When people ask what
the Great American Novel is
, there’s really one answer you can take seriously.
Compared with F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece, all the others contenders make reading feel like a slog, which has to be at least part of the reason that 23% of Americans don’t read a book in an entire year.
• “Moby Dick”? Boring. Who needs to spend hours reading Herman Melville spill details of New England whaling?
• “Infinite Jest”? Anyone who says they have read the whole thing is lying.
There’s “Gatsby,” then there’s everything else.
Here’s why: reading shouldn’t be a punishment.
For me, reading “Gatsby” in 11th grade was when I first realised that “pleasure reading” could be a thing that exists in real life.
While he wrote in rhyme and image and symbol and detail, Fitzgerald still pulled the plot taut — the book clocks in at under 50,000 words.
It made me want to be a writer. For my friend and novelist Jack Cheng, it’s the same story.
“I read it and said, ‘Holy s—, I want to do what this guy does,” he recalls. “For me, its a very visual book, and for me, the way Fitzgerald uses language, it can be so visually unexpected.”
A few cases in point.
This exchange between narrator Nick Carraway and Jay Gatsby, where Gatsby talks about winning back Daisy Buchanan:
Or the way Nick’s romantic interest Jordan describes summer in New York:
Or, most of all, the novel’s final lines, care of Nick:
There’s just nothing like it.
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