As someone who has the tendency to pick up melancholy quite easily, I probably should not be enjoying the Fitzgerald novels this much, nor should I be this much involved in the gloomy yet glorious 1920s and 30s. Still, I can’t help but feel drawn to them, probably because of how they—both the era itself and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novels on the era—always capture both the yin and the yang in such a ravishing way.
Now, you probably won’t understand why I am feeling this way about the novels, and Fitzgerald himself, until you read “The Great Gatsby” in the state of “Fitzgerald,” or at least until you read the novel feeling the way that Fitzgerald felt as he was writing it. For those of you who know nothing or very little about this charmingly depressed man, he endured such crazy things during his short but quite eventful life that I suppose this, to an extent, is what made him so successful as a writer. So, imagine living in the “Roaring Twenties,” the “Jazz Age,” the “lost generation” of Hemingway, being best friends with dear Ernest Hemingway himself, getting sucked up, if I may put it that way, in a series of dramas because of a wife who becomes jealous of even your best friend and later turns out be suffering from a severe case of paranoid schizophrenia. And imagine trying constantly to prove your worth to compensate for your upbringing. Ergo, all the conflicts he experienced during his lifetime, though they may have cost him his happiness, perfectly captured the image of the Roaring Twenties: the socially, culturally and artistically dynamic era that gave birth to quite a lot of substantial ideas and people, and is notorious for its endless consumption craze.
As an avid reader, there are few things that I enjoy doing as much as reading a book; however, for me to read a book for the second time, and for me to learn some of its lines by heart, I really have to love that book. Well, I suppose “The Great Gatsby” is one of those exceptions, and if you have ever had the chance to read this novel, and haven’t fallen under the spell of Mr. Carraway’s narration, I suggest you read it again. As for those who have already fallen under that spell, I suggest you go buy another Fitzgerald novel, whether it is “The Last Tycoon” or “Tender is the Night.” It would be worth your time and money if you opt for doing so.
I know what you are thinking: “What is wrong with this girl? Why would she be this attached to these novels?” I assume that the reason behind all my exaggeration stems from the fact that all of us get to find a piece of ourselves in a Fitzgerald narration. Whether it is the handsome and manipulative yet poor and heartbroken Dick Diver, or the impeccably foolish, naïve, forgiving Mr. Gatsby, whose vision becomes incredibly vague because of the silently cunning but weak Daisy Buchanan, or the truly humane, lovely, smart and, again, heartbroken Nick Carraway, or the projection of Fitzgerald himself as Amory Blaine in “This Side of Paradise,” there is always someone or some event that we relate to at the end of the novel. Or during the novel for that matter, as you can find yourself crying at the image of the wrongfully murdered Jay Gatsby or the devastated Nick Carraway that he unintentionally left behind. We all find ourselves relating to Fitzgerald’s characters because none of them are pure good or pure evil. The ones who have a seemingly evil persona have their reasons, and the ones who are seemingly good have their hidden motives. Still, you end up liking the one that you relate to and hating the one(s) that hurt(s) the one you link yourself to. I mean, he manages to captivate the reader and make them feel the extremes without using any extremities! After all, who couldn’t and wouldn’t agree to the infamously heartbreaking yet perfectly accurate final words (one of those lines that I memorized) of “The Great Gatsby”: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” How true yet soul-wrecking, the very fact that the past haunts us each and every minute of our lives, even as our present becomes our past in a heartbeat. And we each choose to deal with our past in our own way: embrace it and go on with our life like Jordan Baker; despise and reject it, and hurt anyone who would remind you of it, like Mr. and Mrs. Buchanan; try to change and relive it like Mr. Gatsby; or acknowledge the good and the bad memories, run from the bad, and embrace the good, as the wise Nick Carraway did….
The great Hemingway mentioned Fitzgerald in “A Moveable Feast”:
His talent was as natural as the pattern made by the dust on a butterfly’s wings. At one time he understood it no more than the butterfly did and he did not know when it was brushed or marred. Later he became conscious of his damaged wings and of their construction and he learned to think and could not fly any more because the love of flight was gone and he could only remember when it had been effortless.
Well, after all these exaggerated depictions, I presume the next time you are in a bookstore, Fitzgerald and his characters will be whispering your name to get your attention. Why not listen to them and reward yourself with a Fitzgerald novel?