I will forever be slightly embarrassed when I think of The Great Gatsby. It was recommended by a trusted source and I enjoyed it: but nothing more. I was entertained yes, but blown away? No. Well at least not at first…
I was greeted by a sense of, that was good, but not great. For the life of me I cannot remember why I had this reaction: it is something which still baffles me. At first I thought maybe I didn’t have that inner-US-twang in my heart, and it just wasn’t “my kind of thing.” Perhaps American literature is just a touch too foreign for my simple, bumpkin mind.
I text this mixed response to my recommendee and was thankfully spared any onslaught of abuse: there were no jibes or incredulousness, just a slight sense of I’ll give him some time to think and then we’ll see.
A few days later, having spent the majority of my subsequent time thinking of little else, I was quite simply stunned. The subtlety, tone and choice of language are nothing short of sublime. Oh and the story is pretty good too. I read it three-times last year, and could happily have read it more, and probably have. It’s a fantastic little book, and truly is one of the classics.
Unfortunately, like so many things nowadays, novels are beginning to become more standarised. Unless your writing a fantasy epic the size of a bungalow, for some reason the average book should aim to be between 80-120’000 words to fit in with the demographic. As a reader I think this is bollocks. A story is only as long as it needs to be: I did not feel cheated after reading Gatsby because it was short, I was blown away because it’s brilliant. In some respects I am reminded of Blackadder or Fawlty Towers: it gives you that sense of why isn’t there more?! Whilst deep-down being glad that there isn’t, because more might not be as good. It can never go stale.
This however, does serve up quite an annoying problem, for there is only one conclusion I can come to: The Great Gatsby is still every bit as great as it was almost 100 years ago; and I am a complete and utter arse.