F. Scott Fitzgerald is undoubtedly a masterful writer. The way he's able to describe a certain atmosphere and create a scene that almost seems to even have background music is simply genious. He makes vivid images of a certain place and time seem apparent, relevant, contemporary even, in the reader's mind. Yet, for some reason, of all the Fitzgerald books I own, I've only read The Great Gatsby.
I have seriously mixed feelings about Gatsby. I read the book the first time a couple of years back and couldn't help but think the entire book is full of... nothing. Absolutely nothing of interest or true meaning happens in the story. And yet the book is considered "a great American novel". (Someone even said it's about "the turmoil of the American dream" although I strongly disagree with that.) But none of this changes the fact that nothing of importance happens in the story. And none of this changes the fact that Gatsby is way too good for the thing he pursues.
But before you think I hated the book, I must hasten to explain why I love the book.
First of all, as I mentioned, Fitzgerald has an amazing ability of creating an atmosphere - and while the story is empty, the place is not. The vivid scenery is a pleasure to read. You almost feel like you're there, in the 1920's, with Nick and Gatsby and all the others.
Secondly - saving the best for last - I love the book because of Jay Gatsby, the kind of man he is, and what is said about him in the last pages.
During the time of prohibition, Gatsby had the courage to think independently and make a fortune, regardless of the law. He goes to great lengths to get the thing he wants - in fact, everything he has ever done has been because of it. And even if the thing isn't worthy of him, the effort tells a lot about Gatsby himself. But the most important reason, the one thing that tells the reader more about Gatsby than anything else, is what's written in the back of his copy of the Hopalong Cassidy.
That is the only reason I love the book. Without it, I wouldn't even think about Jay Gatsby anymore. It simply makes the entire novel.
I wonder if all the other people who like it appreciate it for the same reason as I.