The Great Gatsby suggested by Steve Tilley
As part of the Ragged Library, Steve Tilley – Honorary Fellow; School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh suggested The Great Gatsby by F.Scott Fitzgerald…
The book I have settled on to recommend for the Ragged Library is much in the public eye just now. F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is the source of a film just released, and topic for lit pundits on radio and TV. I read it in 1968 for a course on American novels – part of a degree in American Civilization*.
I recall my strongest response then was to the book’s boundaries – a short poem, an ending; then, as now, touchstones for my feeling and thinking (in that order)
“Then wear the gold hat, if that will move her;
If you can bounce high, bounce for her too
Till she cry ‘Lover, gold-hatted, high-bouncing lover
I must have you!’ Thomas Parke D’Invilliers”
“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.”
Layers of romance, play and illusion in the epigraph (the poem by Fitzgerald; D’Invilliers a pseudonymous poet in an earlier Fitzgerald novel) prefigure Gatsby’s complex pursuit of a lost love, Daisy. But for me now as when I first read them, the imaginative stratagems for landing love stand (mid-air) on their own.
And the final words, echoing a key symbol in the novel, invite us to community with those whose gestures, large and small, defy the present and the past’s perverse direction.**
* Gatsby: vital document, too, for any who ask: “’American Civilization’: is there any?”
** Interesting site to follow up: http://reading.cornell.edu/reading_project_06/gatsby/glimpses/glimpses_past.htm