Ten Lessons I Learned from The Great Gatsby

To me, The Great Gatsby is primarily a story about summer. It’s July 4, so maybe that’s why the book spoke to me. Or maybe it’s just because it’s a really good book.

I had no idea that it was the epitome of a “summer read” when I picked it up a week ago, which, may I add, doubled my appreciation of the book. I love when you can place yourself into a story at the mere description of a climate or the season.

I will also voluntarily admit that I thoroughly expected to be bored to tears by something which has been dubbed by some as “one of the greatest works of American Literature of our time.” Because you know, (in my opinion), many of the classics are simply “classic” because the author was depressed or a recluse or said something edgy for the day and age. But I managed to put this thought aside because I’m determined to see through a few of “the greats” if I’m likewise going to justify toiling away a few good hours of my life on “50 Shades of Grey.”

Bottom line? The Great Gatsby is a good read… and not just in the “oh this is a piece of literature so I should say it’s a “good read” type of book.”

It’s magnetic, it’s rich and you would hardly be aware of the time period if not for Gatsby’s use of “Old Sport” as a term of endearment. There are no barriers of communication between the decades that separate us from Gatsby’s. There is one scene during the middle of a heat wave where Nick Carraway, the narrator, is sweating through the commute to New York City. I could almost feel the suffocation of the train walls having just had a similar experience myself only two weeks ago during the last heat wave here in Ottawa.

The parties, the drinking, and the affairs: they are all so alive. There is color and definition in the faces of the characters who are now over 90 year old. They were once the movers and the shakers, the wallflowers, the belles, the Betties and the centrifugal forces around which the summer months revolved. You would recognize these personalities if you met them on the commuter train to work.

In fact, it’s a book that is so visual you think to yourself, this would make a great movie. Which I assumed they had done in the 1950’s (they did except it was actually in 1949, and also again in 1926, and adaptations were done as well in 1974 and in the made for TV version of 2000). I was not aware however that Baz Luhrmann's version was due out this year. Excellent.

Our own Leo has been appropriately cast as Gatsby himself… and if you have read the book, I’m sure you would agree that there can’t possibly be another well-known star that suits the roll of Gatsby so closely as does Dicaprio.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rARN6agiW7o]

So, in the end I'm left with the feeling that the life and times of The Great Gatsby, like all great characters in fictional history, leave you with a few lessons for life:

1. Commuting is a bitch, no matter what decade you are from;

2. Love with a rich blonde is fickle;

3. If it’s not working by the end of summer, it’s probably not meant to last;

4. Lies can make you lonely;

5. Some people will use rich friends for their own entertainment;

6. You don’t want to know what your neighbours are up to;

7. The pursuit of happiness isn’t fulfilled by a passionate affair;

8. Spoiled and superficial people deserve each other;

9. True friends are easy to pick out of a crowd;

10. Weak egos are destroyed by love.

Oh and if I can leave you with one thing, read the book first, then see the movie.