So, I’ve just re-visited The Great Gatsby. Why? Because lately, I have wanted to re-read some of the novels that were on the curriculum when I was at school. It started when I picked up Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea and was astonished at how wonderfully crafted a novel it is, and how, I largely missed that when I read it at 16 – perhaps because, at that age, even if you are bookish like I was, your exposure to literature is still so limited.
So, I resolved to look again at some of the other titles that were on that curriculum all those years ago and that is what led me back to The Great Gatsby (Penguin Modern Classics) this week. And what a pleasure the reacquaintance proved to be – how beautiful the language, how skilled the craftsmanship, how evocative the setting.
There is something alluring about the death of the American dream in novels that always draws me. Richard Yates has the same effect in Revolutionary Road.
But oh, how I wanted to read and re-read Fitzgerald’s sentences. I will dream of the haunting sadness of enchanted metropolitan twilight for days to come. How I wished to have this novel read aloud to me by a wonderful, slow voice that would savour the sentences.
If anything irritated me, it was the introduction and footnotes in the Penguin edition that I purchased because they are a distraction from the text. A work like this deserves uninterrupted reading. By all means include the learned essay, but stick it at the back and let the reader first enjoy the novel.
At 170 odd pages, The Great Gatsby is a quick read. Take an afternoon break and treat yourself to a read or re-read. It is definitely worth it. Next up on my curriculum classics is Evelyn Waugh’s A Handful of Dust (Penguin Modern Classics). Watch this space for details.