“The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby

I have always been daunted by the prospect of picking up an eminent classic such as “Anna Karenina”, “Piere Goriot”, “Cat’s Cradle”, “The Great Gatsby” or even “To Kill a Mockingbird”. Candidly, I didn’t know a titbit about any of those books before I read them apart from their authors and the grand adulation they have received over the centuries. I could just stare at them, withering away on the shelves of my library, and speculate what they appertained to.  My literature teacher often says that the only objective evidence there is on whether a book is worthwhile is time. Only half a century after its publication can a reader shrewdly take cognizance of its values and content for a book is profound solely if it is universal and able to bridge the gap between generations’ distinct perspectives and morals.

Perhaps that’s why I am overawed by all those profusely acclaimed works which have been assessed as the most significant and inherent to humanity. I guess the contingency of my failing to perceive the magnificence of the plot and all the unobtrusive intellectual and visceral notions the author has tried to convey through the mists of time simply horrifies me. The high expectations and the dread are too heavy a burden to carry on an odyssey into the unknown lands of metaphors, epithets and glimpses into the human soul. Fortunately, though, once you surmount the first couple of pages the glamour and grandeur that infallibly accompany every prominent work of art are debunked. As any other book in the whole wide world – it is just a book and it encapsulates the same amount of potential to turn out extraordinary and rank among your favourites. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s most legendary novel -“The Great Gatsby”, is by no means an exception.

The story is told in hindsight by Nick Carraway who has just moved back to the tranquil West after a pretty turbulent stay in Long Island about which you would learn everything if you would just dare to read the book. Nick wants to start a life on his own and get into the bond business which purportedly was a lucrative endeavour in the Roaring Twenties. No sooner had he settled down at his “weather-beaten cardboard bungalow at eighty a month,” than he is swept up in the excitement and dynamism of the rumours circulating around his affluent neighbour.

The notorious Gatsby comes over as a pretentious wealthy person who throws vain parties and then cautiously averts his guests. Rumour has it he has made his fortune off bootlegging and other under the counter business. This is all hearsay, though. As Tom Buchanan puts it “Don’t believe everything you hear”. Nick, however, ignores all the gossip and gets to know Gatsby devoid of any presumptions and judgments. His unique and special approach to people, which he has inherited from his father, makes him the perfect character to recount the events that transpired in the summer of 1922 objectively.

“In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. “Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”

Nevertheless, Gatsby’s behavior and idiosyncrasies are unfathomable and suspicious. He also has that irksome habit of calling everyone “old sport” which made him look even more affected in my eyes. When Nick is first properly introduced to J. G. they hit it off instantaneously and I couldn’t help but wonder whether the latter is not feigning a bit friendliness and courtesy. After all who invites a complete stranger to a hydroplane adventure unless he has something in mind? Well, certainly not Gatsby.

Before he realizes it, Nick is caught up in Gatsby’s murky past with which he has unsuccessfully tried to do away. At first sight, it is only an unfulfilled love affair that is troubling his peace of mind. However, if it was that easy “The Great Gatsby” probably would not figure in the literary canon despite Fitzgerald’s mesmerizing writing style and the credibility of the protagonists who although may not be the most benevolent people, are real, crude, cruel humans as you and me.

What haunts all of the characters in the story is their unrealized dreams and unforgettable mistakes. Tom, Daisy, Jordan, Jay… They are constantly reminded and bothered by what could have been. The novel represents people’s obsession with aspirations outstandingly. We are all fixated on something – a desire to go study abroad, a wish to win the lottery, a hope to do things over, or the dream to write a novel. Those things are of great consequence to us, but if you take a step back, tilt your head a little, you would probably notice that in the greater scheme they are not that crucial.

“Yet high over the city our line of yellow windows must have contributed their share of human secrecy to the casual watcher in the darkening streets, and I was him too, looking up and wondering. I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.”

That’s the feeling “The Great Gatsby” engendered in me. I saw that by focusing so much on things that might happen or might have happened I am missing the ones that are taking the place now; and if I go on with my life in the same vein, I would certainly end up disregarding what I’ve looked forward to for so long because attaining it wouldn’t be enough. An infinitesimal blemish would always spring up and mar the impeccability I have imagined and expected. I was simultaneously realizing it, and experiencing it, while reading the book.

“In two weeks it’ll be the longest day in the year… Do you always watch for the longest day of the year and then miss it? I always watch for the longest day in the year and then miss it.”

This quote astonishingly encapsulates the vicious circle our lives are. The longest day of the year takes place every 365 days but in actuality “the watching for” and “the missing it” happen on a daily basis. We fail to appreciate the presence and the cornucopia of opportunities, gifts and advantages we have right now and we strive for more and more. We are insatiable and indefatigable in our desire to possess, to own and to conquer. Even when our bravest dreams are no longer fictional, we yearn for more.

It’s not enough. It’s never enough. And thus, we just go in circles as the contrite past and the impossible future echo maliciously in our every single move. We resemble Gatsby in so many ways – so naïve, affected, avaricious, covert and hollow.

“Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic 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 –
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

Mery

Mery

“Nation” by Terry Pratchett

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Fantasy books have always been my preferred method to escape the stress of everyday life. After all, I’m never too busy to read a good book that revolves around an imaginary world. Just because magic doesn’t exist here that doesn’t mean it’s not present somewhere else, for example the Discworld. Terry Pratchett creates fantastic novels filled not only with good humor but also with cleverly covered morals which can be easily recognized if you are looking carefully. So it was no surprise I chose to read ‘Nation’.

Why is this book any different from the others I’ve read form Terry Pratchett? Well, the story was not situated in the Discworld but rather on a sphere called Earth. How very strange. It didn’t stop me from reading or even liking it. This is how the whole story begins, under the romantic sounds of grandfather birds puking their dinner.

Mau is returning from the Boy’s Island, where lads are taken on their own to become men. Before his return an enormous wave crashes into his home island leaving him the only survivor of the Nation but not the only one on the island. The ghost girl, who has no toes and wears too many clothes, is Mau’s only companion. Daphne is the sole person left after the shipwreck of Sweet Judy. Now they both have to learn to live together while Mau figures out how to save the Nation with no people left and how to get rid of the annoying grandfathers’ advice and while Daphne gets over the fact that her ‘acquaintance‘ is almost completely naked and the absolute inadequacy of a situation she had found herself in. What has the etiquette have to say about this? Just because it is a very plausible story, Terry Pratchett has not given up his love for ‘made-up things’. After all, this is not the real Earth, just a parallel one where everything is a little bit different. For example, Daphne’s dad has to wait for only 138 people to die to become king of England. And Mau’s predecessors and gods have the habit of conversing with him. It is not easy being a teenager while the whole world is against you.

But this book asks a lot of interesting and substantial questions. Some of them even have answers and others you have to think of yourself. Why did the wave happen? Was it the gods’ anger? How can you built the Nation when there is only you and a ghost girl? WHERE IS THE BEER? As Mau and Daphne are on the journey of learning each other’s form of speaking (the process is filled with a lot of acting, a lot of drawing and a whole ton of misunderstanding) more and more people arrive on the island. Slowly a Nation is forming which will be ready for the notorious crew coming to the island. This is all I can give away.

’Nation’ presents a whole new meaning of the world civilization. Sometimes the most sophisticated people are so arrogant that they are truly more savage than the population of a cast away island. And sometimes those who are considered cannibals are as human as any other man. Religion is also a subject which is looked upon in the book only to be discovered that is faith that keeps us together, nothing more, nothing less.

As a conclusion I would like to say that this book will make you laugh and it will make you cry. So make yourself comfortable and go on this fantastic journey that is so far away from home and still feels like it is happening right in front of you. Enjoy!

Sophie

Sophie

“Inkworld” by Cornelia Funke

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When I read, I get extremely entangled in the story and the world it takes place in. Often when I put a book down after an hour or so of complete devotion to it, I find it arduous to disengage myself from what’s transpiring in its airy-fairy realm, and go back to dealing with my mundane life beset by run-of-the-mill tasks, tedious homework, and interminable school days. I withstand, though, as long as I know that I could plunge back into another, more pulchritudinous, exciting and festive world, and spend my time with robbers, princes, fairies, glass men, enchanters and fire-dancers. I am one of those people who prefer fictional characters to real human beings and consequently, I have the knack to bond with the protagonists pretty quickly.  “Books loved anyone who opened them, they gave you security and friendship and didn’t ask for anything in return; they never went away, never, not even when you treated them badly. ”

However, when I reach the end, I am infallibly devastated; lost in my own world for I don’t know where the next book on the shelf will take me, and all I feel is craving and homesickness for the one I just left. I can’t shake off the abiding memory of the adventures, the picturesque lands, the silver castles whose towers ascend towards the clear blue sky and all the fun I had tagging along with valiant, altruistic beings on their path of life. That’s why I adore trilogies and book sequences. Once you submerge in the story, by the time you are unbound, your curiosity and thirst for knowledge of the way the characters’ lives unravel is quenched. Books belong to their readers but there are too many ramifications to acquiesce that the story simply halts when you put the book down. “Stories never really end…even if the books like to pretend they do. Stories always go on. They don’t end on the last page, any more than they begin on the first page.” Cornelia Funke depicts the astonishing connection one can develop with ink on paper amazingly, how caught up one can get in the words and vindicates that a story is as real and flowering, as you allow it to be in the trilogy “Inkheart”.

“Inkheart”, “Inkspell” and “Inkdeath” are centred around Meggie, who in the beginning is a twelve-year-old girl, living with her father in a small house, filled to the brim with books.  “Stacks of books were piled high all over the house – not just arranged in neat rows on bookshelves, the way other people kept them, oh no! The books in Mo and Meggie’s house were stacked under tables, on chairs, in the corners of the rooms. There were books in the kitchen and books in the lavatory. Books on the TV set and in the closet, small piles of books, tall piles of books, books thick and thin, books old and new. They welcomed Meggie down to breakfast with invitingly opened pages; they kept boredom at bay when the weather was bad. And sometimes you fell over them.” Mortimer, Meggie’s father, is a bookbinder. He treats and looks after books which are falling apart and whose pages are sagging. He has managed to instil his love and adulations for novels and stories into his daughter’s heart. Bearing in mind that Meggie’s mother purportedly set out on a great adventure when Meggie was just a toddler, her father and she have developed an exceptional father-daughter relationship. I relished reading about it because it frequently conjured up memories of my childhood and all the games, make-belief and fun my dad and I used to rejoice in.

Even though it is generally believed that a girl cannot be properly brought up without a female figure, Mo has raised a beautiful, vivacious and benign girl who  thinks the world of her father. The enormity of trust, understanding, consideration and mutual concern in every relationship is profusely emphasized in each sequel.  As the story unfolds, a lot of friendships are stricken up and soon irrevocably broken, and a lot of hearts flutter joyfully before they get irreparably broken. But the turmoil of corrosive events and poignant feelings ascertains the profound values of friendship and love along with degrading betrayal, secrets, cowardliness and unctuousness.

Unfortunately, though, the latter could be found even in the most celebrated relationships. Even Mo keeps something from Meggie. A secret. A two-edged gift. Mo can read characters and objects out of books with his enthralling voice. So one evening when he was reading out loud from a beautifully illustrated book, called “Inkheart”, out of the blue three of the characters sprung out of it. Dustfinger – the poor fire-dancer with his superstitious smile, Basta – the loyal but superstitious fire-raiser, and Capricorn – Basta’s master – one of the notorious villains who has set his heart on ruling over our world. However, in order to keep the balance in both worlds, for every person that comes out of the story, one must go in and take their place. Two cats dive into the world of “Inkheart” that evening and Meggie’s mother Resa follows them. Thus, Mo and Meggie get swept in the quest to spread justice around the world, punish the wrong-doers, and figure out where they do indeed belong.

I was impressed by the idea that the world was made up of numerous stories, and you are born within a particular one with a determined destiny, but if you are courageous enough you can always break away from the words on the paper, and alter your fate and the course of the story altogether. This notion makes me wonder whether we are bestowed with a role and story which are most beneficial and convenient for us, or whether we are meant to seek out our home in between the pages, and play the role we believe we deserve to play.

What bewildered me most, though, was the self-effacement of the author: “You know, it’s a funny thing about writers. Most people don’t stop to think of books being written by people much like themselves. They think that writers are all dead long ago–they don’t expect to meet them in the street or out shopping. They know their stories but not their names, and certainly not their faces. And most writers like it that way.” It’s a weird inkling, I know, but it exudes genuineness. We acclaim and praise books, the beauty of the words that weave them, the profoundness of the story and the values it teaches but we disregard the person who has spent months on end in their den, mulling and stooping over this piece of writing. I am abashed to admit that I don’t know much about the authors of my favourite books. Except for John Green. After reading “The Fault in Our Stars” which took my breath away, I was curious what kind of a person would write such a heart-rendering, and yet so funny and witty, story. So I googled him and lit upon the vlogbrothers, Nerdfighteria  and this whole new world opened up to me and changed my life so much. The weekly YouTube videos that John and Hank upload, discussing current events, peculiar ideas, or just everyday matters helped me build an astounding relationship with a person I admire so much, and become acquainted to John Green and his ways, even though I’ve never met him in person. It’s splendid to know at least a bit about the person whose words you are devouring and whose world you are basking in. It takes the reading experience to a whole new level.

So I decided that from now on, I am going to read short biographies of the authors before reading their books because it’s somewhat unfair to abide in one’s imagination and creation without even knowing their full names or current dwellings. If you are interested in reading Meggie’s adventure inside one of her own favourite books, you can check out Cornelia Funke’s official website which is adorable.

Mery

Mery

“You should date a girl who reads.

Date a girl who reads. Date a girl who spends her money on books instead of clothes, who has problems with closet space because she has too many books. Date a girl who has a list of books she wants to read, who has had a library card since she was twelve. (more…)

‘The Jane Austen Book Club’ by Karen Joy Fowler

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As a not so romantic person I have never read any of Jane Austen’s books and have never had the intention to do so. Considering this it was very strange of me to pick up a book entitled “The Jane Austen Book Club”. Even though it was hard for me to keep up with some of the discussions I found the book funny, witty and cheerful. The plot is well structured and divided into six main chapters which is the exact number of Austen’s novels and the members of the book club.

The story is based on the recent divorce of Sylvia which determines her best friend Jocelyn to brighten her up. And the Jane Austen book club is created, bringing together the two above, Allegra – Sylvia’s 30 year old, lesbian daughter, Prudie – a French teacher and the youngest of the group, Bernadette – the woman who discovers that not looking at mirrors does make your day better and Grigg – the only man taking part in the activity and a big fan of science-fiction. Definitely not the typical gathering!

With every discussed Jane Austen novel, Karen Joy Fowler uncovers a character’s story and develops new connections which might even lead to forming relationships between the participants. Every single one of them chooses the book, accidentally or on purpose, that has a parallel plot to their own life. With each passing meeting they grow fonder of the club as a whole. Finding faults in each other they come to realize that their own characters are also flawed. The matchmaker Jocelyn learns that love can not always be fitted into her model of the world, Sylvia confronts her fears of being on her own, the impulsive Allegra discovers that her mother’s needs are more important than hers in such a distressful time, Prudie finds out that marriage is worth fighting for, Grigg finds that reality can be as a good as a science-fiction novel and Bernadette sets out on one of her new adventures in the blink of an eye. And all this happens because it is never too late for second chances or a new beginning. That’s all I can say without giving away spoilers. Not having read any of Jane Austen’s books I have probably missed out on some of the finer details which wouldn’t go unnoticed by others.

What I liked the most was the fact that such a book club can change a person in so many ways. It shows you that sometimes you can’t control the world that’s spinning around you and it’s ok to let it go and sometimes you can control the things that are happening to you and make them for the best.

Karen Joy Fowler creates an atmosphere buzzing with excitement and humming ‘Love is in the air’. For all the Jane Austen lovers, grab a nice hot cup of tea, sit in your favorite chair and dig in this wonderful story. As for the others, this book is more than a fulfilling way to spend a cold and rainy Sunday afternoon. Have fun!

Sophie

Sophie