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A true classic of American literature. The Great Gatsby celebrates a heightened sensibility to the promises of life, an American capacity for hope that remains unsullied even by the falsity of what it pursues. Fitzgerald''s clean, elegant style evokes to perfection the glitter and charm of the Jazz Age, as well as the falseness of its values. Gatsby embodies the naive American notion that it is possible to invent oneself and persuade the world to accept that definition. Gatsby''s youthful neighbor, Nick Carraway, fascinated by both the display of enormous wealth and the essential integrity that he perceives in Gatsby''s vision, becomes his confidante and accomplice in his plan to capture the heart of Daisy Buchanan.
Fitzgerald was born in St. Paul, Minnesota and attended prep school, then Princeton University. ("I was always the poorest boy at a rich man's school," he claimed.) He was a lackluster student; when he dropped out to enlist in the army during World War I, he was on academic probation. The armistice was signed before Fitzgerald could see service, and he was discharged in 1919. He began writing THIS SIDE OF PARADISE, based on his Princeton years, when he was 21, and was 24 when it was published. The success of the novel--which was called by Edmund Wilson "one of the most illiterate books of any merit ever published"--enabled him to marry Zelda Sayre, whose family disapproved of him and his prospects. Fitzgerald gained growing celebrity as a major new voice in American fiction, and he and Zelda became the 1920s' equivalent of jet-setters, dividing their time between New York, Paris, and the Riviera--part of the circle of American expatriates that included Gertrude Stein, Hemingway, and Dos Passos, writers about whom Stein coined the term "the lost generation." Fitzgerald continued to write all his life, including the obligatory stint in Hollywood, but was gradually taken over by alcoholism and the general dissolution of his life, and many of his later years were plagued by doubt, debt, and failure. He died at the absurdly young age of 44, of a heart attack.
"And while he was at his first-rate quantum best, he used everything he knew of society--as critic, as victim--to compose at least one work, 'The Great Gatsby', that in a few pages arcs the American continent and gives us a perfect structural allegory of our deadly class-ridden longings."
"I have read GATSBY over and over, and each time it comes back to me that it is not a book about a man who goes East, but rather a book about a man who comes from, and brings with him, the values of the West."
"Now we have an American masterpiece in its final form: the original crystal has shaped itself into the true diamond."
"The novel is one that refuses to be ignored....It is not a book which might...fall into the category of those doomed to investigation by a vice commission, and yet it is a shocking book--one that reveals incredible grossness, thoughtlessness, polite corruption..."
"The philosopher of the flapper has escaped the mordant, but he has turned grave. A curious book, a mystical glamourous story of today. It takes a deeper cut at life than hitherto has been essayed by Mr. Fitzgerald. He writes well--he always has--for he writes naturally, and his sense of form is becoming perfected."
"There are pages so artfully contrived that one can no more imagine improvising them than one can imagine improvising a fugue."
From the Publisher
In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since.
When F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote THE GREAT GATSBY in the early 1920s, the American Dream was already on the skids. Originally based on the idea that the pursuit of happiness involves not only material success but moral and spiritual growth, the dream had by Fitzgerald's time become increasingly focused on money and pleasure--a phenomenon the high-living writer was only too familiar with. In THE GREAT GATSBY, Fitzgerald looks deeply into himself and his milieu to create the story of James Gatz, a self-educated nobody from North Dakota who has amassed a fortune and adopted the persona of Jay Gatsby, an Oxford-educated man about town, for the sole purpose of winning back the heart of Daisy, the woman he loved in his youth. Daisy is now married to Tom Buchanan--a brutal, ignorant racist who embodies the corruption that can come with unlimited wealth. As Gatsby, Daisy, and Tom--and the narrator, Daisy's cousin Nick Carroway, who serves as the author's spokesman--play out the drama in a small Long Island town (the East Hampton of its day), Fitzgerald makes it increasingly clear that life is meaningless when it is based on money and glamour at the expense of the solid American values of self-reliance and hard work--and Gatsby's sad end underscores the point. THE GREAT GATSBY has long been celebrated as the archetypal American novel, and, just as Fitzgerald's book grew out of the tradition that included Henry James and Edith Wharton, its influence on later writers from J. D. Salinger to John O'Hara cannot be overestimated. The book remains vividly alive and widely read years after its writing.