Summer of 2013: The Narrative Voice of THE GREAT GATSBY

Self dislikes it intensely.  The narrative voice, that is. (If you, poor student, are thinking of adopting self’s critical stance for your next assigned paper on TGG, be forewarned:  self is no critic, she’s just an iconoclast!)

She said as much on Twitter, just a few moments ago, and the effect was that the # of her followers is now down to 9.

This (The Great Gatsby) is a work written by an alcoholic.  Everyone drinks, everyone gets drunk, everyone quarrels.

This is the kind of novel where a man (Tom Buchanan) can invite his wife’s cousin (Nick) to meet his mistress (Mrs. Wilson), only days after meeting Nick.

Mrs. Wilson is a little blowzy, a little thick around the middle, and her voice is pure affectation (as is Daisy’s).

There is a manufactured fight in the little apartment Tom Buchanan has set up for Mrs. Wilson in some god-forsaken wilderness (probably Jersey City):  The purpose of the fight is to have Tom Buchanan break Mrs. Wilson’s nose.  Afterwards, no mention of how Mrs. Wilson explains her injury to her husband (a mechanic, a fairly stoic one)

Gatsby is a completely stupid name.

Even more stupid is the name “Jordan” for a golf pro.

Nevertheless, here are some choice passages written from the Nick point of view:

  • “Every one suspects himself of at least one of the cardinal virtues, and this is mine:  I am one of the few honest people that I have ever known.”
  • “Her gray, sun-strained eyes stared straight ahead, but she had deliberately shifted our relations, and for a moment I thought I loved her.  But I am slow-thinking and full of interior rules that act as brakes on my desires, and I knew that first I had to get myself definitely out of that tangle black home.”
  • “I had taken two finger-bowls of champagne, and the scene had changed before my eyes into something significant, elemental, and profound.” (Self didn’t know champagne could be served in finger bowls)
  • Regarding New York City:  “At the enchanted metropolitan twilight I felt a haunting loneliness sometimes, and felt it in others —  poor young clerks who loitered in front of windows waiting until it was time for a solitary restaurant dinner —  young clerks in the dusk, wasting the most poignant moments of night and life.”

Further, there is a mention of Nick’s usually taking dinner at the “Yale Club” and so forth, and self thinks how only a poor or impoverished or broke man could write so longingly and evocatively about the world of the rich.  So, was Fitzgerald:  a) poor; b) impoverished; or c) broke?

Where exactly is the Yale Club?  Self finds it on google:  “The Yale Club of New York City.  It’s where you belong.”

Gatsby has a butler, who speaks like so:  “Philadelphia wants you on the phone, sir.”

Aforementioned golf pro, Ms. Jordan, does have excellent dialogue, though.  For example, this zinger:

“. . .  I like large parties.  They’re so intimate.  At small parties there isn’t any privacy.”

There are even, for heaven’s sake, characters who use the expression “old sport,” which self surmises is the equivalent of “Mah Man,” or “You the Man,” or “My Brother” or some such elegant form of address.  Here’s an example from TGG:

“If you want anything, just ask for it, old sport.”  —  Gatsby to a guest during one of his fabulous parties

(One shudders to think of the Immortal Leo having to utter such a useless line.  She decided to do a quick google search of “old sport” and Django Unchained:  Nada, thank God)

But, self cannot help it:  she must continue reading, because even achingly bad melodrama can be entertaining.  She just didn’t think she would encounter it in TGG.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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