I remember always wanting to read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. Being Maltese, I didn’t get much exposure to such novels. I was more frequently exposed to British literature, with the exception of Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men and Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. This was, of course, until my undergraduate years. Still, The Great Gatsby never showed up on any of my reading lists. So – one might ask – why would I be so interested in reading this great novel to which I had had no previous exposure?
I have always been a frequenter of American television shows and films, and I have always envied the American high school experience – if the whole truth is to be told. In each and every one of these films and television shows, The Great Gatsby is at some point discussed in these high school settings, and the stereotypical avid reader makes references to this novel at some point during the film or television show. Needless to say, there was a build-up of expectation leading up to my first reading of Fitzgerald’s novel. When I found out that Baz Luhrmann’s rendition of the novel was to come out, I decided that it was time to get round to reading it. So I went to the bookshop and bought it. I read the novel in a matter of days, just in time to watch the film at the cinema.
In all honesty, while I enjoyed reading the novel, I felt let down. It wasn’t that the story wasn’t good or that I didn’t enjoy it. It was just that I had been building up my expectations of it; I had expected to read it and feel instantly swallowed into the narrative. I expected to have the same response to it that I had had for other great novels, such as the instant head-over-heels-in-love reaction I had to my favourite novel – Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of being a Wallflower. The reason this didn’t happen with The Great Gatsby was the build-up itself. I felt, upon reading the novel, that it was over-rated and that the story wasn’t as exciting as to justify its being mentioned on all those films and television shows. I watched the film and enjoyed the soundtrack and the acting and lots of things about it. The disappointment I had felt upon reading the novel, however, stuck. I was disappointed and I felt let down. I felt like my excitement had got the best of me. I felt betrayed by my own hopes and expectations for the novel.
ONE YEAR LATER
I have been expressing myself through creative writing for fourteen years and counting. As time passed by, I tried out different styles, discovered what worked and what didn’t, and sometimes grew out of particular styles as well. Very recently, however, I have discovered what my style could be. It is an inspired style, i.e. it does not come out automatically and at all times. The style that is singular to me comes out when I am writing in inspired form. This is when I write best, as I have already mentioned in a previous blog post. Rewatching The Great Gatsby, I found out that much of the words were taken directly from the novel. I also found that they were bewitching – at least to me.
I wanted to reread The Great Gatsby, and so this is what I am doing at the moment. And let me tell you, I understand. The story is wonderful, however the magic does not lie in it. The magic lies in the words; in the writing. Rereading The Great Gatsby, I have realised and now acknowledge fully and wholeheartedly that Fitzgerald is a master of literature. He is a wizard, wielding magic out of words; stringing together phrases that – like music – echo in the heart and soul of those who encounter them with an open heart. Rereading The Great Gatsby, I now understand that Fitzgerald wrote a novel in inspired form.
For this, not only do I understand him and his novel. For this, I love him and the power that his words have over me as I read and reread each and every one of them, savouring their taste inside my mouth as I whisper them, their sound inside my ears as I perceive my whispers, and their echo in my heart as I succumb to them.