All Booked Up: The Great Debate over The Great Gatsby

Kathy and Diana do not see eye-to-eye about the literary value of and level of writing in The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Add to the debate! What do you think of this book? Leave your comment below.

Fitzgerald, whose financial success came from publishing short stories for national magazines, published The Great Gatsby in 1925, his third novel. “It’s nothing but a short story,” Kathy said, adding if it had been categorized as such she’d feel better about the acclaim surrounding Gatsby, which comes in just under 200 pages (The length may entice reluctant readers.). But alas, The Great Gatsby is often referred to as a “Great American Novel,” and it is certainly considered Fitzgerald’s masterpiece.

ratings scaleDiana, while certainly not lofty in her praise, does see the value in this book. “Often in high schools, it’s a young person’s first experience with classic American literature. It means something different at different stages of your life, so it’s just as good for a re-read as it is for a first read,” Diana said.

While they surely disagreed, both ladies found common ground when discussing the lack of character development and mentioned how there’s really no one in the novel to relate to. Fitzgerald really did create a bunch of scoundrels when he wrote this book.

The women could also positively agree that the line-up of programming the community can take advantage of (through March 2) is phenomenal. 28 programs are centered around the Roaring Twenties and Jazz Age. There are author talks, jazz performances and movies, all free, plus a Great Gala March 1 at The Great Overland Station. Full schedule of Big Read events here.

Kathy recommends The House of Mirth for a similar story though better read, written by Edith Wharton.

All Booked Up Rating (It’s a split!):
Worn and Tattered from Kathy
High Heels from Diana

A public relations professional, editor and writer, Lisa shares the library story in her blog posts, in the bimonthly Library News, and media interviews. A self-described social media and news nut, Lisa harnesses that passion to raise awareness and understanding of the library's vital role in this community.

  • Carol

    I’ve read GATSBY, and my husband, who reads a lot, read the book as part of the Big Read and agrees with Kathy (thumbs down). However, we BOTH enjoyed the car show last Saturday at Fairlawn Plaza, and agree that all locals should attend and enjoy the many events focusing on the Roaring 20s, inspired by GATSBY. I, personally, LOVE local author Max Yoho’s “Kansas-take” on the Roaring 20s, the humorous novel ME AND AUNT IZZY. I hope readers will check out library copies of that work and enjoy a tale of small-town Kansas culture as affected by the Roaring 20s. It hits home.

  • Jeri

    I read The Great Gatsby for the first time as part of the Big Read. It was a fast read and interesting, but I somewhat agree with Kathy. My biggest problem with the book was that there was not a character I could relate to or even like.

  • Sherry Best

    The first time I read it, I told my husband, “Well, it’s nothing but rich people behaving badly!” His response: “Yeah, how can you go wrong with that?” He told me it was one of his favorite books ever. The second time I read it, for the Big Read, I still thought it was rich people behaving badly, but I felt that Nick learned something from watching them. I thought his assessments of people becoming more profound the more he had to drink was funnier, and that his disappointment was clearer. In a way, it reminded me of the movie “Twilight” – with Susan Sarandon, Gene Hackman, and Paul Newman (not the one with sparkly vampires.)

  • ShaMecha Simms

    I can see both sides of the issue…Kathy I agree that it is basically a short story; we learn quite a bit about Nick Carraway but we don’t know as much about the other characters and how they came to be who they are. And that’s rather unfortunate because I think it would be interesting to travel their paths.
    I also agree with Diana in that for what it is worth, it is an wonderful snapshot of the age; the issues presented are timeless and relatable if one can draw the lines to similiarities.

    I must give kudos to the library for their Big Read push for this “novel”…I’m certain I won’t be able to attend the events but it sounds like a great time!

  • Linda Noland-Criqui

    I see some elements in the book that make Gatsby a sympathetic character, and thus relatable. Jay Gatsby did serve in the U.S. Military and distinguished himself in the Argonne Forest. In keeping in mind that Fitzgerald wrote this novel only a few years following World War I, it comes to mind to me that Jay Gatsby could be suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (which was not even recognized following World War I- instead a term- “Shell Shocked” was used as a catch all for the mental damage suffered by veterans). This is just one interpretation of course but even Nick mentions that Jay Gatsby for five years, (including his time in the Argonne Forest in France) built Daisy up in his mind. Maybe Daisy was a comfortable symbol of “home” to him during his time fighting in France. Of course his biggest downfall is his obsession with a spoiled, rich, shallow, vain woman (did she symbolize the state of affairs in America during that era of prohibition but actually excess- our country had a very affluent, privileged upper class, smaller middleclass and growing population of those in poverty including many veterans of “The Great War?”) If Daisy exemplifies “The Jazz Age” then it is foreshadowing of what’s to come in October of 1929 when the illusion came crashing down with the stock market crash and lost fortunes (which of course Fitzgerald had no way of knowing at the historical point that he wrote the book). There is a limitation with having narration from the perspective of Nick Carraway because the reader can only learn what the narrator knows. This style of narration can be both mysterious and rewarding because it opens a story up to one’s own interpretation. This is just my opinion. It’s great that the Topeka Public Library has created an entire event around this book!