I’m making a sweeping generalization and assuming that everyone has read this, so I’m not including a synopsis.
Like many mainstream Americans, I rushed out to re-read the American classic to make sure I had a firm base with which to judge the film reboot. Only I’m going to be brutally honest here, I’m pretty sure I never read this book in high school like I was supposed to. As much as I love reading, especially now, I avoided assigned reading like Kirsten Dunst avoids a bra. So now I’ve finally read it, and I was underwhelmed.
Is this a great book? Yes. Does it deserve it’s claim of a modern and well written bestseller? Of course. Do the characters make me want to drop kick a kitten? UGH! YES!
To me, this read a lot like an arc of a Gossip girl season (and yes, I watched Gossip girl). But obviously it should be the other way around if I had read it when I was supposed to. Could that be why they featured a whole arc about Serena working on the movie version of The Beautiful and Damned? Probably. I won’t argue that the material wasn’t shocking and truthful in its release, or that the book isn’t well written, I just have issues with the narrator, Nick, and his choices.
Nick is an outsider to this world of wealth and blatant disregard. And even though by the end he isn’t impressed with any of them anymore, he just kind of stands by and watches it all explode around him. Maybe it was different back then, but if you were so fed up with everyone’s attitudes, why wouldn’t you find some new people to hang with? Or really tell Gatsby that his plan isn’t the greatest and he shouldn’t be wrecking marriages he isn’t a part of. No matter how fucked up they already are. I don’t know. I mean, he has the balls to tell Tom what he thinks of him when they meet later, but it was too little, too late for me.
I too, get swept up in the glamour of it all. Just like Gossip girl, I see these people’s lives of unimaginable wealth, with anything they desire at their fingertips, and I’m envious. Going to the finest schools, dressing in the finest clothes, mowing down bitches in the Rolls Royce, just another day at the office for these East Eggers/Upper East Siders. It’s a different world from my townhouse living, student debt having, surviving on credit cards before I got a job life. The last time I was in New York I was walking down the street to the Met and a toddler hopped out of his mom’s Porsche SUV and slammed the door into a nearby tree. After inspecting the damage, mom didn’t bat an eye. Which can either be a sign of poor parenting or they just have that much money that a new door or hell, even a new Porsche is like chump change. It’s hard to believe that some people actually live like that.
That’s Gatsby and Daisy’s world, whether or not Nick wants a part of it. I think that Fitzgerald does a great job of capturing the shallowness of the characters. Especially Gatsby, who because he throws lavish parties and lives in a gaudy mansion (in West Egg, gross) believes he can just waltz back into Daisy’s life and get her to leave Tom? Yes, Tom is an asshat, I won’t fight you there, but what the hell dude? Move on! It’s been like, a million years, and if she wouldn’t wait for you because you were poor then she sounds like a bit of a cunt, no? If it were me I would want her to stay with Tom while I kept throwing those parties and married someone else even hotter just so she could see what she was missing. Duh. That’s the only logical way to fight those snotty kids from the east side of Louisville.
I got similarly upset at Pip when we had to read Great Expectations but for very different reasons. What is my beef with classic literature? I don’t know but I have a feeling I’ll be reading more of it and ranting to you all. Since all that shit is free on the Kindle. Boom.
I’m so glad that you didn’t like Nick. I always pictured Nick as Sam Waterston, and while I love Jack McCoy, I just couldn’t like Nick, and I always felt like there was something wrong with me. Nick complains about how Daisy and Tom ruin people’s lives and then just leave town; I think sometimes he was just as complicit. Great review.
Thank you. And I agree. I think he’s just as complicit because he knows they’re wrong, but does nothing. Chump.