But what has drawn me out of my blogging slumber is this outrage. The author compiles a list of overrated books, which is not the outrage. The outrage is she includes The Great Gatsby.
Gatsby is the central literary critique of the American Dream, and serves as a brilliant warning against the kinds of base longings to which our country all too often falls prey. Fitzgerald had seen the longings, and the corruption, and the social climbing, and the shallowness, and the power games, and the stubborn complacency of the rich ... and had seen how the image of the rich had become a beacon for folks such as Gatsby ... who couldn't, in the end, overcome his humble upbringings.
Gatsby tried to go too far, too fast, and ended up not only reaping what he had sown, but paying for the sins of a member of the very club that was excluding him, and he hada tried so hard (and made so many compromises) to join. In the end, the only people there for Gatsby is his decent midwestern father (an affirmation hidden in there?) and Nick Carraway himself. If you think about it, Bill Clinton's rise and humiliation is similar to Gatsby's, Bill sought that beacon at the end of the dock ... Nixon, too, had sought it. So many others, destroyed by the light at the end of the dock, it's all so close, but then ...
Here's how Fitzgerald puts it. I quote directly because in the end, The Great Gatsby contains some of the greatest writing in American literature.
Most of the big shore places were closed now and there were hardly any lights except the shadowy, moving glow of a ferryboat across the Sound. And as the moon rose higher the inessential houses began to melt away until gradually I became aware of the old island here that flowered once for Dutch sailors' eyes - a fresh, green breast of the new world. Its vanished trees, the trees that had made way for Gatsby's house, had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams; for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder.
And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby's wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy's dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.
Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that's no matter - tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms further... And one fine morning -
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.