The Great Gatsby
F. Scott Fitzgerald
audio book narrated by Tim Robbins
first published 1925
I’m not a big movie person, but I do love Shawshank Redemption. Which is a good thing, because Hamburger will watch it every time it comes on tv. Every. Single. Time. (We’ve watched it twice already this week.) I love listening to Morgan Freeman narrate the movie, and I think both he and Tim Robbins are amazing in their roles.
And what’s this have to do with The Great Gatsby, you ask? Well, Tim Robbins narrates the audio book that I listened to. And I gotta say…dude’s got voice. I just can’t decide if that’s good or bad. Because he pretty much channels whiny women when it comes to some of the characters. It’s quite frightening.
Anyhoosie, on to the book.
I first read this one in high school, mumble mumble years ago, which means I pretty much remembered squat about it. So I was quite surprised by the ending.
***SPOILER ALERT…MAJOR PLOT RUINATION AHEAD***
***READ AT YOUR OWN RISK***
(And I need to direct Pat Conroy’s attention to the spoiler alert…he needs to learn how to do that, because I just read My Reading Life, and he totally gives up the endings of quite a few major works of literature. But that’s a post for another day.)
Back to the ending. I had totally forgotten about the hit and run, and the pool, and Gatsby’s murder. For some reason, I had it in my head that the excesses of the Jazz Age did them all in. Which is what happened, in a way. But I was thinking more in the way of death by excessive partying, not bang, bang you’re dead. And now I’m wondering what else I don’t remember from high school English.
“They were careless people, Tom and Daisy — they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money of their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.” Chapter 9
The thing that really struck me about the novel was how unlikeable all of the characters were. The focus of the novel is Jay Gatsby, a mysterious man of immense wealth. No one is quite sure where he came from and what he does, but people are more than happy to talk about him behind his back and show up at his lavish parties.
Then there are Tom and Daisy Buchanan, old money snobs who think their money and class entitle them to a free pass when it comes to abominable behavior. Tom flaunts his mistress, and Daisy embarks on an affair with her first love, Gatsby. And then there’s the whole hit and run incident…Daisy kills Tom’s mistress, although Tom doesn’t know that Daisy did it, and I’m pretty sure it was an accident, although with Daisy, who knows. They’re also pretty blasé about Gatsby’s murder. The two are quite easily able to put all of the unpleasantness aside. They just go on their merry way. It’s like they’re all: Death and murder…la la la…I say, dear, where shall we vacation this summer?
There are lots of other players in the story, but I won’t get into their character defects. Except for Nick, our narrator,who sets himself up as morally superior to the others. And I’m not alone in thinking this. Here’s Nick with his girlfriend:
Gatsby cartoon by the talented K. Beaton. To see more awesome Gatsby cartoons, check out the website Hark! A Vagrant.
And even though you might not think I liked this, given that I’ve complained about Tim Robbins’ whiny female voices and the abundant lack of morals, I did. Like it, that is. I totally get why this is considered one of the great American novels. It captures an era (the Jazz Age), and it brings up all sorts of things that’ll make you go hmmm (personal responsibility, class differences, the American dream, old money vs. new money, reinventing yourself, eugenics, double standards, and on and on and on). I’m beginning to think this was totally wasted on the teenage me.
Now I’m thinking about what other high school reads I need to revisit. My current audio book is 1984. And I’m dating totally dating myself, but the first time I read that one it was very timely…1984 had just happened, so most of what I remember is getting a kick out of the fact that Orwell got it so wrong. We’ll see what else I got wrong.