The Month of Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby, Longing, And The American Dream

To celebrate the ninetieth anniversary of the publication of The Great Gatsby we collected comments from writers on how Gatsby has influenced their work. Here are thoughts on how Gatsby has captured the American imagination. 

The Great Gatsby captures something about the American psyche that most of us would recognize, which is a willingness to start over, reinvent ourselves, imagine a new life. In a way, that dream is a lot of what built this country.

—Jennifer Egan, author of A Visit from the Goon Squad

I can think of no other novel that so perfectly sums up the allure and contradiction of the American Dream, and in less than 50,000 words. Fitzgerald exposes us all as misguided strivers, caught up in our own romantic imagination, leeches attaching to whatever pumps the warmest blood. We are not Jay Gatsby, for the man does not exist. Instead, we are Nick Carraway, unconsciously reckless, the cause of all this trouble. He is the American innocent, guilty as sin, as holy as the eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg. We remember Gatsby and Daisy and Tom and those extravagant parties, but we forget Nick, or deny Nick’s true role. He is our blind spot, our green light.

—David Gilbert, author of & Sons

I can think of no other novel that so perfectly sums up the allure and contradiction of the American Dream.

When I think of Gatsby, I think of one of literature’s most exquisite juxtapositions of longing and hope—the way Gatsby doesn’t just desire Daisy but orchestrates his life with the genuine belief they can be together.

—Megan Mayhew-Bergman, author of Almost Famous Women and Birds of a Lesser Paradise

Perhaps more than any other novel, The Great Gatsby shows us how shallow our illusions of self-invention truly are even as it lets us glimpse the beautiful longing underneath those illusions.

—Dana Spiotta, author of Stone Arabia and Eat the Document

In 50,000 words, he tells you the central fable of America…and yet you feel like you are eating whipped cream.

—Jonathan Franzen, author of Freedom and The Corrections

The lure of the idea that we can better ourselves by disowning our past: not only Gatsby’s theme but the classic theme of American literature.

—Jonathan Dee, author of The Privileges

Was 1925 the greatest year in literature? The ultimate proof, ninety years later, is the shape-shifting the novel has undergone, still based on these early inspirations—and the continuing resonance of Nick Adams, Jay Gatsby, and Clarissa Dalloway. These characters from a transformative time are still enthralling generations of new readers.

—Jane Ciabattari, The Guardian

A love letter to a lost world of elegance, glamour, and misplaced honor, The Great Gatsby devours you heart and soul. And it is lodged, undeniably, in the genetic makeup of every great American novel since.

—Cristina García, author of King of Cuba

The Great Gatsby is still as fresh as when it first appeared; it has even gained in weight and relevance, which can be said of very few American books of its time. This, I think, is to be attributed to the specifically intellectual courage with which it was conceived and executed.

—Lionel Trilling

It’s possible we Americans are not entirely rational about The Great Gatsby. Gatsby becomes fabulously wealthy, but he doesn’t care about money in itself. He lives in a beautiful mansion and dresses beautifully, but everything he does is for love. He invents a hero called Jay Gatsby and then inhabits this creation, just as we hope to reinvent ours.

—Jay McInerney, author of Bright Lights, Big City

The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby

By F. Scott Fitzgerald