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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*.

Great Gatsby

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)

Epigraph:

“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”

 

Ending:

“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

 

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