Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Group Read - THE GREAT GATSBY- F Scott Fitzgerald & NOTORIUS AUSTRALIAN WOMEN - Kay Saunders

In 1922, F. Scott Fitzgerald announced his decision to write "something new--something extraordinary and beautiful and simple + intricately patterned." That extraordinary, beautiful, intricately patterned, and above all, simple novel became The Great Gatsby, arguably Fitzgerald's finest work and certainly the book for which he is best known. A
portrait of the Jazz Age in all of its decadence and excess, Gatsby captured the spirit of the author's generation and earned itself a permanent place in American mythology. Self-made, self-invented millionaire Jay Gatsby embodies some of Fitzgerald's--and his country's--most abiding obsessions: money, ambition, greed, and the promise of new beginnings. "Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that's no matter--tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther.... And one fine morning--" Gatsby's rise to glory and eventual fall from grace becomes a kind of cautionary tale about the American Dream.

It's also a love story, of sorts, the narrative of Gatsby's quixotic passion for Daisy Buchanan. The pair meet five years before the novel begins, when Daisy is a legendary young Louisville beauty and Gatsby an impoverished officer. They fall in love, but while Gatsby serves overseas, Daisy marries the brutal, bullying, but extremely rich Tom Buchanan. After the war, Gatsby devotes himself blindly to the pursuit of wealth by whatever means--and to the pursuit of Daisy, which amounts to the same thing. "Her voice is full of money," Gatsby says admiringly, in one of the novel's more famous descriptions. His millions made, Gatsby buys a mansion across Long Island Sound from Daisy's patrician East Egg address, throws lavish parties, and waits for her to appear. When she does, events unfold with all the tragic inevitability of a Greek drama, with detached, cynical neighbor Nick Carraway acting as chorus throughout. Spare, elegantly plotted, and written in crystalline prose, The Great Gatsby is as perfectly satisfying as the best kind of poem.
* * *
"Now we have an American masterpiece in its final form: the original crystal has shaped itself into the true diamond. This is the novel as Fitzgerald wished it to be, and so it is what we have dreamed of, sleeping and waking." -- James Dickey
* * *
The Great Gatsby is a novel by the American author F. Scott Fitzgerald. First published on April 10, 1925, it is set on Long Island's North Shore and in New York City during the summer of 1922.
The novel takes place following the First World War. American society enjoyed prosperity during the "roaring" 1920s as the economy soared. At the same time, Prohibition, the ban on the sale and manufacture of alcohol as mandated by the Eighteenth Amendment, made millionaires out of bootleggers. After its republishing in 1945 and 1953, it quickly found a wide readership and is today widely regarded as a paragon of the Great American Novel, and a literary classic. The Great Gatsby has become a standard text in high school and university courses on American literature in countries around the world, and is ranked second in the Modern Library's lists of the 100 Best Novels of the 20th Century.


  1. Unable to get from Library. Angus and Robertson have very cheap copies - Penguin is under $9....Ordered mine

    1. Can't find my old copy anywhere. I must have loaned it. I downloaded a copy from Jaywalker's link and only just started reading.

  2. I downloaded the text from a website and have been reading it at my desk at Hansard in the minutes between pieces of work being ready. Have read three chapters already so may get it finished before we leave as it is not very long.

    I read it at Uni and not since and I had forgotten how well the atmosphere is evoked. It has a strange unreal feeling which is somehow quite captivating.

    1. Great that you are able to join in. Your comments are always insightful.

  3. CHAPTER 1

    Did you notice the poet on the first page? I googled his name and it's a pen name of Fitzgerald! Also it's the name of a character in his first book, This Side of Paradise 1922. Fitzgerald has a sense of humour. Moi has given us more Gatsby trivia on the 'Movies' thread.

    Like Jaywalker, it's been a long time since I first read this book and I don't remember the racist undertone. Either I was too young and so oblivious or we are more aware now. The book Tom alludes to is by Lothrop Stoddard and scientific racism was the basis of the Nazi 'Master Race'ideology.

    The narrator, Nick Carraway, established his bona fides early and we will view the characters and events from his perspective. He's careful to emphasise that he is non-judgemental and we will see how reliable he is as narrator.

    Are you intrigued by Daisy and Tom's marital unhappiness?

  4. Thank you for more trivia Sanmac. It makes the reading that little more interesting.

    The Tom/Daisy relationship seems so terribly shallow and superficial in the early chapters. Neither seem to be a character of much depth, with their all being based upon appearances( The house "belonged to Demaine, the oil man")

    Daisy in her role as mother seems totally disinterested especially when she tells Nick " I suppose she talks, and - eats, and everything."

    When told she gave birth to a daughter Daisy states "I'm glad its a girl. And I hope she'll be a fool-that's the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool"

    Did that make me see red, having attempted to bring up daughters, not 100 years down the track, that could hold their own in a mans world.

    Not intrigued at all by Tom and Daisy's unhappiness as I am not finding either of them at all pleasant. I am looking forward to seeing what transpires......

    1. Daisy's comments jarred with me, too, as did Tom's choice of mistress in Chapter 2. Tom, of the polo ponies, extreme wealth, ideas of superiority and very conscious of his status takes up with Myrtle Wilson, wife of the local garage owner who shows little or no intelligence or refinement. (Not that Daisy shows much intelligence, so far.)

    2. Not so sure what it is that didn't sit so well with you, Sanmac , regarding Tom's mistress ? That she is from what would be considered a lower social/economic class doesn't offend me. I'm simply appalled that he gave her a swipe and broke her nose !

    3. It does seem an odd relationship on the surface but maybe she is the sort of uncomplicated woman he wants purely for uninhibited sex after the neurotic and nervy women of his own class. And men like him often do treat such women badly - as objects they have paid for and expect them to stay in line.

    4. No Moi, I wasn't offended, just surprised at Tom's choice. Jaywalker is probably right as Tom obviously doesn't feel he has to be on his 'best' behaviour and Myrtle probably gave him the admiration he felt he deserved. Thoroughly unlikable character.

  5. I am ready to jump in
    As usual I have overdone things and ordered 'Beautiful Fools' story of Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.
    Also have film to see
    And the Book 'The Great Gatsby' arrived today
    Back probably in a week with something worthwhile to say.....

    1. Think what you have done sounds fun Madeleinea. At least you'll be able to add your two bobs worth with so much talk about the movie at the moment.

      Looking forward to your thoughts......

    2. The biog should be interesting. According to my research, Fitzgerald based both the characters of Gatzby & Nick Carraway on himself.

  6. More trivia. Fitzgerald is a descendant of (and named after) Francis Scott Keys, author of 'Star Spangled Banner'.

  7. And a little more trivia ......

    The final line of The Great Gatsby—"So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past—is also the epitaph on Fitzgerald's grave in Rockville, Maryland.

  8. Ok, so what do we think about Nick Carraway ? Is he as straightforward and "honest" as he states ? ("I am one of the few honest people that I have ever known")

    According to his bio, he grew up in family of "prominent, well-to-do people" in Chicago, and his family made their money two generations ago in the "hardware business". He went to Yale; he likes literature and considers himself a " well-rounded man". He fought in World War I, which he found a bit of adventure; and now he's moved East to work in the finance industry in the big smoke.

    Nick takes great pains in describing the normality of his day to day goings on, mixing with the clerks, lunching on "little pig sausages and mashed potatoes" in dark restaurants, studying in the library.

    So what do you think about Nick thus far ?

  9. I think the comparisons he makes between himself and the Gatsby crowd are in order to promote his own virtues as a plain, hardworking, uncomplicated guy and convince us and himself that he is the better man but he would really prefer to be like Gatsby.

  10. Interesting Jaywalker....

    I'm certainly finding Nick the more interesting of the characters.

  11. I hate to knock a book but this one - well I found the plot vacuous (empty) and circumventive (never actually getting to the point). I haven't seen the film as yet but am sure it will film well - all the decadence and splender of a bygone area.
    Didn't these women have any direction in life?
    Why is adultery so normal to a man but not to be tolerated in his wife.
    Two mwssages got across to me:
    Money is necessary to support such a lifestyle no matter how you get it
    Parties are a bore and take lots of work to enjoy.....
    Nevertheless glad I have read it, as it is a 'classic' Thanks Jaywalker

  12. Oh - and sorry Moi- the charactor of Nick - that of a Voyeur!

    Give me Stephen King of Kate Norton anytime

  13. Maybe Americans relate to Fitzgerald more than we do......the American Dream is part of it. And certainly women born into this social class in this era didn't have any direction in their life apart from having a good time and getting married. The same was true for most upper class women in all countries until after the first world war and amongst the aristocracy probably until the 60s. An interesting book about all that is The Last Debutante. The author was the last of the London debs presented to the King and Queen in the mid 50s.

    When we were at Knebworth House I was interested to read about the daughter of one if the Dukes, Constance Lytton who was a leading suffragette and took part in hunger strikes in prison. Her parents wouldn't allow her to marry a man 'beneath' her and she obeyed them even though she fought for women's rights. We easily forget how short a period it is that women felt able to do their own thing.

  14. You are right Jaywalker, its only a previous generation that achieved so very much for women's rights.

    Nick as Voyeur? Totally different connotation than role of narrator, Madeleinea, but I suspect there is something in what you suggest. There is a slightly creepy feel to Nick's constant commenting about the Gatsby lifestyle and I too wonder if Nick is a tad envious, and isn't as uncomplicated or honest as he keeps insisting to the reader.

    The lifestyle doesn't sit real well with me either Madeleinea. Think it is interesting that there are still pockets of society that exist on this level. When looking around Gatsby's house "it was like skimming hastily through a dozen magazines". Ditto, there are still men and women who operate on the same level. What's that old saying : the more things change, the more things stay the same.....?

  15. Hey - BUT
    Just seen the film....
    wonderful parties
    beautiful dresses
    good film.......... a real extravaganza

  16. A now reading 'Beautiful Fools' and am suspicious the book was run up by Fitzgerald in one afternoon to pay his wife's medical bills!!!!

    1. I can understand you thinking that but he actually took two years to write Gatsby. He revised it several times before publication. There is an interesting Wikipedia article with more detail.

      The period between the world wars has always fascinated me. The 20s and 30s were periods of huge change in class distinction, and much more decadent yet intellectual. The London Bloomsbury group were in many ways similar to their American counterparts although they had more often inherited money rather than made it but it was a time when people seemed to feel the need to live for the moment and morality and values underwent a tremendous change.

  17. None of the characters were appealing. Nick, to me, seemed self-righteous (He says that he is the only honest person he knows) and I agree with Madeleine that he was presented as a voyeur and also as a misfit yet I think that Fitzgerald intended him to be liked, as the upholder of values.
    A question for you. Do you think Tom knew Daisy was the driver when he set George Wilson onto Gatsby? Is that why he and Daisy left so suddenly?

    I liked the book. It showed the underside of the American dream, gone sour, if you like.

    1. Interestingly, the early chapters of this novel are set an even pace and almost have a languid feel. The latter chapters are much more frantic, so I went back and re read the last quarter of the book to consider the question posed by Sanmac.

      And this I found only raised more questions......Such as why did Tom insist, after only having just realised that there was sexual tension between Gatsby and Daisy, that the two of them drive into town together, in Tom's car no less ? Is he throwing his wife at Gatsby ? What's this all about ?

      There is no doubt Tom is a horrid character. To me he is more of a sod than Gatsby in that he seemingly has it all : the success, the wealth, the position. He is arrogant, racist and hypocrite. If I met him in a bar I would not hesitate to sling a glass of plonk in his face.......An all round slug.

      Not convinced that Daisy was the driver of the car however. And you know why ?Pretty sure that Tom isn't that clever .

      Bottom line though he has ensured the security of Daisy as a possession following the accident.....

      Thankyou Sanmac for making me revisit the scene of the crime so to speak.

      And just one more thing:

      I'm leaning towards Madeleinea6 here. American Classic and the American Dream seem to be phrases being tossed around liberally in the literature about this novel. I'm enjoying all the reading this is leading me towards, but you know, I'm not seeing much difference between the American Dream and the Australian Dream......

      Now I am focusing on the list of the Australian novels that Sanmac presented. More food for thought.

    2. Ooops , meant to say that "Not convinced Tom was aware Daisy was the driver of the car"

      Life Lesson 505. Don't type and drink at the same time

  18. Yes, Jaywalker, I realise I am knocking a 'classic'. But the between wars era in America meant little if nothing to me. I found the charactor of Daisy very sad - especially after seeing the film... an empty headed possession of a man (Buchanan or Gatsby) for other men to envy.
    'Beautiful Fools' portrays Zelda as mentally unstable - continually left in asylums (private of course) to have a course of sleep inducing - I presume meant to be ego strengthening- treatment at the hands of psychiatrists.
    Thank goodness times have changed for women!
    Sanmac - I don't know the answer to your question. Why does it matter?

    1. Tom was a thoroughly unlikeable character. He informed Wilson that Gatsby was the owner of the car which pointed to Gatsby also being her lover, thus exonerating himself. If he did this with the knowledge that Daisy was driving and therefore, Gatsby was protecting her, Tom is absolutely despicable. In counterpoint to Nick, it's an overkill, don't you think?

  19. Fitzgerald intended the book to portray relationships.... the one between Gatsby and Daisy was too deep, I thought. But Tom was just the husband wioth pots of money, who regarded Daisy as a 'possession', sought solace in his mistress for whom he did seem to care... none of the charactors ran true to me...

  20. Moi...I think the difference between the American Dream and the Australian one is that to me there is a much stronger e,event if selfishness in the American Dream....everyone should be abe to achieve whatever they want even if that use at the expense of others which it often is. I see the Australian Dream as being about getting on, getting a good life but with not so much lack of care about others....but maybe that's just my interpretation.

    Nothing wrong with knocking a classic Madeleine but neither do I think you need to have experienced an era to be fascinated with it....there wouldn't be so many Jane Austin fans otherwise!

  21. Just finished 'Beautiful Fools' - portraying the last affair of Fitzgerald and his wife. Very sad

    And as a nurse entering hospital work 1961 - I am absolutely horrified at the blase way Fitzgerald's TB is portrayed - no wonder TB hit in epidemic proportions.

    What next for us readers?

    And yes, you are right, Jaywalker - the corresponding years in British European History are fascinating to I have learnt a little about American lifes at that time....

  22. Sorry about all the typos last post. The iPad is less easy to correct than the desktop. I haven't been able to settle to read anything since we have been away.

  23. Madeleinea, how about we read a book of your choice . What book would you suggest ?

  24. Well - its a bit of a departure from the novels we have been reading, but if you all agree I'd suggest 'Notorious Australian Women' by Kaye Saunders. It has little biographies of people like Helena Rubenestein, Annette Kellerman, Till DeVine and others.... historical and therefore (I hope) accurate biographies.

    I have read Kaye's 'Deadly Australian Women' her latest book, which is all about poisoning, baby farms, and murderesses - and wouldn't suggest that one, as it is a bit sickening in parts - but would suggest her earlier book. What do you all think?

  25. No comment from anyone? Well someone else choose...

  26. Madeleinea

    Happy to give this book ago. Again , not what I would normally read, but that's ok. That's what this is all about, isn't it ?

  27. Good on you, Moi. But where is Sanmac? Jaywalker has her nose in Hansard... but she is usually on board.

  28. will buy the book on the weekend Madeleinea. Don't worry, busy time in a lot of workplaces at the moment, and the flu bug seems to be rampant. People will be back soon....

  29. We are still in England and not back till end of August so you will have to manage without me.

  30. Its fairly heavy going, Moi..... but it does draw a distinction between Australian Woen of the past and those portrayed by Morton and Gatsby....

    by Kay Saunders

    The sensational lives and exploits of some of Australia′s most audacious women

    Notorious Australian Women celebrates the lives of some of Australia′s most fearless, brash and scandalous women. There′s Tilly Devine, who went from streetwalker in London to wealthy Sydney madam and standover merchant; Mary Bryant, the highway robber and First Fleeter who escaped by rowing from Port Jackson to Timor with her two children; Lola Montez, the Irish-born grande horizontale, who destroyed King Ludwig I of Bavaria; Ellen Tremaye and Marion Edwards, women who challenged the gender order and became men; and Helena Rubinstein, who rewrote her humble Polish background and became one of the most successful and astute businesswomen in the world.

    From bushrangers, courtesans and cross-dressers, to writers, designers and a radical or two, what these splendid rebels have in common is a determination to take their destinies into their own hands.

    Kay Saunders AM was Professor of History and Senator of the University of Queensland from 2002 to 2006. In 2001 she received the Medal of the National Museum of Australia, and in 2006 was the recipient of the John Kerr Medal from the Royal Historical Society of Queensland.

  32. Madeleinea

    Firstly, my apologies, am not clever with computers, unlike our Sanmac. So this will have to suffice....

    Secondly, I am really enjoying this read. It is easy to pick up and put down, one subject at a time, and Ms Saunders writes concisely and without any rabbiting on.

    However, I am not reading from front to back, but rather, choosing women whom I had heard of, but knew little about commencing with Sunday Reed.

    "Notorious". Is this the correct word ?I was dreading this book because the name to me conjured up blood, guts, and other stuff from which nightmares are made. Notorious. What do you think ?

    And which of the women have you most enjoyed reading about so far ?

  33. That's great - glad you are enjoying it

    Just finished Eliza Fraser - poor woman, what a dreadful time for her....whether she romantisised or exaggerated her experiences... well, I don't blame her. I would have done the same - if I hadn't expired from the heat whilst captured...

    Notorious to me means 'notable' but not in a respectable way...
    Deadly Australian women - murderesses... is more the blood and guts you are looking for...

  34. Gulp. Just finished with Eliza Fraser and Lola Montez.

    Now convinced that this book should have been given the title " Australian Women with Pluck "or "Women who Flaunt Convention".

    Read on......................

  35. Annette Kellerman is interesting......
    and so is Helena Rubenstein.... I didn't know she had ever been in Australia

    Adella Pankhurst sounds more mad than plucky to me..... Very different to Daisy and Mofrton's heroines aren't they?

  36. Just returned from a few days away from home. This was a timely trip in that I visited Maryborough, birth place of "notorious" Pamela Travers who was the author of Mary Poppins. As well, in the pursuit of whales, I skirted Fraser Island which was given its name on the basis of survival stories from that other "notorious", Eliza Fraser.

    I find it difficult to nominate Daisy from The Great Gatsby as a heroine as she was such an insipid piece of work, and Kate Morton's female characters from The Secret Keeper are not much in the way of heroines either. I wonder if this is in part due to the style of writing? After all, our "notorious" women are in factual format with historical information only.

    More "notorious women" to read about.

    Question : if we were to include an Australian woman from current times whom would we add?

  37. Hate to harp on about the inappropriateness of the title of this book, but "Australian " women ?

    Lola Montez spent only a little time in the country "entertaining " the troops....Oooops, gold miners.

  38. Haven't read about Travers as yet - but will do so this weekend.
    Gee I am so glad I live now and not in the past. I am far too soft a person and like my comforts to ever survive in the Australia of past centuries....

  39. Have enjoyed this book thanks, Madeleinea. Am now keen to read the poetry of Sidney Nolan in which he savages his relationship with Sunday Reed from some 30 years previous, as well as Charmain Clift's book about living in Greece.I will put both on my list for the next Bookfest!

    I am thinking Ita Buttrose would be a contender for inclusion in this book although she has lived her life with much more poise and publicity, which in itself is interesting condisering her career in the media .....

  40. My apologies, I meant "lack of publicity "

  41. Next book sounds like your choice - what's happened to Sandmac?

  42. madeleine - sanmac is not well but should be back soon. I'm happy for Moi to choose a book.

    I'm reading The Courtesan's Revenge at the moment - a bio of Harriette Wilson who was a famous Regency courtesan whose lovers included the Prince of Wales, the Due of Wellington, the Lord Chancellor and four future Prime Ministers!

    But happy to read a novel at the same time.

  43. PS Very interesting article about Harriette here:

    She would certainly have qualified for one of Britain's "notorious women" and then some!

  44. I am going to suggest the novel, Mullumbimby by Melissa Lucashenko , one of Australia’s most celebrated Indigenous voices.

    Lucashenko received an honours degree in public policy from Griffith University in 1990. In 1997, she published her first novel, Steam Pigs. It won the Dobbie Literary Award for Australian women’s fiction and was shortlisted for both the New South Wales Premier’s Literary Award and the regional Commonwealth Writers’ Prize.

    Steam Pigs was followed by the Aurora Prize–winning Killing Darcy, a novel for teenagers, and Hard Yards, which was shortlisted for the 2001 Courier-Mail Book of the Year and the New South Wales Premier’s Literary Award. Too Flash, a teenage novel about class and friendship was released in 2002.This novel is also a contender for the 2013 Queensland Literary Awards

    Any takers ?

  45. Not my usual cup of tea but I found it at Bookworld as an ebook for $10.95 so willing ti give it a go.

  46. Hi Everyone. I've been on 'the sick list' and haven't been able to contribute. I'm sorry not to explain sooner. Keeping the engine room running was all I could manage but I enjoyed reading your posts. My recovery may be somewhat protracted but I will most certainly post when I can and also add comments to the posts I have missed.

    Sylvia, I have received your holiday snaps and will post them as soon as my envy subsides.

    Thanks, Madeleine, for the Group Read selection. I would never have chosen it myself and the shortish biographies are interesting and do not overtax my drug befuddled brain. Rather than dip, I've begun at the beginning and am really looking forward to reading about Charmian Clift. Her memoir (?), Mermaid Singing has been on my reading list for so long that I am now hazy as to how I came hear about it. Maybe we can keep this post open until I catch up?

    Moi, I also have been following Lukashenko's career and am eager for the chance to read her work. I'm in, with you and Jaywalker, and will open a new thread for it. What say you, Madeleine?

    A big thank you to all for keeping the site going. It is difficult without feedback, I know And a special thank you to The Muppet - more later.

    Cheers, Sanmac

  47. glad you are better, Sanmac, and its nice to have Jaywalker back in this lovely land

    happy to read whatever recommeded

    And Moi - I always thought Travers was a school teacher and very proper........