To celebrate the ninetieth anniversary of the publication of The Great Gatsby, we collected comments from Fitzgerald’s pals on their friend’s “fine” novel.
It has interested and excited me more than any new novel I have seen, either English or American, for a number of years. When I have time I should like to write to you more fully and tell you exactly why it seems to me such a remarkable book. In fact it seems to me to be the first step that American fiction has taken since Henry James.
—T. S. Eliot in a letter to Fitzgerald
He had many good, good friends, more than anyone I knew. But I enlisted as one more, whether I could be of any use to him or not. If he could write a book as fine as The Great Gatsby, I was sure he could write an even better one.
—Ernest Hemingway, in A Moveable Feast
This short novel published in 1925 still has readers. . . .There is a widespread impression that it is Fitzgerald’s best novel. Undoubtedly it is. An impression less widespread, which I wish to encourage, is that it is a masterpiece.”
—John Berryman, in The Kenyon Review, 1946
There is a time in any true author’s career when he suddenly becomes capable of doing his best work. He has found a fable that expresses his central truth and everything falls into place around it, so that his whole experience of life is available for use in his fiction. Something like that happened to Fitzgerald when he invented the story of Jimmy Gatz, otherwise known as Jay Gatsby, and it explains the richness and scope of what is in fact a short novel. . . . It is the best picture we possess of the age in which it was written, and it also achieves a sort of moral permanence. Fitzgerald’s story of the suitor betrayed by the princess and murdered in his innocence is a fable of the 1920s that has survived as a legend for other times.
—Malcolm Cowley, 1953
Nobody’ll ever know America completely because nobody ever knew Gatsby, I guess.
—Jack Kerouac, Life magazine, 1962
The Great Gatsby is incomparably the best piece of work you have done. Evidences of careful workmanship are on every page. The thing is well managed, and has a fine surface.”
—H. L. Mencken in a letter to Fitzgerald