When a Study Group Fails to Study!

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When a Study Group Fails to Study!
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A Review of Reviews of the Great Gatsby

By: Steve Erdmann

The classic story by the late Scott Fitzgerald (Fitzgerald, Scott. 
The Great Gatsby. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991) has fallen on bad times in the hands of merciless and savage idiot-reviewers of the latest rendering and movie by Director Baz Luhrmann. Demonstrating a total lack of empathy of a classic and well-venerated story, or lack of general literary sense, the purpose and honor of said reviewers can only be questioned and their insensivity heralded as further proof of modern-day barbarism.
Poor Brandi Stephens finds herself mystified that a well-liked masterpiece holds ingredients that are asthma and cold to her: complication and characters; Subtract these two literary tools, and you will have the perfect novel. “I am still reading the book, so maybe it will get better.” 
Martha Conneilly queries that it has “words” in the story – and a lot of them: I can imagine that dinnertime, or even a romance (?) in her family can be a very silent and boring event. And she has the ‘best support’ for her viewpoint – her Book Club – and that is saying a lot: When your book club gives a ‘thumbs down’ on an alleged Classic, you know it has to be saying something about the quality of the author! “It was too ‘wordy’.  Members of the Book Club that I am involved in did not give it a good review.  What makes it a ‘classic’?”
“A Costumer” reviewer/reader, who obviously has dredged the depths of human action and is the epitome of a pensive and analytic connoisseur of art, grasps Fitzgerald’s insight into human nature; some added advice: it helps immensely to have the correct story in mind, in any analysis. “I was disgusted with it.  The characters in the story were worthless wastes of human flesh.”
Iaiam, A Kid’s Review, and Suzanne C solidly place their feet into the author’s shoes, they seem well-prepared to see the story through the author’s eyes. No misunderstanding possible here.  Surely, if the novel had any relevance to our modern age, these two readers would have surely been able to have seen it. They have a handle on plenty other ‘insights’ to this literary world of the Roaring Twenties: they clearly demonstrate that the book was not written for their specific audience.
Clearly, Bay Area User has more of a depth and acumen; he or she is able to fit into the author’s shoes – except for the bulging bunions on his or her feet. ‘Old’ literature; probably, they would say, the same goes for the Bible or Shakespeare.
Luhrmann stated that he planned it to be timelier due to its theme of criticizing the often-irresponsible lifestyles of wealthy people. While Scott Fitzgerald couldn’t see 2008 and the modern financial crisis, his vision undoubtedly expanded beyond the 1920s to live again in the bosom of modern-day catastrophe.
“In reality, the American Dream is based on nothing but immoral wealth and materialistic desires for the pleasures in life. However, once at the top, there is nowhere to go but down. And, for those who took the easy road of immorality to reach the American Dream, the ride down is nothing short of a ride from Hell.”
This reviewer seems to have grasped part of Fitzgerald’s “vision,” unlike our earlier reviewers. Surely, the reviewers can share in this revelation that wealth in the story was no guarantee of happiness; that in the long search for sanctity, Jay Gatsby lost sight of where his dream was going.  And don’t you feel sadness that his quest was so near and yet when he had it in hand, it suddenly disintegrated before his eyes because of an innate flaw in his plan? Has that ever happened to our reviewers? And have not our reviewers ever found themselves in love – only to find that ‘love’ evaporate due to some miscalculation, some bit of misappropriated tweaking that just could not pull it through, like a thread slipping from a needle-eye?
Says another insightful reviewer: “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 ourselves, someday, any day now, almost certainly starting tomorrow.”
Has the reviewer ever had dreams – and those dreams become so paramount that no one – no man, women or child – would interfere with that tempest in a human heart?  And have they not seen that tempest, that battle, in many a Classic novel or tale?
The book opens in the words of Nick Carraway: reserve judgment long enough as to learn something you might miss, there are worlds where other readers have been, other authors have been, that can tell you much about the world, new horizons and reality:
“In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.”

“Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone,” he told me, “Just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”        “Reserving judgments is a matter of infinite hope. I am still a little afraid of missing something if I forget that, as my father snobbishly suggested, and I snobbishly repeat, a sense of the fundamental decencies is parceled out unequally at birth.”
Reserving judgment, parceling out hope, reaching the ‘unreachable star’ of human love and understanding (The Man La Mancha) are things, as Scott Fitzgerald may have seen, we too can grasp if we really strive to.
Answers to Eric Lundgren’s Questionnaire:
Question No. 1: Ans.: I try to be unique yet universal, capture the genre and the mood and tone of various authors into my own work, yet leaving my definite ‘stamp’.  Since I derive inspiration from multiple sources, my writing can reflect different styles.
Question No. 2: Ans.: A lot of good and bad happened to me in my childhood that has shaped my worldview.  I am primarily a slice of ‘time’ from World War II through the Space Age.  One of the big events in my early life while in an orphanage was watching the atomic bomb tests on TV out in Nevada.
Question No. 3: Ans.: Certainly, science-fiction/fiction is often prophetic.  Reality can often be stranger than fiction, or visa versa. I do believe that there is a psychic/paranormal side to humanity and that quantum physics is beginning to scientifically prove that.
Question No. 4: Ans.: Michael John Moorcock, James Dickey, Philip K. Dick, H.G. Wells; Richard S. Shaver and Ray Palmer of AMAZING STORIES fame, and his inauguration of FATE Magazine.  There are so many.
Steve Charles Erdmann
05/16/2013
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