The Great Gatsby [NEW]
The novel was inspired by a youthful romance Fitzgerald had with socialite Ginevra King, and the riotous parties he attended on Long Island's North Shore in 1922. Following a move to the French Riviera, Fitzgerald completed a rough draft of the novel in 1924. He submitted it to editor Maxwell Perkins, who persuaded Fitzgerald to revise the work over the following winter. After making revisions, Fitzgerald was satisfied with the text, but remained ambivalent about the book's title and considered several alternatives. Painter Francis Cugat's cover art greatly impressed Fitzgerald, and he incorporated its imagery into the novel.
The Great Gatsby
Charles Scribner's Sons published The Great Gatsby on April 10, 1925. Fitzgerald cabled Perkins the day after publication to monitor reviews: "Any news?" "Sales situation doubtful [but] excellent reviews", read a telegram from Perkins on April 20. Fitzgerald responded on April 24, saying the cable dispirited him, closing the letter with "Yours in great depression". Fitzgerald soon received letters from contemporaries Willa Cather, Edith Wharton, and poet T. S. Eliot praising the novel. Although gratified by such correspondence, Fitzgerald sought public acclaim from professional critics.
Several reviewers felt the novel left much to be desired following Fitzgerald's previous works and criticized him accordingly. Harvey Eagleton of The Dallas Morning News predicted that the novel signaled the end of Fitzgerald's artistic success. Ralph Coghlan of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch dismissed the work as an inconsequential performance by a once-promising author who had grown bored and cynical. Ruth Snyder of New York Evening World lambasted the book's style as painfully forced and declared the editors of her newspaper were "quite convinced after reading The Great Gatsby that Mr. Fitzgerald is not one of the great American writers of today". John McClure of The Times-Picayune insisted the plot was implausible and the book itself seemed raw in its construction.
To Fitzgerald's great disappointment, Gatsby was a commercial failure in comparison with his previous efforts, This Side of Paradise (1920) and The Beautiful and Damned (1922). By October, the book had sold fewer than 20,000 copies.Although the novel went through two initial printings, many copies remained unsold years later. Fitzgerald attributed the poor sales to the fact that women tended to be the primary audience for novels during this time, and Gatsby did not contain an admirable female character. According to his ledger, he earned only $2,000 from the book. Although Owen Davis' 1926 stage adaptation and the Paramount-issued silent film version brought in money for the author, Fitzgerald lamented that the novel fell far short of the success he had hoped for and would not bring him recognition as a serious novelist in the public eye. With the onset of the Great Depression, The Great Gatsby was regarded as little more than a nostalgic period piece. By the time Fitzgerald died in 1940, the novel had fallen into near obscurity.
In 1940, Fitzgerald suffered a third and fatal heart attack and died believing his work forgotten. His obituary in The New York Times hailed him as a brilliant novelist and cited Gatsby as his greatest work. In the wake of Fitzgerald's death, a strong appreciation for the book gradually developed in writers' circles. Future authors Budd Schulberg and Edward Newhouse were deeply affected by it, and John O'Hara acknowledged its influence on his work. By the time that Gatsby was republished in Edmund Wilson's edition of The Last Tycoon in 1941, the prevailing opinion in writers' circles deemed the novel to be an enduring work of fiction.
In other certain respects, the novel hasn't worn quite so well. While Fitzgerald showed where his allegiances lay by highlighting the brute ugliness of Tom Buchanan's white supremacist beliefs, he repeatedly describes African Americans as "bucks". The novel makes for frustrating reading from a feminist perspective, too: its female characters lack dimensionality and agency, and are seen instead through the prism of male desire. The path is now open to endless creative responses to those more dated and unpleasant aspects, and a new ITV and A+E Studios TV mini-series announced last month looks set to be one of the first. Written by Michael Hirst and with Fitzgerald's great-granddaughter Blake Hazard on board as a consulting producer, it has been described as a "reimagining" of the classic novel. "I have long dreamt of a more diverse, inclusive version of Gatsby that better reflects the America we live in, one that might allow us all to see ourselves in Scott's wildly romantic text," Hazard told The Hollywood Reporter.
Finally able to publish Nick, Smith returned once more to The Great Gatsby before turning in his last edit. "I think it will be a novel that's always evolving in my head, and always changing based on who I am," he says. "That's what great novels do."
"Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone," he told me, "just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the advantages that you've had." He didn't say any more but we've always been unusually communicative in a reserved way and I understood that he meant a great deal more than that. In consequence I'm inclined to reserve all judgements, a habit that has opened up many curious natures to me and also made me the victim of not a few veteran bores. The abnormal mind is quick to detect and attach itself to this quality when it appears in a normal person, and so it came about that in college I was unjustly accused of being a politician, because I was privy to the secret griefs of wild, unknown men. Most of the confidences were unsought - frequently I have feigned sleep, preoccupation or a hostile levity when I realized by some unmistakable sign that an intimate revelation was quivering on the horizon - for the intimate revelations of young men or at least the terms in which they express them are usually plagiaristic and marred by obvious suppressions. Reserving judgements is a matter of infinite hope. I am still a little afraid of missing something if I forget that, as my father snobbishly suggested and I snobbishly repeat, a sense of the fundamental decencies is parcelled out unequally at birth. And, after boasting this way of my tolerance, I come to the admission that it has a limit. Conduct may be founded on the hard rock or the wet marshes but after a certain point I don't care what it's founded on. When I came back from the East last autumn I felt that I wanted the world to be in uniform and at a sort of moral attention forever; I wanted no more riotous excursions with privileged glimpses into the human heart. Only Gatsby, the man who gives his name to this book, was exempt from my reaction - Gatsby who represented everything for which I have an unaffected scorn. If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life, as if he were related to one of those intricate machines that register earthquakes ten thousand miles away. This responsiveness had nothing to do with that flabby impressionability which is dignified under the name of the "creative temperament" - it was an extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness such as I have never found in any other person and which it is not likely I shall ever find again. No - Gatsby turned out all right at the end; it is what preyed on Gatsby, what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams that temporarily closed out my interest in the abortive sorrows and short-winded elations of men. My family have been prominent, well-to-do people in this middle-western city for three generations. The Carraways are something of a clan and we have a tradition that we're descended from the Dukes of Buccleuch, but the actual founder of my line was my grandfather's brother who came here in fifty-one, sent a substitute to the Civil War and started the wholesale hardware business that my father carries on today. I never saw this great-uncle but I'm supposed to look like him - with special reference to the rather hard-boiled painting that hangs in Father's office. I graduated from New Haven in 1915, just a quarter of a century after my father, and a little later I participated in that delayed Teutonic migration known as the Great War. I enjoyed the counter-raid so thoroughly that I came back restless. Instead of being the warm center of the world the middle-west now seemed like the ragged edge of the universe - so I decided to go east and learn the bond business. Everybody I knew was in the bond business so I supposed it could support one more single man. All my aunts and uncles talked it over as if they were choosing a prep-school for me and finally said "Why - ye-es" with very grave, hesitant faces. Father agreed to finance me for a year and after various delays I came east, permanently, I thought, in the spring of twenty-two. The practical thing was to find rooms in the city but it was a warm season and I had just left a country of wide lawns and friendly trees, so when a young man at the office suggested that we take a house together in a commuting town it sounded like a great idea. He found the house, a weather beaten cardboard bungalow at eighty a month, but at the last minute the firm ordered him to Washington and I went out to the country alone. I had a dog, at least I had him for a few days until he ran away, and an old Dodge and a Finnish woman who made my bed and cooked breakfast and muttered Finnish wisdom to herself over the electric stove. It was lonely for a day or so until one morning some man, more recently arrived than I, stopped me on the road. "How do you get to West Egg Village?" he asked helplessly. I told him. And as I walked on I was lonely no longer. I was a guide, a pathfinder, an original settler. He had casually conferred on me the freedom of the neighborhood. And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees - just as things grow in fast movies - I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer. There was so much to read for one thing and so much fine health to be pulled down out of the young breath-giving air. I bought a dozen volumes on banking and credit and investment securities and they stood on my shelf in red and gold like new money from the mint, promising to unfold the shining secrets that only Midas and Morgan and Maecenas knew. And I had the high intention of reading many other books besides. I was rather literary in college - one year I wrote a series of very solemn and obvious editorials for the "Yale News" - and now I was going to bring back all such things into my life and become again that most limited of all specialists, the "well-rounded" man. This isn't just an epigram - life is much more successfully looked at from a single window, after all. It was a matter of chance that I should have rented a house in one of the strangest communities in North America. It was on that slender riotous island which extends itself due east of New York and where there are, among other natural curiosities, two unusual formations of land. Twenty miles from the city a pair of enormous eggs, identical in contour and separated only by a courtesy bay, jut out into the most domesticated body of salt water in the Western Hemisphere, the great wet barnyard of Long Island Sound. They are not perfect ovals - like the egg in the Columbus story they are both crushed fiat at the contact end - but their physical resemblance must be a source of perpetual confusion to the gulls that fly over-head. To the wingless a more arresting phenomenon is their dissimilarity in every particular except shape and size. I lived at West Egg, the - well, the less fashionable of the two, though this is a most superficial tag to express the bizarre and not a little sinister contrast between them. My house was at the very tip of the egg, only fifty yards from the Sound, and squeezed between two huge places that rented for twelve or fifteen thousand a season. The one on my right was a colossal affair by any standard - it was a factual imitation of some Hôtel de Ville in Normandy, with a tower on one side, spanking new under a thin beard of raw ivy, and a marble swimming pool and more than forty acres of lawn and garden. It was Gatsby's mansion. Or rather, as I didn't know Mr. Gatsby it was a mansion inhabited by a gentleman of that name. My own house was an eye-sore, but it was a small eye-sore and it had been overlooked, so I had a view of the water, a partial view of my neighbor's lawn and the consoling proximity of millionaires - all for eighty dollars a month. Across the courtesy bay the white places of fashionable East Egg glittered along the water and the history of the summer really begins on the evening I drove over there to have dinner with the Tom Buchanans. Daisy was my second cousin once removed and I'd known Tom in college. And just after the war I spent two days with them in Chicago. Her husband, among various physical accomplishments, had been one of the most powerful ends that ever played football at New Haven - a national figure in a way, one of those men who reach such an acute limited excellence at twenty-one that everything afterwards savours of anti-climax. His family were enormously wealthy - even in college his freedom with money was a matter for reproach - but now he'd left Chicago and come east in a fashion that rather took your breath away: for instance he'd brought down a string of polo ponies from Lake Forest. It was hard to realize that a man in my own generation was wealthy enough to do that. Why they came east I don't know. They had spent a year in France, for no particular reason, and then drifted here and there unrestfully wherever people played polo and were rich together. This was a permanent move, said Daisy over the telephone, but I didn't believe it - I had no sight into Daisy's heart but I felt that Tom would drift on forever seeking a little wistfully for the dramatic turbulence of some irrecoverable football game. And so it happened that on a warm windy evening I drove over to East Egg to see two old friends whom I scarcely knew at all. Their house was even more elaborate than I expected, a cheerful red and white Georgian Colonial mansion overlooking the bay. The lawn started at the beach and ran toward the front door for a quarter of a mile, jumping over sun-dials and brick walks and burning gardens - finally when it reached the house drifting up the side in bright vines as though from the momentum of its run. The front was broken by a line of French windows, glowing now with reflected gold, and wide open to the warm windy afternoon, and Tom Buchanan in riding clothes was standing with his legs apart on the front porch. He had changed since his New Haven years. Now he was a sturdy, straw haired man of thirty with a rather hard mouth and a supercilious manner. Two shining, arrogant eyes had established dominance over his face and gave him the appearance of always leaning aggressively forward. Not even the effeminate swank of his riding clothes could hide the enormous power of that body - he seemed to fill those glistening boots until he strained the top lacing and you could see a great pack of muscle shifting when his shoulder moved under his thin coat. It was a body capable of enormous leverage - a cruel body. His speaking voice, a gruff husky tenor, added to the impression of fractiousness he conveyed. There was a touch of paternal contempt in it, even toward people he liked - and there were men at New Haven who had hated his guts. "Now, don't think my opinion on these matters is final," he seemed to say, "just because I'm stronger and more of a man than you are." We were in the same Senior Society and while we were never intimate I always had the impression that he approved of me and wanted me to like him with some harsh, defiant wistfulness of his own. We talked for a few minutes on the sunny porch. "I've got a nice place here," he said, his eyes flashing about restlessly. Turning me around by one arm he moved a broad flat hand along the front vista, including in its sweep a sunken Italian garden, a half acre of deep pungent roses and a snub-nosed motor boat that bumped the tide off shore. "It belonged to Demaine the oil man." He turned me around again, politely and abruptly. "We'll go inside." We walked through a high hallway into a bright rosy-colored space, fragilely bound into the house by French windows at either end. The windows were ajar and gleaming white against the fresh grass outside that seemed to grow a little way into the house. 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 - and then rippled over the wine-colored rug, making a shadow on it as wind does on the sea. The only completely stationary object in the room was an enormous couch on which two young women were buoyed up as though upon an anchored balloon. They were both in white and their dresses were rippling and fluttering as if they had just been blown back in after a short flight around the house. I must have stood for a few moments listening to the whip and snap of the curtains and the groan of a picture on the wall. Then there was a boom as Tom Buchanan shut the rear windows and the caught wind died out about the room and the curtains and the rugs and the two young women ballooned slowly to the floor. The younger of the two was a stranger to me. She was extended full length at her end of the divan, completely motionless and with her chin raised a little as if she were balancing something on it which was quite likely to fall. If she saw me out of the corner of her eyes she gave no hint of it - indeed I was almost surprised into murmuring an apology for having disturbed her by coming in. The other girl, Daisy, made an attempt to rise - she leaned slightly forward with a conscientious expression - then she laughed, an absurd, charming little laugh, and I laughed too and came forward into the room. "I'm p-paralyzed with happiness." She laughed again, as if she said something very witty, and held my hand for a moment, looking up into my face, promising that there was no one in the world she so much wanted to see. That was a way she had. She hinted in a murmur that the surname of the balancing girl was Baker. (I've heard it said that Daisy's murmur was only to make people lean toward her; an irrelevant criticism that made it no less charming.) At any rate Miss Baker's lips fluttered, she nodded at me almost imperceptibly and then quickly tipped her head back again - the object she was balancing had obviously tottered a little and given her something of a fright. Again a sort of apology arose to my lips. Almost any exhibition of complete self sufficiency draws a stunned tribute from me. I looked back at my cousin who began to ask me questions in her low, thrilling voice. It was the kind of voice that the ear follows up and down as if each speech is an arrangement of notes that will never be played again. Continues... Excerpted from The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald Copyright 1925 by Charles Scribner's Sons. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. 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