Great Gatsby

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The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald edited by Matthew J. Bruccoli (Cambridge University Press, 1991. lvi + 226 pages. Illustrated. $27.95) Even if Scott Fitzgerald is, as someone suggested years ago, essentially a one-book author, only a prig would dispute either the stylistic beauty or the cultural importance of The Great Gatsby. With so much of the novel's plot achieved through motif and symbol, with so much of its atmospheric intensity concentrated in the central images of the waste land, the grail quest, and the tragic odyssey, the fiction that Fitzgerald conceived of as a "rough" novel eventually seems to have been written as though it were a long poem. Consider the opening sentence, Nick's invocation of the three connections that his antiself, Gatsby, can never claim. "In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since." One sentence decisively outlines the major chord: youth, fatherhood, and connectedness to the past. Where Nick has his connections, however, Gatsby has only "gonnegshuns." Though that's the point: Nick has to expand the dimensions of the familiar and to mature emotional and material connections into compassion--and, finally, love. For the real love story lies in the friendship of Nick and Jay Gatsby. Nick's voice is so overwhelmingly personable, so damnably charming, however, that it is easy to overlook how unnervingly subtle was the structural intelligence behind it. Jaded readers such as me who have always regarded Fitzgerald as a natural stylist can be forgiven for suspecting that what Bruccoli's efforts amount to are x-rays of a butterfly's wing. To reread the novel--in this or any edition--is to sense jointedness and symmetry under its skin. Jordan's exposition of Gatsby's early affair with Daisy, in chapter 4, is structurally symmetrical with Gatsby's own account in chapter 8; the crack-up at the party in chapter 3, which...
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