Friday, October 21, 2011

Book 20-The Great Gatsby

This list has been good for me. I read The Great Gatsby as a teen and didn't like. I remembered nothing else about the book except that I had liked one quote in it which I remembered writing in my quote book. By reading book's on this list and refreshing my memory of ones I read a long time ago I am hopeful that I will have a much firmer grasp on the books 20 or even 30 years from now. If nothing else, like my quote book of my teen years, this blog will remind me a little about the feelings and thoughts I had about the books I have read. My memory is a sieve, but intentionally setting out to look at what I read and put it in some rational form will hopefully help me to retain more than just a vague sense of emotion about books.

For the purpose of this list I chose to listen to this book as an audio book which I downloaded from the BC library system "Library without walls". Although I had read this book in 2001, I wanted to be able to write a review of it....and I just didn't have enough to go on. It was a good thing I did decide to listen to it again because I was better able to appreciate it now that I am older and have more experience in the world.

The book as I see it is basically about the fact that all behaviour makes sense when it is viewed in context. Gatsby is a bright, glittery wealthy jerk, but his facade had a purpose. He was trying to woo the love of teen life to him with money, wealth and power. Although it had been years since he seen her he knew if his notoriety increased enough she would eventually hear of him and make the trek to see him. (This part reminded me quite a bit of Absalom, absalom) What luck, then, that the narrator Nick Carraway a friend of his beloved Daisy moved next door. It was the glitteryness of the book, and the depressing nature of the story that turned me away from the book as a young teen setting out into the world. I read it while i was home from university one summer, during the years when I snapped up literature and read it with voracity because it was teaching me about life and truth and beauty. I didn't want to see that life could be so cruel or that people could be so fake. Basically I didn't want to read a book that was so horribly depressing. All the reviews say that the book is about how the American Ideal at the time the book was set was flawed and cracked. I would agree that it IS about that too, but the book gives a rationale for why people might be pursuing vain goals.

It is telling that the opening line of the book, was the quote that I loved, "Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone remember that all the people in the world haven't had the advantages you've had" . I loved that because I knew it was true. People make some poor choices in life, but they are perfectly rational choices in their mind, given the circumstance they are in and the skill set that they have. Although the narrator was wealthy and did have priviledges that others didn't have, I loved the quote because the same is true of people in poverty or people who grew up facing emotional hardship. If you want to criticize someone for their behaviour because it doesn't make sense to you just remember that you don't make sense to them either!!!

One of the alarming consequences of the books I have been reading, both on this list, and in other areas as well has been that I have become increasingly aware that one small turn of events can dramatically change a life forever. After reading books about the turning points in so many fictional characters lives I have come to realize that I am just one bad turn away from a complete change in my philosophy of life. Although I see myself as an optimist, I am guessing that for the most part that is because my world generally makes sense. Yes, crappy things have happened but I have been able to adjust and move on. After reading books like Madame Bovary, Anna Karenina, and the Great Gatsby it is easy to see how something devasting can scar you for life.

The second time I "read" this book I picked up a few more quotes that I likes as well:

"A sense of the fundamental decencies are parcelled out unequally at birth"

A quote I think affirms that this book is about the fact that people have differeing perspecitves and that we can't always understand why someone does what they do.

"Reserving judgements is a matter of infinite hope. I am still a little afraid of missing something".

Nick Carraway, the narrator of the book, who recieved the opening line wisdom of his father, never liked to judge someone because he was never sure of having all the information he needed to pass judgement. He referred to the fact that he tried to present Gatsby in all of his glory, and flaws.

One of the quotes that made me smile was this:

"the limited of all specialists: the well rounded man".

I like it because I think it is good to be well rounded in the things that you know. Sociology, English, carpentry, etc, etc.....all of it changes the way you look at the world. The book makes the point that you can only view the world through one lens at a time. And that, I think, for the most part is true. The next book on the list is To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf.

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