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In my 40-by-40 quest to read a novel per month for 12 months, my novel for the month of December was The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I planned on reading a different book in December, but I decided on The Great Gatsby after my failed attempt at completing Nanowrimo (click here for that story). The main character in my Nanowrimo story was a high school history teacher who just taught a lesson on the 1920s, so my head was already full of the Jazz Age.
I’m pretty sure I must have read The Great Gatsby at some point in middle school or high school, but I can’t remember. The Great Gatsby is touted as the closest thing we have to THE great American novel, and in choosing to read (or re-read) it now, I think my expectations were too high. It’s not that I didn’t like it…in fact, I thought it was expertly written. The story, and especially the characters and their behaviors, were all undeniably American, and Fitzgerald does a wonderful job capturing all of that in the novel.
I think my problem was that I could neither root for nor relate to any of the characters. Everyone seemed very full of themselves (yes, even Nick Carraway at times), and I’ve never been a big fan of drama for drama’s sake. The novel did a good job of portraying the idiosyncracies of the Jazz Age’s ridiculously wealthy, and I can imagine why it became so popular so soon after its publication. But sitting here over 8 and a half decades later, I’m a bit weary of being exposed to stories of the irreparable consequences of the morally bankrupt wealthy people of our society.