This is one of my favorite books. For the longest time this was my go to book when I had to give a favorite book. Thankfully, my answer has become more complicated and convoluted. I’m thankful for this personally, it does nothing for the person who dared to ask me the question to start with.
I can put my favoritism aside long enough to be objective a little, hopefully. First, the story, as it is, is only a little better than a soap opera. The thing that makes the story compelling is in no way the events that happen, it is the way that those events are described. For description Fitzgerald, as far as I’m concerned, has no equal. Gatsby is the book that shows you how to show without telling, a phrase that I usually look at with some skepticism, since it’s a platitude that most people throw around, but for everyone who throws it around there are plenty of examples where they just come out and tell us about their character.
The introduction of Tom Buchannan is the best example of this. We are given Tom’s character in how he treats other people, how he talks. He speaks to himself when he surveys his land , saying that it’s a good place, as if he was a God that had built the world in six days and was stopping to admire his own work. Nick says that Tom moves people around as if they were pieces on a game board, this kind of phrase has come to have a psychological meaning, but Fitzgerald means literally that Tom takes ahold of you and drags you to where he wants you to be.
Fitzgerald wraps the simplest things in the significance of beauty and brings them out for everyone to see. For me it will always be the greatest height that you can aspire to, and every time I read the book I get the same excitement as the first time. This is the book that taught me what words can do and made me want to be a writer.