Monday, May 13, 2013

Gatsby vs. Darcy: An Unwinnable War

I had a long drive over the weekend and spent seven hours listening to the audio version of The Great Gatsby (the Frank Muller version), a book I hadn't read/heard since high school. I do recommend the audio version because when the book gets a little dull and you space out, the book continues as if you've continued reading! It may be one of the best English-novels ever written but there certainly are a lot of places to space out.

Had you asked me to describe it prior to the weekend, I would have said based on fuzzy memories, "There's a narrator living in a house next to a rich guy named Gatsby who is in love with a married woman and her husband is a jerk. Then I think there's a car accident and someone probably dies off-screen and the novel's over." Which is mostly accurate. As Kate Beaton pointed out in her book Hark! A Vagrant, it's a great novel for high school kids to read because it's basically a primer on how to find metaphors in books but it doesn't have many likable characters to relate to.

Compare this to the beloved but mostly metaphor-less Pride and Prejudice, which seem so to be its opposite in many respects. Both are about rich people trying to get married to the right people but mostly spending lots of time hanging out because they don't have anything else to do. When I first read Pride and Prejudice (also in high school) I found the first half mind-splittingly boring. It wasn't until Elizabeth got her explanation letters from Darcy that I suddenly realized I was reading a truly great book. In Pride and Prejudice you're agonizing over every moment of Elizabeth and Darcy's romance; in The Great Gatsby you're trying to determine what Fitzgerald is trying to say about G-d via the eyes of T.J Eckleberg's discarded advertisement in the valley of ashes. Darcy gets the girl, and Gatsby doesn't, mostly because he doesn't have the right kind of money ("old money"), another issue that is a focal point of Pride and Prejudice - inherited vs. landed money.

I could go on about this, but I'm not writing a paper for an English class. I will say that I recommend the audiobook version and taking another swing at the novel, whose beautiful words don't really translate to screen.

In other news, Book 7 (Young Mr. Darcy Falls in Love) has gone to copy-editing, so we're looking at a July release. It's a longer book than Book 6, and set safely back in England, where young people are again trying to pair up. There's going to be a lot of contests and giveaways and sales on the older books when we get nearer, so keep watching this space.

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