Monday, June 3, 2013

Gatsby Blindness

A paper by Arthur Applebee published in The English Journal in 1992 reported (I learned here) that The Great Gatsby was taught (and presumably still is) in 54 percent of public, 64 percent of Catholic, and 49 percent of independent high schools. I attended a Catholic high school in Kansas City, Lillis, which must have fallen into the Gatsby-ignoring 36 percent. The one book I remember reading there was The Screwtape Letters. By the time I read Gatsby, having grown curious about it and wondering why it kind of bobs up at right regular intervals, I was already a grown man with family and children. What it produced in me at the time was a yawning boredom and a baffled wonder. This is a classic? Well, I am a member of the Silent generation. That generation is dated from 1925 to 1945. Gatsby was published in 1925. Children often find some of their parents adulations a little weird. Or is there something else at work here?

Probably. The Great Gatsby was not a flaming success when it first appeared. It bombed in its own time, so much so that its author, F. Scott Fitzgerald, who died in 1940, thought himself a failure. But the book took on a life of its own during World War II. But why exactly? It centers on the rather empty and sordid love affairs of the tony and the rich, of which Gatsby is the starring figure. Why he is a star, apart from being rich, escapes me. Is that the Great American dream, to be empty, super-rich, and idle? Beats me. No. Not inclined to reread the book to see what I have missed. I guess I simply suffer from another version of Darnay’s disease (link), Gatsby blindness.

1 comment:

  1. I think you hit the nail on the head: empty, super-rich, idle... add inane and vacuous and amoral.

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