By Alan Glynn
Published on April the 1oth in 1925, The Great Gatsby – a “consciously artistic achievement” – is a study of the power of illusion. It’s a deconstruction of our dreams – of romance, of identity, even of consciousness. It’s a love story, an American fable and an echo chamber of the twentieth century. For these reasons it is also one of those rare books that you can read at different times in your life, and each time it’ll do something different to you. When you’re young, Gatsby’s desperate pursuit of Daisy might break your heart. When you’re older, the fragility of Gatsby’s reinvented self might crack your soul. Whenever you do read it, though, you’ll never be in any doubt that you’re reading something extraordinary. If the book is tugging at your heart, you’ll find the language lush and iridescent, and the imagery sensuous, with its calibrated system of blues and yellows, of eyes and water, of honey and straw. If it’s chipping at your soul, you’ll find the language weighted and resonant, and the imagery quite simply unforgettable, with its poetic elevation of the quotidian to the level of the profoundly philosophical. In fact, with the elaborate but unstrained imagery of the Valley of the Ashes and the eyes of Dr T. J. Eckleburg, Fitzgerald pretty much did what Joyce did in Ulysses and Eliot did in The Waste Land. By pitching an all-seeing God against an all-pervading advertising billboard, he looks back in sadness to an imagined lost world, but also looks forward in anxiety to a burgeoning new on. But let’s not forget Jay Gatsby. Whenever I revisit the book I imagine that this time, somehow, it will all work out for him. The Great Gatsby retains that tension, that pull on the reader, taking us back, every time, to this blue lawn, and the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock.