I began re-reading The Great Gatsby last night. While I wasn’t paying attention, it appears to have overtaken Huck Finn as the consensus choice for The Great American Novel and I wanted to experience it again to see what I think about that.
I had forgotten how beautifully written it is.
Consider this, as Nick Carraway meets Jay Gatsby for the first time at a party at the latter’s Long Island estate:
He smiled understandingly—much more than understandingly. It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you might come across four or five times in life. It faced—or seemed to face—the whole external world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself, and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey. Precisely at that point it vanished…
Then there is this scene from that same night, late into the party, wherein F. Scott Fitzgerald creates an incredible, precise, oh-so-believable moment as Nick observes a weeping woman who had been singing for the crowd minutes before:
“She had a fight with a man who says he’s her husband,” explained a girl at my elbow. I looked around, Most the remaining women were now having fights with men said to be their husbands.
I could go on and on.
There are sentences throughout these pages which, while lacking the the universal perspective of the famous last sentence of Gatsby which is often quoted (referenced in the header, do a Google search on those words if you’re only semi-literate), are equally memorable.