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  • Writer's pictureKathryn Orwig

Record Players and The Great Gatsby: This Week's Reading

Updated: Aug 21, 2020

*If you have not read the Great Gatsby, it may be best to stop here for there are spoilers.

This past week I’ve had the pleasure to read The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I don’t know how it happened, but I never had to read it in school. I saw the movie (which I dislike doing before I’ve read a book), and finally found myself a copy for 50 cents. The modern art cover caught my eye as something straight out of the art deco period. White gloves, white hat, green dress - harkens back to the 1920’s aesthetic perfectly.

To add to the experience, I put on a record of the Swing Years I happened to find for a couple bucks shortly ago. Sitting on my floor in the morning sunshine curled up near the bustling beats felt so right for this particular reading experience. At the same time, I wondered briefly if I was overdoing it? But this was followed closely by: does it matter if I am enjoying it?

My thoughts on Gatsby are as follows.

The unrequited love encased in the 144 pages is one of those of the type I can’t stand. Boy longs for the girl for years and years, often downright creepy, in their pursuit of her. Unless, Fitzgerald meant to highlight Gatsby’s ideal of Daisy in such a light as this in order to showcase how unattainable and undesirable such a fantasy is. If it is the latter, than I enjoyed the read. If the former, I’ll be donating the book back.

I adored his use of the English language and almost read the whole thing in one sitting because I just couldn’t put it down as I was strung along the windy paths of narration and rhythm running rampant in carefully structured sentences. The feel of time and place was expertly captured and had me straining to hear the party music sure to be floating out on the Sound from the many roomed mansion. And even if the characters were sometimes detestable, they were still sympathetically portrayed. Enough to where I wondered whatever happened to our narrator when he returned home? No one really got what they wanted in the end. And many should have received more than what they did in terms of justice, but I have to remember it was a book centered around Gatsby. Not Daisy, or Tom, or really even Nick. But the man across the lawn in an empty house with human flaws bound up in expensive suits, smiles, and the phrase “old sport.”

The first introductory section and the last line were absolute pieces of beauty. Fitzgerald captured so many moments of great character depth with astute phrasing, like Gatsby’s smile, the nighttime stars dotting above Nick’s first sight of the legendary man, how the party goers came in the darkness but couldn't be bothered to come in the light of day to Gatsby’s final moments above ground. Surrounded by people in life. Alone in death. A fear many humans before have felt a stirring of, only to push it back in the pursuit of the past. I mean future. You know what I mean ;)

I am always impressed when a book survives well past an author’s life, and even more so when it was handwritten or typewriter written. The amount of work, time, energy, and passion put into such projects lends a level of charmed quality to a work of older generations that I may not equate while reading a modern ebook. That is not to say one is better than the other or harder to accomplish, for I’m sure Fitzgerald or Hemingway would have used a computer to type if it had been at their disposal. But I suppose it reminds me of the silence and quiet during the early lockdown days of quarantine that they must have had all their lives in the absence of technology.

When you have so much free time on your hands suddenly, and so few engagements (zero) to attend to, sitting with thoughts or writing them down in a cohesive way with motivation and determination to see it through when you don't know if they will one day be read or notI wonder if it is how they felt when writing?

I’m glad they pushed on and wrote.

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