Along with the predictable hullabaloo accompanying Bahz Luhrmann’s recent take on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel has been an avalanche of praise heaped upon the original novel. Rare has been the occasional – and brave – dissenting voice. Gatsby has such an assured place at the heart of canonical American literature that deriding its virtues practically smacks of heresy. Kathryn Schulz is one such writer and what I love about her piece on Gatsby is that it goes far beyond simple and boring contrarianism and offers numerous compelling reasons to question the merits of Fitzgerald’s text. I will leave it to you decide, but I found this to be a really refreshing take.
“[Gatsby] is an impressive accomplishment. And yet, apart from the restrained, intelligent, beautifully constructed opening pages and a few stray passages thereafter—a melancholy twilight walk in Manhattan; some billowing curtains settling into place at the closing of a drawing-room door—Gatsby as a literary creation leaves me cold. Like one of those manicured European parks patrolled on all sides by officious gendarmes, it is pleasant to look at, but you will not find any people inside.
Indeed, The Great Gatsby is less involved with human emotion than any book of comparable fame I can think of. None of its characters are likable. None of them are even dislikable, though nearly all of them are despicable. They function here only as types, walking through the pages of the book like kids in a school play who wear sashes telling the audience what they represent: OLD MONEY, THE AMERICAN DREAM, ORGANIZED CRIME. It is possible, of course, to deny your readers access to the inner lives of your characters and still write a psychologically potent book: I give you Blood Meridian. But to do that, you yourself must understand your characters and conceive of them as human.”