I wrote it long before he spent four years wrecking our country. The last line of this piece feels horribly prophetic.]
The radio program Studio 360 devoted an entire hour in 2013 to The Great Gatsby as part of its American Icons series. Various writers and scholars, including Azar Nafisi, author of the delightful Reading Lolita in Tehran, and the novelist Jonathan Franzen, waxed poetic about the book, which the Studio 360 website describes as “the great American story of our age.”
At some point in the program, one of the speakers — I think it was Franzen, but there’s not a transcript available and I’m not willing to listen to the whole show again to check — said something to the effect that Gatsby was a great dreamer. As I understood it, he thought the story was about someone with a great dream who got shot down for it.
“No, no, no,” I said to the radio (I yell at the radio a lot). “The trouble with Gatsby is that he had the wrong dreams. He wanted the wrong things.”
At least, that’s how I remembered the book. Gatsby’s obsession with being rich and being taken for a person with “old money” seemed to me to be worthless dreams. But the only time I’d read the book was back in high school and the only thing I remembered about it was Gatsby showing Nick and Daisy around his mansion.
Figuring that I might have missed something back then, I re-read it. And had the same reaction. Continue reading “The Great Gatsby Isn’t”…