WARNING: Ripping Book Reviews are solely the judgments of Professor VJ Duke on an unlucky book that has caused him much repulsion—in one way or another. Therefore, blame must be put on the professor and nobody else. With that in mind, read on—if you are brave enough to take it.
THE GREAT GATSBY by F. SCOTT FITZGERALD
The title to this book is very misleading. You see, there’s really nothing great about the character Gatsby, and there’s really nothing great about the book. Of course, Fitzgerald could have been referring to the word count, but The Great Gatsby is approximately 47,000 words. Yes, Wind in the Willows is longer. So, the title seems misleading, since there’s nothing great about the book.
Wait. That’s not true. There is something great about the book: the confusion that it inspires. In truth that’s what makes this book great.
In fact, even Fitzgerald was confused. Originally, he was tossing around many alternate titles: Gatsby, Among Ash-Heaps and Millionaires, Trimalchio, Trimalchio in West Egg, On the Road to West Egg, Under the Red, White, and Blue, Gold-Hatted Gatsby, The High-Bouncing Lover.
Most of these titles don’t even make sense in the context of the book. They are the child of confusion. Personally, this professor likes Among Ash-Heaps and Millionaires and The High-Bouncing Lover. Even though Fitzgerald missed the target entirely with most of his alternate titles, something rings true about the ash-heap one, but I’m not sure what it is.
The High-Bouncing Lover is just plumb humorous. It’s from a little inscription at the front of the novel, and it helps add to the abundant confusion-theme. (As far as I remember, none of the lovers in the book bounce… Maybe Gatsby did offset…)
If Fitzgerald would have asked me, I would have proffered the titles The Great Confusion or The Great Gas. But I don’t think he would have liked my suggestions.
Before we move on, I think I should mention that the novel is dedicated to Zelda, Fitzgerald’s wife. This raises a question. Did Fitzgerald really dislike his wife that much?
One of the most confusing aspects of the book is…Dr. T. J. Eckleburg. The references to the doctor are quite confusing, bewildering, and vexing. Here’s the description:
But above the gray land and the spasms of bleak dust which drift endlessly over it, you perceive, after a moment, the eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg. The eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg are blue and gigantic—their retinas are one yard high. They look out of no face, but, instead, from a pair of enormous yellow spectacles which pass over a non-existent nose. Evidently some wild wag of an oculist set them there to fatten his practice in the borough of Queens, and then sank down himself into eternal blindness, or forgot them and moved away. But his eyes, dimmed a little by many paintless days under sun and rain, brood on over the solemn dumping ground.
After a few readings of this accursed paragraph, one can surmise—only surmise, mind you—that the confused and confusing Fitzgerald was referencing a billboard or sign of some sort.
But that is only one option. You see, there are a few confusing options as to Fitzgerald’s confusing intentions.
He could have also been referring to the cover of the novel, which was completed prior to the novel itself and loved by the author to such an extent, that he had supposedly written it into the novel.
Or, thirdly, it could refer to Daisy. (A confusing character from the confusing book.)
But the professor knows the real reason. The doctor was, in fact, nothing in particular. It was put in the novel to… Yes, you’re right! Confuse.
Two more quick examples of Fitzgerald Confusion. A description:
A breeze blew through the room, blew curtains in at one end and out the other like pale flags, twisting them up toward the frosted wedding-cake of the ceiling…
A wedding-cake of the ceiling? You see, Fitzgerald was trying to confuse this professor to such an extent as to have him believe that a ceiling can be a cake and that a cake can be a ceiling. It didn’t work. I won; Fitzgerald lost. However, the professor did suffer from a headache after reading the novel.
Secondly, a female character is reading:
…she turned the page with a flutter of slender muscles in her arms.
Hmm… The professor had never supposed that turning a page required so much strength. After all, a flutter of muscles—and in both arms! Of course, the pages might be thick, heavy pages which are quite tedious to turn. But I still have trouble picturing somebody turning the page and using both arms…
Okay, storyline—or lack thereof.
Gatsby and Daisy loved each other in the past, but Tom married Daisy (she agreed, by the way) and now Gatsby can’t have Daisy, but he wants Daisy. So there you have it: the storyline.
Most of the characters in the novel—especially Gatsby—are pathetic.
When Fitzgerald finished the first draft of The Great Gatsby, his editor said that it was too vague and convinced Fitzgerald to revise it. We can only imagine the original vagueness with horror and dread.
Eventually, the book was released, and on the day of publication, Fitzgerald was quite worried as he monitored the proceedings. You see, he was quite nervous about his confusing little book. Would the readers understand the confusing cover? Would the readers understand the confusing title? Would the readers understand such downright, dirty confusion? It was doubtful. And that’s exactly how it turned out: The Great Gatsby was not a success at first.
The novel did rise in popularity during WWII, when the confusion of battle was quite normal.
So, that’s The Great Gatsby. And there’s nothing great about it.