The other night, I downloaded it and re-read it for the first time in many years. The story was just as strong and evocative as ever. The language in particular remains expressive and strong. The characters are laden with foibles, communicating as much with their actions as with their words. The dialogue hums. And it's still very much of its period, capturing the roaring 20's with great accuracy, especially in the details: the shirts, the cars, the Plaza, the green light at the end of the pier. It's modern feel still packs a punch. "Anything can happen now that we've slid over this bridge...anything at all..."
What I didn't remember from previous readings was its overall sadness. In the course of the book, its narrator, Nick Carroway, turns 30 and treats it like it's the end of the world. "Thirty--the promise of a decade of loneliness, a thinning list of single men to know, a thinning briefcase of enthusiasm, thinning hair." Additionally, during one of Gatsby's parties, in a room full of people, "everything was very, very sad." Further, Nick describes the buzz of New York: "At the enchanted metropolitan twilight I felt a haunting loneliness sometimes, and felt it in others..." He also mentions, "It is invariably saddening to look through new eyes at things upon which you have expended your own powers of adjustment."
This week, the fourth big screen adaptation will open. This one is directed (in 3-D!) by Baz Luhrmann whose hyperactive film style may or may not be a good fit for the material. Some consider The Great Gatsby unwieldy material overall, perhaps impossible to adapt. But that won't stop Hollywood from trying.
For now, I still highly recommend the book. My favorite line remains: "There are only the pursued, the pursuing, the busy , and the tired."