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YODA

F. Scott Fitzgerald

"Most of the big shore places were closed now and there were hardly any lights except the shadowy, moving glow of a ferryboat across the Sound. And as the moon rose higher the inessential houses began to melt away until gradually I became aware of the old island here that flowered once for Dutch sailors' eyes -- a fresh green breast of the new world. Its vanished trees, the trees that had made way for Gatsby's house, had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams; for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder.

And, as I sat there, brooding on the old unknown world, I thought of Gatsby's wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy's dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.

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.
"

F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Were I forced to rank my favorite novelists of the Lost Generation, Francis Scott Fitzgerald would come out on top, solely on the basis of The Great Gatsby. (Faulkner is obviously very talented, but he's so damnably esoteric. As for Hemingway...perhaps I'm not enough of the strong silent type, but his writing style never really spoke to me. ["He did it. It was done. It was good that he did it. He did it again. Good. It was done. He went to a bullfight."])

No, Fitzgerald's my man, and, along with The Grapes of Wrath, I consider Gatsby the Great American novel, or at least the best American book force-fed to me in high school. I find Fitzgerald's prose hauntingly beautiful, as ghostly and ethereal as his mad wife Zelda. His words seep into your system like mist rolling off the sea at sunset, or a sidewalk saxophonist playing the blues under the full moon. [Not for nothing did Hunter S. Thompson hone his craft by retyping Gatsby page by page.]

The novel cuts to the heart of the American dream -- Jay Gatsby is a self-made man and gregarious entrepreneur in the New World spirit. Yet, his momentum is crushed upon the invisible rocks of class, America's dirty little secret. Daisy Buchanan's violent automobile ride acts as metaphor for her (and her social strata's) treatment of our dapper, likable protagonist. But, I don't want to give the ending away. Suffice to say, if you've never read Gatsby, I highly recommend it.

Beat against the current.

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