Ripping Book Review–The Great Gatsby

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 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?

Moving on.

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.


68 Responses to “Ripping Book Review–The Great Gatsby”

  1. 1 walt walker February 25, 2015 at 00:52

    How dare you! This is the second time you’ve ripped a favorite book of mine. You do make it sound quite dreadful though. Perhaps it shouldn’t be a favorite. And it has been a very long time since I read it. Maybe it’s not as good as I thought. I was a wee lad at the time, and all I connected with was the unrequited love bit of it. I didn’t care about the eyes of Dr. Eckleburg, or how the ceiling could be a wedding cake and vice-versa. Is it really not a good book? Are all the teachers wrong? I fear very much that perhaps they are.

    • 2 Professor VJ Duke February 25, 2015 at 13:12

      *laughs* I know…well…I would say that teachers are wrong about most things, I fear. But they are most wrong about classical. And they are even wronger about this book. I actually forget what I said, I must admit. Aha…the title. It should have been different, shouldn’t it have?

  2. 3 LaVagabonde October 3, 2013 at 20:20

    An entertaining review. I read this book once, but totally can’t remember it.

    • 4 Professor VJ Duke October 3, 2013 at 23:35

      Many thanks! Have you seen the movie at all?

      • 5 LaVagabonde October 4, 2013 at 08:06


      • 6 Professor VJ Duke October 4, 2013 at 14:05

        The professor hasn’t either.

  3. 7 darsword August 30, 2013 at 06:03

    I so agree with you. Well, said!

    • 8 Professor VJ Duke August 30, 2013 at 14:37

      Thank you! Not a fan?

      • 9 darsword August 30, 2013 at 19:00

        The only thing I got from The Great Gatsby was a nice tan. It was assigned to our class back in high school, when dinosaurs still roamed the Earth. I was so bored reading it that I went to my backyard and stretched out on our wall. Come to think of it, I could blame TGG for macular-degeneration and possible skin cancer! So, no. Not a fan! :-p.

      • 10 Professor VJ Duke August 30, 2013 at 19:49

        :lol: I understand that! And you know, the professor always knew the book was evil!

      • 11 darsword August 30, 2013 at 22:15


      • 12 Professor VJ Duke August 30, 2013 at 23:04


  4. 13 krugthethinker August 29, 2013 at 17:44

    I have mixed feelings! I taught The Great Gatsby several times at Berkeley in a freshman comp class. Most of what we read was Russian, but we had to include some American stuff, and Gatsby went along with the theme of the course. The eyes of T.J. Eckleburg are a reference to T.S. Eliot and his even more confusing poem “The Wasteland.” There is plenty of post-war philosophical stuff going on here that I am not necessarily on board with, but which is well thought out nonetheless. What really is majestic in the novel is the treatment of time and the use of mtoifs, I would say. That said, this novel never moved me the way Russian literature does, and I’d much rather read Dostoevsky, the master of the dark and seedy underbelly of humanity and the nightmare of nineteenth-century urban experience. But perhaps this comment has gone on too long!

    • 14 Professor VJ Duke August 29, 2013 at 18:33

      Not at all! It’s great to hear from the Punchy experts–the professor is definitely not! That’s interesting about T.J. I didn’t read that anywhere. I think the professor must read some Dostoevsky!

      • 15 krugthethinker August 31, 2013 at 19:26

        Oh yes! He is the best! :)

      • 16 Professor VJ Duke September 1, 2013 at 18:07


      • 17 Professor VJ Duke September 1, 2013 at 18:20

        What do you think of Tolstoy?

  5. 18 Colline August 29, 2013 at 00:13

    I do admit to finding the novel a bit boring and tedious. I never did finish reading it.

    • 19 Professor VJ Duke August 29, 2013 at 00:19

      Yes, it felt like a dream at points.

  6. 20 honeydidyouseethat August 28, 2013 at 16:47

    Just watched “The Great Gatsby” last night. My husband said Gatsby was a marriage wrecker and I felt sorry for him. I enjoyed the book, the hopelessness of it all. Wasn’t confused. Now “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” was confusing. :)

    • 21 Professor VJ Duke August 28, 2013 at 17:59

      Ha! I shall have to look up “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”. Was it very bad?

  7. 22 George Weaver August 28, 2013 at 04:47

    …”Just plumb humorous”, huh? You are a southern man. I haven’t heard that expression since I was a child. I still think it sometimes. I agree. Gatsby is a gas. I never got through the entire novel. The descriptions bothered me more than the confusion. Great essay!

    • 23 Professor VJ Duke August 28, 2013 at 14:37

      Isn’t it a great expression? (You should say it too!)

      Absolutely! The descriptions are somewhat befuddling to say the least! And thank you. How far did you get in Gatsby, by the way?

  8. 24 bookhad August 28, 2013 at 04:06

    Oh no professor! This is one of my favorite books. You must have an open mind. Every single line is so well thought out.

    • 25 Professor VJ Duke August 28, 2013 at 14:35

      The professor did try. Really, really hard. But Fitzgerald wouldn’t have peace. Do you really like the novel?

      • 26 bookhad August 28, 2013 at 14:53

        Yeah I did. I thought every line was so measured. It’s such a tightly written book.

      • 27 Professor VJ Duke August 28, 2013 at 17:56

        There were some interesting parts, and Fitzgerald is definitely not a ‘bad’ writer. It just left the professor wondering, “why”?

  9. 28 aaforringer August 28, 2013 at 01:14

    Okay you got me, I will follow your blog, anyone that can dislike that goofy Gatsby novel can’t be all bad.

    • 29 Professor VJ Duke August 28, 2013 at 14:35

      The Gatsby thing is hard for the professor to stomach! And people compare Fitzgerald to Twain! Dadblameit!

  10. 30 ladycheetah7 August 28, 2013 at 00:04

    I am familiar with the title but never knew what it was the book was about. Thank you for sparing me the drama of having to get my money back…lol

    “The eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg are blue and gigantic—their retinas are one yard high.” Um….how do people get away with writing things like this? Even reading this within context did not make sense. Fortunately for me this was not a required reading and I am positive that I would have resorted to cliff notes just to skate by with a passing grade.

    Question – what genre is The Great Gatsby?

    • 31 Professor VJ Duke August 28, 2013 at 00:12

      Well, if you have to get your money back in the future, you can borrow the professor’s katana. ;)

      I’m not sure. That’s rather terrible, isn’t it? Very nothingness. Cliff notes! :lol: The professor would probably find the notes to such a confusing book confusing!

      Everywhere I look it’s under Modernist novel or Jazz Age novel. (Does that help? I fear I’m rather bad with genres.) Now, aren’t you just dying to read it? ;)

      • 32 ladycheetah7 August 28, 2013 at 00:24

        I’d be honored to borrower your katana on my job..I mean…to rip a book….

      • 33 Professor VJ Duke August 28, 2013 at 01:01

        :lol: But it must be a book that’s highly rippable, you know… ;)

  11. 34 The Dancing Rider August 27, 2013 at 20:21

    Ha, ha Professor. You really nailed it. Brilliant job.

    For one thing, I can’t stand F. Scott’s writing style. Please. The descriptions alone, as you so aptly point out both make no sense, and are just way off base. Who on earth every heard of, or had, “fluttering muscles”. Somehow, that sounds disgusting and so, so rippable. Which you did with great relish I bet.

    F. Scott and Faulkner are two … oh wait, there’s also Henry James … so three I can’t stand. I’d rather read James Joyce, and that is NO picnic. There are many more, including your favorite Conan Doyle! :)

    • 35 Professor VJ Duke August 27, 2013 at 22:38

      :D Thanks! I know! Fluttering muscles is just…strange. As some of the other descriptions are. But his overall style isn’t that bad, I think. Oh yes, Doyle. The most rippable author ever! Why do you think? (Maybe Fitzgerald, Faulkner, and James took lessons from Doyle…)

      • 36 The Dancing Rider August 28, 2013 at 00:44

        I sort of agree with you on his style. Still, I think I enjoy Hemingway’s sparser prose a bit more. Not that I’m crazy about any of them! Oh yes, on Doyle. HORRIDLY rippable! And he’s supposed to be writing about this super-sleuth! A character limited by Doyle’s limitations, lol.

      • 37 Professor VJ Duke August 28, 2013 at 01:04

        I must agree with you about Hemingway–but he’s not the professor’s favorite either. Do you have a favorite author?

        :D I do think that Doyle would have been all right if the professor had been around to give him a spanking, don’t you? ;)

      • 38 The Dancing Rider August 28, 2013 at 13:20

        Most certainly, dear Professor, on the spanking of Doyle!

        I fear I no longer have a favorite classic author…..

      • 39 Professor VJ Duke August 28, 2013 at 14:39


        You just must pick Twain!!!

      • 40 The Dancing Rider August 28, 2013 at 21:41

        Actually, I DO like Mark Twain. Thank you for reminding me. This is what happens when you get old, lol.

        One of my favorite writers is Alexander McCall Smith. I think that’s how it’s spelled anyway. Love his writing!

      • 41 Professor VJ Duke August 28, 2013 at 23:48

        No problem! But everybody must like MT… ;)(The professor is constantly forgetting everything.)

        Never heard of him, actually!

  12. 42 weggieboy August 27, 2013 at 19:14

    Lucky the people who had a choice! It had it as part of honors English literature in high school. Not only was there no choice but to read it, I had to pass a test about it! Life is so unfair sometimes!

    • 43 Professor VJ Duke August 27, 2013 at 22:36

      I feel for you! Did you hate every moment of it?

  13. 44 Sonya Solomonovich August 27, 2013 at 19:00

    Haha! An entertaining rip. Although I enjoyed Fitzgerald’s style very much, I have to agree that most of the characters in this novel are pathetic! But I guess that’s the whole point of the novel, to portray a bunch of pathetic buggers.

    • 45 Professor VJ Duke August 27, 2013 at 22:36

      Many thanks! The professor doesn’t mind Fitzgerald’s writing style either; though sometimes he can get vexing. It was just the confusion. Ah!

  14. 46 L. Marie August 27, 2013 at 16:45

    The Great Gatsby was never a favorite of mine. I do love your discussion of arm strength here:
    …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…

    • 47 Professor VJ Duke August 27, 2013 at 22:34

      :D The professor is thrilled!

  15. 48 Susan P August 27, 2013 at 13:13

    Fitzgerald did well in worrying about this book. Vague is only the beginning. When I finished reading it, I sat and looked at the book for a few moments and thought, “Huh? What just happened here?” Apparently, nothing much. Give me Steinbeck or Hemmingway, please!

    • 49 Professor VJ Duke August 27, 2013 at 15:50

      :lol: Exactly, Susan! That’s exactly how this professor thought! And your answer is perfect: “Apparently, nothing much.” :D

      Steinbeck any day! (Especially if I’m in the mood to be depressed. ;) )

  16. 50 FictionFan August 27, 2013 at 12:51

    Poor Professor! Though I suppose since you haven’t said this one is ‘lame’ and ‘dull to the point of tears’ (yet) I must assume you really enjoyed it… ;)

    • 51 Professor VJ Duke August 27, 2013 at 15:48

      It will do you no good holding grudges. And you shouldn’t deny the obvious. Doyle is the most rippable author ever!

      ==]:-{)= (The professorish smiley.)

  17. 52 mmlatif2013 August 27, 2013 at 12:21

    Hi! I’ve nominated you for The Versatile Blogger Award!

    • 53 Professor VJ Duke August 27, 2013 at 15:40

      Many thanks! I’ll check it out shortly. :)

      • 54 mmlatif2013 August 27, 2013 at 16:32


      • 55 Professor VJ Duke August 27, 2013 at 22:34

        Thank you! Not a fan of Gatsby?

      • 56 mmlatif2013 August 27, 2013 at 23:15

        I haven’t read it yet which is why I am trying to avoid reading the ripping review. :p

      • 57 Professor VJ Duke August 27, 2013 at 23:18

        Oh, I thought you read the review and were calling it awesome…Now I’m an ashamed professor… ;)

      • 58 mmlatif2013 August 28, 2013 at 00:27

        Hahaha. Oops? Sorry. I’m ashamed too. :p

      • 59 Professor VJ Duke August 28, 2013 at 01:02

        Well, don’t be! You are a Punchy Family member, so it was very punchyish!

      • 60 mmlatif2013 August 28, 2013 at 01:03

        Hahahaha! Thank you. I will definitely read it though, once I read The Great Gatsby.

      • 61 Professor VJ Duke August 28, 2013 at 01:05

        Don’t worry about it! This professor doesn’t want to spoil it for you. Who knows? You might really enjoy it–which is just fine. Then you can rip the professor for ripping it…

      • 62 mmlatif2013 August 28, 2013 at 01:10

        Looking forward to it!! :p

      • 63 Professor VJ Duke August 28, 2013 at 14:34

        :D Great!

  18. 64 Jackie August 27, 2013 at 12:20

    Brilliantly ripped! Thank you. :-D

    • 65 Professor VJ Duke August 27, 2013 at 15:39

      Thank you! The professor is honored. :D

  19. 66 technophile9 August 27, 2013 at 12:12

    I haven’t read the Great Gatsby. My sister said it was boring, but many have said it was spectacular. A lot of classics aren’t exactly page turners though. I’ll try and read it myself and make up my own opinion. :) Thanks for the warning though.

    • 67 Professor VJ Duke August 27, 2013 at 15:39

      Well, this professor wouldn’t say it was boring. In fact, it was rather interesting. Definitely read it, and then make a full report to the professor!

  1. 1 "Get out of my head, Charles Dickens!" A Tale of Two Cities and Other Annoying 19th Century Things | Sonya SolomonovichSonya Solomonovich Trackback on September 4, 2013 at 09:04

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