May's Book: F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby

Monday, May 06, 2013

We're broadcasting a discussion recorded in the Jerome L. Greene Performance Space in March. The Leonard Lopate Show Book Club joined the BBC World Book Club for a conversation about The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, with writer Jay McInerney and literature professor Anne Margaret Daniel. They answer questions from around the world about what makes The Great Gatsby one of the great classics of 20th-century American literature.


Anne Margaret Daniel and Jay McInerney

Comments [12]

Nick from North Jersey

As a high school English teacher, and one who adores this novel, I'll try to speak on what students think of the novel. Some, I believe, become enthralled with the novel as a result of the lilting and poetic language of Fitzgerald. The fusion of poetry and narrative is something that tickles the literary part of their mind. That is to say, they feel they understand something that has often been incomprehensible to them in the past: poetry. They are, as Nick writes, within and outside of the narrative to a certain degree.

Others sympathize with Gatsby and his chase of the (American) dream. I partly feel that the eternal dreamer, with his/her "infinite capacity for hope," are often celebrated in our history and culture (whether it's Edison searching for a filament, Noah from The Notebook, or Edward from Twilight) and this resonates with students; it is a very American idea, and one related to kids at an early age, that the object of their desire can always be within reach.

And finally I think the tragedy of Gatsby's fall speaks to the kids. I say this with the utmost respect for teenagers, but part of me feels that the desire and longing Gatsby has (and ultimately dies for) is very new to students. When students fail to understand Gatsby's plight I remind them that this is a 5-year journey for Gatsby. In our consumer culture, I'd be hard-pressed to believe that any one of us in the classroom has desired something for 5 months, let alone 5 years, that we didn't attain or dismiss. This is where I feel that younger audiences fall short - none have wanted, dedicated, and ultimately relinquished themselves to anything for 5 years and Gatsby does it with such grace and longing that we become voyeurs of his journey.

I think age and the experience of life add to the appeal and wonder of Gatsby. It is not to say that the novel is lost on younger audiences, but rather that the piece resonates our own lives and desires as we grow older until one fine morning...

May. 09 2013 05:17 PM
Dorothy from Manhattan

It was interesting to hear this -- I was in the audience at the taping and thought Harriet Gilbert was rude, taking over the spotlight. But even though the editing helped Harriet's reputation, the rudeness (for want of a better word) still came across.

I had not re-read the book before the discussion but am re-reading it now. At the taping I was surprised how much I remembered. Now I'm surprised at how much I'd forgotten or missed.

May. 06 2013 01:49 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

Debbie Carter - From one sole book you say this about McInerny? Really? The bar is then seriously low.

May. 06 2013 01:23 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

Ed from Larchmont - You probably mean that Bonfire of the Vanities reminds you of Gatsby; one predates the other by a few decades. So you'd do well to re-work your first paragraph.

As for your bringing religiosity into this (as you almost always do), and needing to co-mingle "morality" with religiosity, why not look at a swath of popular literature of the time to see how little outright religiosity had to do with the reading public. Religion was something someone observed in their homes, within families--not something to hold up as a public placard.

May. 06 2013 12:58 PM
CathyG from lower Westchester County

I'm curious what high school students think of this classic? Gatsby is my daughter's read over spring break. Just like Librarybiker from NJ, life experiences did, in fact, more fully inform my understanding of the book.

Mar. 25 2013 06:56 PM
Ed from Larchmont

The Great Gatsby reminds me some of 'Bonfire of the Vanities', a bond trader works in New York and falls into an affair and then recovers and ends the affair. Bonfire of the Vanities is a morality tale and the recovery of the hero, and The Great Gatsby seems to have the same structure: serious immorality (a trinity of affairs) and perhaps ill-gotten money and luxurious living lead to violence and murder and death. Nick survives and leaves, to tell the tale, like Horatio.

At first it seemed that The Great Gatsby was odd in that it lacked any reference to God or the spiritual life, for or against. But it is a story of affairs. It reminds me of the movie 'Rules of the Game', where affairs were an assumed thing. Those practices make one blind to God and the spiritual life, so they are appropriately absent in The Great Gatsby.

At Fatima Mary (1917) told the children 'The current war will end, but if people do not stop offending God, a worse war will follow'. She was talking about WWI, and predicting WWII, which did follow. The serious sin of the interwar period was no doubt eugenics (which we're turning back to today), but it was also the immorality of the flapper period, of which The Great Gatsby (gad fly?) is a telling portrait.

I had thought it was a book without a spiritual side, but I was wrong indeed.

Mar. 22 2013 06:06 AM

Will there be a way to listen to the lecture after it is over?

Mar. 20 2013 01:15 PM
Debbie Carter from New York

McInerney is one of the best American authors in the F. Scott Fitzgerald tradition, portraying the rich of today's New York knowledgeably and with integrity. I'm eager to hear what he has to say about The Great Gatsby of the city's past and its influence on our perception of New York today.

Mar. 07 2013 08:52 PM
Librarianbiker from New Jersey

When I HAD to read Gatsby in high school it stank. It got slightly better when I read it in college. But when I read it as an adult with life experience behind me, WOW!
This is the definition of a classic-it lays waiting for you to be ready for it.

Mar. 04 2013 02:56 PM
Altenir from Rio de Janeiro - Brazil

It's amazing book. Your voice transcends the USA and connects with all countries and all cultures because it's about the human being and your collections of feelings.

Feb. 25 2013 06:13 PM
Tammay from New York.NY

I brought the book on a lim, when I was browsing at the strand always whating to read Fitzgeralds novels and brought this one "The Great Gatsby" now I have a reason to read. Thank you Leonard, can wait to attend the discussion. Great Reading Let's have some fun.

Feb. 25 2013 06:11 PM

My favorite fiction book. Maybe I'll read it again.

Suggestion: I'm not in the NYC area, but would love to hear the discussion. Any possibility you could get Book TV to send a crew to film it, then show it on their week-end schedule?

Feb. 25 2013 04:09 PM

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