The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Another week, another book! This week I’m tackling The Washington Post paperback fiction bestsellers list, which is topped by The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. If you haven’t been to the movies lately you may be wondering at the resurgence of interest in this classic. The reason is that there’s a new Baz Luhrmann film adaption of the novel that’s probably playing in a theatre near you. It’s playing in Whitewater as I write. It stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby, Carey Mulligan as Daisy Buchanan, and Tobey Maguire as Nick Carraway. It just dropped out of the top 10 highest weekend gross, according to Box Office Mojo: Weekend Box Office, but had previously been there for several weeks. Of the older adaptations, I was most impressed by the 1974 version with Robert Redford, but I’ve heard anecdotally from my friends that this new one is fabulous. The critics don’t seem to agree. See what The Washington Post, New York Times, and Madison.com have to say about it.

Anyway, back to the book. Although not a smash hit in it’s day, 1925, it has since become an important novel of the era. If you didn’t have to read The Great Gatsby in high school, here is an opportunity for you to do so now. If you want to start with a plot outline, check out this Masterplots entry in the Literary Reference Center database. Just beware, spoilers are given. In a nutshell, Nick Carraway, a bonds salesman originally fron the midwest, moves in jazz age Long Island high society with his cousin Daisy Buchanan and the racketeer Jay Gatsby. At the beginning things look good, but then they go awry. The book is a fine example of social realism, featuring strong elements of romance, wealth and the American Dream.

If you’d like to read reviews or criticism of the novel, you can find those in MLA International Bibliography, Literary Reference Center, and other databases. In the former, do a subject search for: The Great Gatsby to find literary criticism of the novel. In the latter, you can run this search: “great gatsby” not (film* or movie* or “motion picture*”) then limit to either “literary criticism” or “reviews” on the left side to find relevant articles from journals, magazines or books.

Andersen Library has several copies of The Great Gatsby for you to choose from. One of them is even an audiobook, if you prefer that format. If those are checked out, try to get the novel using Universal Borrowing. If you do it will get here in just a few days at no cost to you. Either way you can have the book for four weeks.

If you’ve already read The Great Gatsby and loved it, you might want to look in the NoveList database for read-alikes. Several of these were also made into movies, so you have the viewing option as well the reading option. (I’m not going to analyze how the movies may differ from the books…you’ll have to do that yourself.) A few that NoveList recommends are:

  • An Object of Beauty (2010) by Steve Martin – because it is an atmospheric book featuring “opulence, social climbing, and [the] wide-ranging disaster” and “the deception of a social climber amid wealthy New Yorkers”
  • Oil! by Upton Sinclair (1927) – because it is an atmospheric book about “American financial power, greed, and the high-life of the early Twentieth Century” that was made into a movie (There Will be Blood)
  • Howards End (1910) by E. M. Forster – because it is a stylistically complex book about rich people that has been made into a movie
  • The Lincoln Lawyer (2005) by Michael Connelly – because it is an atmospheric book about rich people that has been made into a movie

I hope you enjoy or have enjoyed The Great Gatsby. Either way, let us know your opinion.

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