Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Tuesday Book Group Kicks off the Big Read

The Tuesday Book Group unofficially kicked off the Big Read this week when we discussed Newport’s Big Read title, The Great Gatsby. Thanks to the increased exposure, we had several newcomers and were happy to hear new voices. We had wide-ranging questions and comments about the book. Most of us praised the Fitzgerald’s writing style and structure while remaining rather critical of the characters. One person described the novel as “seductive,” while another commented, “there is not a character in this book I would want to have over for a drink.”

We found many reasons to call the novel a masterpiece: its themes are timeless, its symbolism rich, its plot compelling (at least in the second half), and its characters, if unlikeable, are true to life. We talked a lot about social classes and groups, the cultural disconnect that still exists between the USA’s East Coast and Midwest, and the changes Fitzgerald was observing in ‘20s America.

We debated Gatsby as a tragic hero: is he a great person with a tragic flaw? Is he sympathetic at all? Are any of the characters sympathetic, for that matter? Was Daisy even worth all the fuss? Like most readers of the novel, we also talked a bit about T.J. Eckleburg’s eyes, the symbolism of the valley of ashes and the meaning of that green light.

Join us next month (1pm February 9th in the Stride Room) when we pair The Great Gatsby with Chris Bohjalian’s The Double Bind. Instead of rewriting the story of Fitzgerald’s classic, Bohjalian does something quite different: he sets his own story in the same fictional universe as The Great Gatsby. The heroine of The Double Bind, for example, spent her childhood swimming at a country club in West Egg that was once Gatsby’s mansion!



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