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Book Burning Club / December 4, 2008

Any list of books that need burning should start with Gatsby, or as it should be known, the Tragic Story of Tracey Flick, by Tracey Flick. The great film Election is actually the prequel to Gatsby, and like many a prequel it is far wiser than the hit sequel in portraying the real nature of rags-to-riches protagonists like the “eponymous” (that word is required for all American book reviews) Gatsby: shrill, driven, rote-minded drama queens.

If Gatsby proves anything at all, it proves what we at eXiled have always known but have been too kindly to say outright: East Coast people are a little…slow. Like a couple of centuries. Gatsby is a story by and for sentimental, old-fashioned suckers who actually worry about whether their cottage in West Egg is quite as colonial and wisterial as those cottages over in East Egg, where the families are considerably older. The terrible, terrible gulf between the rich and the very rich, between lushes in lakeside cottages and dumber, louder lushes in bigger, uglier mansions, drives a thriller plotline featuring adultery, drinking, long lingering gazes across party lawns, drinking, horrifying though mercifully brief trips through the chamber of horrors aka the suburbs where merely prosperous people live, drinking, evil Jews, more lingering gazes and maundering over the teeny tiny gradations of social rank among a group of people we have trouble believing ever existed, and can assure our eastern cousins have never mattered west of Yonkers or after 1642.

The only real sorrow about this novel is that in his last years on earth, the great Hunter S. Thompson finally dared to say that Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas was “as good as Gatsby,” which is like saying that a line of pure crystal meth on a pristine mirror is “as good as” the dregs of last century’s martini. Burn, stale martini of Levittown sophomores, burn!

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24 Comments

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  • 1. Doktor Doom  |  December 5th, 2008 at 8:36 am

    Dolan wrote this. It’s something he talked about a while back in his HST obit, what was that–like four years ago? (I have basically a photographic memory, except for text.) HST used to write admiringly about Fitzgerald sometimes–I think one time he quoted the first page of Gatzby and said “Now that’s writing!” I agree w/ Dolan. Thompson had to admire someone, but after the 60s nobody has to admire boring Edwardians like Fitzgerald.

  • 2. willyblues  |  December 5th, 2008 at 9:37 am

    Does the author know anything about the Great Gatsby

  • 3. aleke  |  December 5th, 2008 at 10:16 am

    I think the author knows alot about the Great Gatsby. What trash

  • 4. Soloscarecrow  |  December 5th, 2008 at 5:12 pm

    I am a knob goblin.

  • 5. knoxs  |  December 5th, 2008 at 5:46 pm

    This article blows. Incoherent bullshit.

  • 6. Rick  |  December 5th, 2008 at 10:42 pm

    Gatsby really is a piece of shit, defensible, sure, and defend it, please: but I think it’s largely a waste of time. I had to read it twice in school, like it was Huck Finn, a great novel. Huck Finn is a great American novel, Gatsby is a readable, contained soap opera.

    It can command the attention of the reader, but it’s that status nonsense that moronically hypnotizes people. Comes straight out of the tradition of the novel, but the tradition of the novel is manipulation and entertainment. Now, and for all time, if it’s art you’re after: fuck status and “personality” and soap opera stories. I can be entertained by it, but I don’t mistake it for first-rate art.

    There are very watchable TV shows right now, based on soap operatic status, but that’s not Art, and Gatsby really, really ain’t first-rate art, period.

    The literay merit in the thing rests on this concept of a fool getting insanely rich and having a dreamlike idealization of a young affair with some rich woman. That’s the “lierature”: the green light or whatever, the rich guy’s ideal memories of a vital moment. But guess what: all poor people have ideal memories too! The ideal memories of the poor are virtually identical to the ideal memories of the rich, and people so rich should be ridiculed.

    The whole fixation on wealth is grotesque.

  • 7. John Smith  |  December 5th, 2008 at 11:20 pm

    The point of The Great Gatsby is that Americans are driven to strive and to climb socially, to fail at it even when they succeed at it, and then to die.

    Fits quite well with the exile’s Inquisitions and other writing, I think.

    The characters are slime, but that’s a summary of the novel, not a criticism.

  • 8. Soloscarecrow  |  December 6th, 2008 at 3:54 pm

    That was my point. You need to learn how to read a book if you think Gatsby in any way glorified any of it’s characters.

  • 9. joz  |  December 7th, 2008 at 5:15 am

    You all can think what you like. Its a great novel. And HST is wrong. His novel is not a novel of the type GG is. Its like comparing babies and rocketships. They cool for totally different reasons.

    GG is obsessed with wealth and class and status but from you conversation here I can see that you are too. “Is this better than that”? I hear you say. Status, class ect. And tell me you don’t think about money; the grace and prestige it gives. Take a moment and try. The mere fact that it gets you laid is a life altering fact for you, I know. Rap music’s obsession with money reflects the jazz age fascination identically. Money touches everything. Fitzgerald decided to accept that. Good for him. Because its true.

    Rick, you should have failed English. Its a much easier to enjoy books if you didn’t have to read them. Novels are entertainment. I don’t know what that is exactly but I don’t associate it with school. Imagine getting a good grade on a Huckleberry Finn paper. If you can do that, you obviously didn’t enjoy it. How could you? Its a book about how all the nail-biting strivers are wasting their time.

  • 10. DocAmazing  |  December 7th, 2008 at 4:03 pm

    Actually, F. Scott Fitzgerald made a career out of fellating the rich; he had Tom Wolfe’s gig several decades early. If you see any kind of critique of wealth and status in Gatsby, I assure you you’ve placed it there yourself.

  • 11. Soloscarecrow  |  December 7th, 2008 at 5:06 pm

    So maybe he was a hypocrite? Maybe he sold out at some point. It doesn’t change the fact that, not only is it highly critical of them, but rich people sucking is the entire theme of the book.

  • 12. joz  |  December 7th, 2008 at 7:02 pm

    Um. Did you read GG? What part of it glorifies the rich? They live an impossibly dull and willfully unaware life. The only consolation is that they have the adulation and envy of everyone else. Which makes everyone fools.

    Go on. Read it. Its on every damn page. Show me the part where the rich are fellated. Please. The Dolt ( US President) would say FSF was a commy.

    HST read and he liked it. What’s your problem?

    Go on. Read it.

  • 13. DocAmazing  |  December 7th, 2008 at 11:15 pm

    Read it. Several times. Tried to figure out what all the fuss was about. Like I said, it’s the same formula that Tom Wolfe uses: old money is good, parvenu upstarts and nouveau-riche strivers are generally objects of derision, and the poor just don’t count. Remember, Fitzgerald was the one who notably opined, “The rich are different from you and I”–and it took some time before Hemingway riposted, “Yes–they have more money.”

    Fitzgerald was about as revolutionary as Dominick Dunne.

  • 14. joz  |  December 8th, 2008 at 12:05 am

    Lets not get into Hemingway and his macho disdain for the less endowed Fitzgerald. The rich are different. Because money makes them different. That’s why the single most respected accomplishment is the aquisition of money. You become that to which others aspire. You are realized, made potent, actual; what you will. This is a fundatmental principle of the America you live in. The economic current crisis is based on the desparate appopriation of disposable income. We are a nation united by consumption.

    The rich are real in the American view. They consume as they breathe. All the others are strugglers. You do not chafe and toil if you are rich. That is done for you. To live in today’s America and not accept this as true is ludicrous.

    Fitzgerald said what Hemingway chose not to: the USA is a rigourously class society and that hierarchy is celebrated by all classes. In England people recognize class and reject it forcefully or accept it. In the US class it is outwardly denied and covertly cherished by almost all. That is the hypocrisy that Fitzgerald laughs at and critisizes. If he ever celebrates it, he does so with far more consciousness than is displayed by the public of his nation. If he loves it, and he does from time to time, what can you say? Shall he hate his country? Shall he hate the people he writes about? Is he not to be compasionate when the adoring public venerate the people he has chosen to cast in a more objective light? Where do you propose he should start his critique? From some impossible objective position?

    Today the response to the rich is most perhaps most ironic in say rap music I suppose, in which the poor pretend to be rich until they get record deal that makes them actually rich. A pallid reflection on wealth but as good as gets in the USA.

    To say he resembles Dominick Dunne is to miss the point entirely. Dunne writes novels in which the rich and poor are inflected by a common melodramatic morality. This transcends the class system and elevates the reader to a moral plain above all class which he or she frankly does not deserve. Tom Wolfe does so as well.

  • 15. DocAmazing  |  December 8th, 2008 at 6:41 pm

    Thank you for making my point for me.

    Now please wipe your chin.

  • 16. joz  |  December 9th, 2008 at 7:41 pm

    No, I have not. The reader is not placed in a superior moral position in Fitzgerald. There is no resolution that would make that possible. The poor acquiesce in their utilization. The rich can’t participate in the goal oriented society they created because all goals to them are petty. We all live in it. So we have people like you who feel they make some contribution by insulting Fitzgerald and pretend this somehow sets you apart from the problem. Which of course you are not. You just kill the messenger. And adopt Hemingway’s pose of macho indifference, flirt with socialism and smirk at people who engage.

  • 17. joz  |  December 9th, 2008 at 8:02 pm

    And I am calling a halt to this before it gets out of hand. I am ranting because the wife and I can’t get the baby to sleep for the past week and we are slowly turning into warm butter. This quibble about Fitzgerald is the last point of anger before my personality disolves completely. How single mothers pull this off I have no idea. You need at least four competant adults to bring up a child. Doing it with two is probably irresponsible.

  • 18. Dr. Eckleburg  |  December 10th, 2008 at 12:39 pm

    The Great Gatsby isn’t a novel for thinkers, old sport. It’s a novel for dreamers.

  • 19. joz  |  December 12th, 2008 at 1:04 am

    Thats really my point. I don’t think it is for dreamers. I think its a critique of dreamers. And you can only do that while in the dream. Fitzgerald can get himself that stoned on the delusion and keep his critical chops. No one mentioned on this thread can do that but Thompson. Wolfe and Dunne never come close. So we come back to where we started. I guess.

    Appropriatedly enough, I have been rereading Paradise Lost. And this all hooks in with that wildly over-stated, awful, glorious poem that is way too long. Thank god we have Blake to understand it. And Blake I think would understand Fitzgerald too. You have to live with banal monsters to hear them singing their sweet songs. Like dear Blake listening to Satan in hell.

    As a lit class failure, I am permitted to make these grotesque analogies. If you went to college and they weren’t over-joyed to see you go, as they were for me, you must be more sensible in your analysis.

  • 20. joz  |  December 12th, 2008 at 11:33 pm

    Hm. I reread the book in question. Now I think you guys may have a point. Its not as great as I remember it being. Hm. Your comments seemed to inform the reading. Now I am wondering.

  • 21. James  |  July 7th, 2009 at 2:41 pm

    I’m replying to this post rather late I suppose… But I happened upon it while searching for an old printing of The Great Gatsby to buy online. I’d have to agree with the camp that claims Fitzgerald was actually mocking the rich throughout the book. It is a rather easy read, but apparently the themes of the book are rather difficult to pick up for some people. Fitzgerald was a bit of a drama queen it seems, and perhaps he allowed himself indulge in a little too much self-pity in some of his writings, but one thing is for sure: he captured the pool of emptiness that drowned the lives of the rich of his day on purpose when he wrote that book. Sure it’s not one of the great philosophical works of our time, but it doesn’t seem that it was ever meant to be. It’s an entertaining tale depicting a man who is the victim of sentiments that just about everyone has felt: on one hand, the overwhelming sadness which overcomes us when we achieve what we want in life only to find that too leaves us feeling empty and on the other, the great disdain yet incurable fascination we have for the obscenely wealthy. Taken for what it’s worth, I think the Great Gatsby still stands as a great piece of work.

  • 22. Ben  |  April 7th, 2011 at 1:06 pm

    My only problem with the wealthy is if/when they get to the point at which they no longer invest their money back into their country. A good capitalist takes risks with their money for the benefit of society and for economic growth. Growth in a few individuals’ bank accounts doesn’t constitute economic growth.

    Taking advantage of the super poor just because they are less educated and more prone to scams doesn’t bode well with me either, though I don’t see every wealthy person taking this road.

  • 23. Adam  |  May 24th, 2011 at 1:47 pm

    More so than the book, it’s the nauseating cult of Gatsby that must be purged. These highly affected, self-absorbed New York snobs love to think they’re living the gatsby life – but when you point it out, all of sudden they’re being ironic…

  • 24. fuck you  |  February 23rd, 2013 at 1:29 am

    13. “Remember, Fitzgerald was the one who notably opined…”

    This is a myth you idiot, he never fucking said that


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