Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Date read: April, 2002
Read count: 3
Best thing about this book is the opening line:
In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.
“Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”
Reading on after this point should be a personal choice, but instead, this book is assigned reading–a sordid rite of passage (one among many) that almost every high school student has to endure. But on your own, you could choose to continue reading and admire the prose, as well as the rhythm in the prose (Fitzgerald was a talented prose manipulator), while ignoring character development and/or finding characterization both silly and amusing (Fitzgerald had a great idea; I just don’t like his execution of it). Or you could choose not to read this book and your life wouldn’t be any different than it is now.
I suppose my reaction to this book is rather a reaction to all the wealthy, privileged, ignorant, out-of-touch-with-reality people I’ve met over the course of my life. Wealth, privilege, and entitlement let people get off easy without a mark staining the rest of their lives. I think, in this instance, Fitzgerald conveyed this reality very well in the Buchanans.
But here’s the thing.
I’ve spent much of my life dealing with people like the Buchanans and their friends, and I’ve also dealt with people like Nick Carraway and Jay Gatsby. And I’ve found them all to be different facets of the same problem. They’re all too caught up in their own vapid lives to care about anything other than themselves and the bottom line.
And so I’d rather not spend any more of my time with such out of touch people, especially in fiction. If I didn’t mind them so much, I would’ve kept my first day job. The people–or rather, caricatures of people–I’d had to deal with while at this job were very much like Gatsby and friends: narrow-minded, shallow, and wealthy enough to not have to deal with actual problems on their own because, you know, they had people for that sort of thing.