As most of you who follow BGB are aware, a dear friend of ours, Frank McElrath, passed away a couple weeks ago. I’ve known Frank for somewhere in the neighborhood of 13 years and have spent countless hours discussing many highbrow issues with him (and many lowbrow issues as well), and I was (I thought) as well aware of Frank’s love of reading as the next guy. It wasn’t until his passing, though, that I learned that his favorite book was The Great Gatsby.
I’ve owned a copy of The Great Gatsby for many years, and I’m pretty sure I read it once long ago, but I couldn’t really remember a whole lot about it. So I took it upon myself to read it once more.
This might not be news to anybody who reads this, but this really is a pretty great book. I was truly taken in by Fitzgerald’s telling of Gatsby’s (or Nick’s) story, as well as by the way in which he described a discreet era in our country’s history, from the heart of that era. I noticed early on how Fitzgerald seemed to have a stable of words that he used often (“thrilling” was near the top of the list), and as I got through the book, I realized that he was a master at using exactly the right word at exactly the right time, even if it meant using a word like “thrilling” yet again.
From an academic standpoint, the version I own and just read is supposedly the “authorized text”, with many errors that have been committed and passed along by publishers throughout the years corrected, but with certain errors in chronology, etc., left intact, exactly as Fitzgerald intended (or not). In my reflection back on the book upon finishing it, the thing that struck me was that I don’t know if I liked Gatsby or not. I really couldn’t (and still can’t) decide whether he was a good guy or a bad guy. But my inability to come to any conclusion on that in no way took away from my enjoyment of the book.
My thanks go to Frank once again for a great read.