Thursday, April 16, 2015
The Great Gatsby Turns 90
This month marks the 90th anniversary of the publication of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. I have often thought that Gatsby is one of those books so essential to American literature that you cannot imagine their absence. I would put Twain's The Adventures of Huckelberry Finn in that group, along with Absalom, Absalom by William Faulkner. Just take a moment to think of the size of the void left behind if these books did not exist. The extraordinary thing about Gatsby is how much Fitzgerald got out of so few words. In truth, Gatsby is a very brief novel. By some estimates, it is barely more than 47,000 words. Ana Karenina is more than seven times longer, for example. But, oh what Fitzgerald did with his carefully chosen words. No other work of American literature better punctures the myth of the American dream. We see Gatsby gathering great wealth and prestige (at who knows what cost) all in pursuit of a goal not worth having: the vapid, childlike Daisy Buchanan. The Green Light, indeed. The message of the book must still resonate. Scribner is still selling 500,000 copies a year. If by some chance you have never read The Great Gatsby, do so now. It will change the way you feel about any number of things, mostly about the folly of the American dream.